by Rex Clementine
The scathing remarks of Professor Charitha Herath during a COPE hearing pertaining to Sri Lanka Cricket exposed severe deficiencies in our cricket administration and the public could get a firsthand experience of how poorly the sport has been run as SLC took on former great Chaminda Vaas earlier this week.
Rather than sorting matters out behind closed doors, like it happens in professional environments, SLC opted to wash dirty linen in public and did not adhere to the best of corporate practices.
When the national cricket team’s Fast Bowling Coach David Saker left Colombo in January without informing his employers, SLC treated the Aussie with kid’s gloves. The board even didn’t mind going for an amicable settlement. Saker is a proven coach and SLC needs to be commended for the way they handled matters.
However, two weeks later, they were on the war path with another fast bowler – Chaminda Vaas. Was Vaas treated in that way because he is a local?
SLC paid Saker US$ 15,000 a month. They pay Vaas only US$ 3500. That is not correct. Vaas only asked for US$ 5000 more. But SLC made to look as if he was asking for the pound of flesh.
Interestingly, the decision that Vaas will replace Saker for the tour of West Indies was taken in the second week of February. But SLC had little communication with Vaas. Instead, they issued a media release announcing his appointment. But, the terms and conditions had not been discussed as it would happen in a professional environment.
Vaas was officially informed only on Friday, 72 hours before the team left for the Caribbean.
In previous instances when other coaches had to come in as replacements, SLC had compensated them handsomely. Nic Pothas is an example. When he replaced his former mentor Graeme Ford as Head Coach in 2017, the board paid him well. So why not Vaas? Again it’s back to square one. Is it because he was a local? Black lives do matter.
What Vaas wanted was a raise of his daily allowance from US$ 75 to US$ 200. What it meant was a raise of US$ 5000 for the entire tour of the Caribbean. But SLC chief Shammi Silva was not willing to negotiate. He would not budge an inch from his stance, which was go on the tour and come back and then we shall negotiate. Rather than taking the nation’s most successful fast bowler head on, Silva could have been better off had he handled matters diplomatically. But he did not. It has been claimed that he refused to meet Vaas. SLC has denied.
SLC officials claimed that they were willing to pay Vaas a sum of Rs. 750,000 on his return from the trip. Although it is slightly less than what Vaas had asked for, the former fast bowler would have been foolish to turn down that offer. Here’s the next interesting question. There have been several e-mail exchanges between Vaas and SLC. Did in any of those exchanges SLC mention that he will be paid the said Rs. 750,000?
There have been similar crises in cricket before. There are individuals within SLC who have handled matters completely differently.
Jayantha Dharmadasa was President of SLC when suddenly the selectors decided to fly in Sanath Jayasuriya as an additional player to England in 2006. The team and in particular Head Coach Tom Moody resisted. Dharmadasa intervened and drove home the point that having Jayasuriya in England early could turn out to be productive as he could acclimatize and be ready by the time the limited over games come. True to form Jayasuriya was in red hot form and slammed two hundreds in the ODIs and was named Player of the Series as Sri Lanka completed a 5-0 drubbing.
Mohan de Silva, another former President of SLC had to face a similar predicament after the tsunami in 2004 when players were adamant to return home but New Zealand Cricket wanted the series to go ahead. De Silva did not antagonize the players and in the meantime dealt diplomatically with hosts New Zealand and promised that the team will return the following year to complete the series. Accordingly in 2005, Sri Lanka made two trips to Kiwi land – in March to play Tests and in December to play ODIs. It was a win-win situation for all.
Such diplomacy was missing in the case of Vaas. The media release that SLC put out should have only said the board and Vaas had parted ways. Instead, it went to minute details. It should not have happened.
SLC seem to be having not many supporters these days. Their biggest supporter seems to be Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, who took the side of the board addressing the Parliament. Namal needs to watch his steps here. As his Parliamentary colleague Professor Herath pointed out at the COPE hearing, the public does not have a good image of SLC.
May the educated continue to run cricket!
by Rex Clementine
While the Test series involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is on at Pallekele in a bio-secure bubble, the media has been allowed to cover the series in what is called the ‘outer bubble’. The press can file their stories from the press box and carry on with their day today activities. The only thing that we can not do is to come face to face with players and support staff.
Sri Lanka Cricket is at the moment run by a respected doctor – Professor Arjuna de Silva. Apart from being a brilliant physician, he is proving to be an outstanding administrator as well. Glad he does not wish to avoid the press like the plague in these testing times.
The press discussed a similar method during the England series, but it fell on deaf ears of those who were running the sport at that time. Leave alone giving us a fair hearing, it took SLC more than a week to respond to our collective mail.
Then there were lies all around. SLC first said that it was impossible to accommodate the press as the England and Wales Cricket Board had objected to our presence. We referred the matter to the ECB, who denied it outright saying that they had no issues with press covering the series. Then there were more lies, even misguiding the Minister of Sports.
The same SLC Executive Committee a few weeks either side of the England series had requested the media to cover their press briefings and they were well attended. But cricket matches for some mysterious reasons were out of bounds for us. Obviously, SLC hierarchy were getting advice from the wrong people.
