Lies and half truths


Ranjit Fernando with Sanath Jayasuriya.

by Rex Clementine

On Wednesday Australia’s Assistant Coach Steve Rixon went on to show how poor and unprofessional Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is. Rixon’s comments came as a further blow to the already damaged reputation of SLC.

Rixon claimed that the money SLC was willing to offer him for him to be the Head Coach of the national team was ‘embarrassing’. He further went on to stress a few pertinent points that had been widely discussed in the local media in the last couple of years.

"But to be honest, Sri Lanka was always one place that intrigued me. I liked Sri Lanka and I think the country is lovely and, of all the Asian countries, it’s by far the one that appeals to me the most. With the sort of people that you were dealing with around ten years ago, I thought they were good people and it did interest me," Rixon had commented.

SLC was quick to take on Rixon. They sent a denial defending the board. However, they forget to explain on certain matters that Rixon, the former Australian wicketkeeper and New Zealand coach, had raised.

One of the main contributory factors for Rixon to not to persuade the Sri Lankan offer was the way SLC treated Geoff Marsh, a proven coach who won both the Ashes and World Cup with Australia. Marsh was sacked as Sri Lanka’s coach in January 2012.

The Geoff Marsh’s sacking was so inappropriate that Sri Lanka’s reputation for that suffered an irreparable damage along with huge financial implications. The board opted for an out-of-court settlement after Marsh sued SLC for unlawful termination of his job and the board had to pay the former coach a sum of US$ 100,000.

In their response to Rixon, SLC said that the board had followed correct processes in recruitments.

"SLC always follows the proper procedures and correct processes in recruitment and would never consider any applicant who is not prepared to go through the proper process," the board said. However, on the contrary, our experience has been different. Remember how the board picked people to run the World Cup Secretariat? Kith and kin of administrators who were running the show then were given key positions and not only did they bankrupt the board, they also left a massive debt running into billions of rupees that is about to be passed onto the hapless public.

SLC had named a high profile committee to go in search of Sri Lanka’s next coach. It comprised Ranjit Fernando, SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, Chairman of Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya and others. Cricket fans were expecting them to bring the finest coach to guide the national team. But there was hardly a positive response from overseas. Perhaps, no reputed coach wants to go through the ordeal that Marsh went through. In the end, the committee was left with former captain Marvan Atapattu, who has done a good job as Batting Coach, and the little known Mark Davis.

As a cricketer Sanath was the peoples’ hero as he appealed to the masses with his audacious stroke-play that helped the emergence of Sri Lankan cricket as a massive force in late 90s. Since retirement, Sanath came into the administration as Chairman of Selectors and since, he has been engaged in some political games.

It is said that Sanath was largely responsible for the sacking of Geoff Marsh. Although he wasn’t part of the administration when Marsh’s sacking took place, his behind-the-scene maneuvering, with the backing of his political colleagues, saw Marsh’s services being terminated at a great loss to Sri Lankan cricket. Why Marsh was removed was because Sanath was a big admirer of Graham Ford and within days after Marsh was dumped, Ford was announced as Sri Lanka’s new coach.

Those players who were involved before the World Cup success in 1996 credit Ranjit Fernando for the immense work he did to develop Sri Lankan cricket, that too on a honourary basis. Arjuna Ranatunga in particular hails Fernando for his contributions to help raise the national team’s fielding standards. But his failure in finding the replacement for Ford is an indication that he should step aside from cricket administration and allow the younger generation to take on responsibility. Fernando will turn 70 next February.

Fernando’s beloved Nondescripts Cricket Club celebrated 125 years on Saturday. He has been an NCC stalwart for decades and has fought many a battle for the Maitland Place club. However, all he does to safeguard the interests of the club cannot be endorsed. The club effectively should have been relegated this season to a lower division after failing to live up to its expectations last season despite the presence of several senior national cricketers. But Fernando and other NCC stalwarts manipulated the system to prevent their club from getting relegated to a lower division. That simply isn’t cricket.

In sport there will be disappointment and those who are engaged in the gentleman’s game should be able to take success and failure in the right spirit. Perhaps Fernando can learn a thing or two from Kumar Sangakkara. With relegation looming large, last year the star batsman was asked whether he was prepared to play in a lower division. Sangakkara was world’s number one ranked batsman at that point.

"If NCC goes into Tier ‘B,’ it’s the responsibility of all NCC players to make sure that we turn up for every game and play every game and win every game and get on top of second division and come back into division one. I think it’s going to be a test of character for all players at NCC if and when that happens. We have got our starts at the club. NCC was my first club and it will be my last club. It’s our duty by the club for the opportunities it gave us to turn up and do well for it," Sanga said.

How the likes of Fernando prevented NCC from getting relegated was disgusting. The last straw, however, was when Fernando compared a leading individual of the current cricket administration to the great Gamini Dissanayake a fortnight ago. It wasn’t just a shameful comparison but an insult on the great man called Gamini Dissanayake, who was the Board Chairman when the country won Test status.

We refrain from criticizing Nishantha Ranatunga, the man who can’t win a club election without manipulation. Under his charge the board has been committing blunder after blunder. ‘The appointed Secretary’, as Sangakkara says, is taking our cricket to the point of no return.


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