South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan and even India where COVID cases are at a staggering high had allowed the media to attend cricket matches but SLC was an exception. Did they have an axe to grind with the press for constantly highlighting daylight robbery at Maitland Place?
There was a storm of protest at the treatment meted out to the media. Former players, administrators and fans expressed their disappointment at what was happening but SLC bosses were thick skinned. Its President boasted that he was going to get more than 100 votes at the AGM. He was all too powerful. But the law of the land proved to be more powerful than him as the entire Executive Committee was dismissed on technical grounds. The CEO continues, although his time is hanging by a thread.
Further woes followed at the COPE hearing as the Parliamentary watchdog found large scale corruption and no accountability. The Secretary to the Sports Ministry was informed to initiate legal proceedings against officials who were responsible for corrupt deals that included money that broadcasting partners owed the board being transferred into offshore accounts.
It remains to be seen what action the Sports Ministry intends to take with the game suffering several blows both on and off the field in the last five years. The slide started during the Yahapalana regime and not much has been done to address the woes under the present government. The Sports Minister backdating a letter legalizing the term of the Executive Committee was the last straw. The move was opposed and the Minister was forced to dismiss the Executive Committee and bring in fresh faces amidst much criticism.
The same Ex Co did not bother to take disciplinary action against misbehaving players. This coupled with poor on field performances saw cricket’s ardent fans turning away from the game. While the national cricket team was involved in a series in the Caribbean, the retired players were featuring in a Legends tournament in India. Strangely, the fans preferred to watch the former players in action than their national team. This was extremely disturbing news.
Soon after the administration was changed, a clear message has been sent that misconduct will be sternly dealt with. An opening batsman who had got into constant trouble was hauled up for an inquiry on Tuesday and has been warned to behave or pack his bags. This is the way forward. When there is discipline, results will follow automatically.
The elected officials who were in power before that had double standards. For example, captain Dimuth Karunaratne who was involved in a late night accident was fined Rs. one million. This was despite him buying a brand new three wheeler to the other party involved in the accident. Kusal Mendis who was involved in a hit and run was treated with kids’ gloves. The board closed the case claiming it was a personal matter. That a poor man on his way to work was killed wasn’t a serious enough issue for them. That was not on.
Thankfully, the attitude of the administration has changed now. The powers that be need to ensure that the educated run cricket. Let the corrupt rot in jail.
Don’t judge a pitch by its colour!
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
Don’t judge a book by its cover is a phrase that is often used. Maybe in cricket terminology who should introduce something new like don’t judge a pitch by its colour. The green top at Pallekele looked to be a monster. It looked more like Newlands in Cape Town or Basin Reserve in Wellington than Kandy. But appearances can be deceptive. That is what the first Test at Pallekele taught us as there were no demons on the pitch.
Sri Lanka packed their side with seam hoping they will be able to exploit the conditions. Bangladesh meanwhile were positive. Instead of chickening out, they opted to bat first after winning the toss and they were sitting pretty at stumps having reached a commanding 302 for two.
The seamers weren’t able to get any movement off the patch. There was a bit of moisture in the morning but the quicks weren’t bowling in the right areas. Asitha Fernando instead of Lahiru Kumara could have perhaps used the conditions better but, hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
However, there’s one selection that you don’t understand. That is whether Wanindu Hasaranga is Test material. He struggled on day one. Should Sri Lanka have backed their off-spinner is the question that has been asked.
Having said that, we are well aware of the fact that leg-spinners take time to develop and given the promise Hasaranga has shown, it’s not a bad ploy to back him. But, Sri Lanka needs results. They last won a Test match in January last year. Since then, they have played seven Tests, losing four and drawing three.
Tamim Iqbal put up a fine show. He attacked from the start without letting the bowlers settle in. He was scoring less than run a ball and was all set to post his tenth Test hundred when one shot too many cost him his wicket. Tamim’s 90 came off 101 balls with 15 boundaries.
But there was no stopping young Najmul Santo, an elegant 21-year-old batsman with a lot of promise. He was dropped early in his innings by Niroshan Dickwella and he cashed in making an unbeaten 126.
After Tamim was dismissed, captain Mominul Haque joined Santo and they added 150 runs for the third wicket without being separated. Mominul was unbeaten on 64.
Sri Lanka hardly looked as if they were able to make a breakthrough even after they took the second new ball. A tough day two awaits them.
Dialog Powers the 142nd Royal-Thomian ‘Battle of the Blues’
Sri Lanka’s longest rivalry in schools cricket comes alive this May as premier boys schools Royal College Colombo and S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, will battle it out once again for the 142nd uninterrupted blue ribbon cricket encounter, the ‘Battle of the Blues’ played for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield, from 6th to 8th May, 2021, at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium – Suriyaweva, Hambantota.
The match will be played behind closed doors keeping in line with the COVID-19 restrictions and the health & safety guidelines mandated by Ministry of Health while Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) regulates playing conditions. The 142nd Battle of the Blues cricket encounter will be broadcast LIVE on Dialog Television channel number 72, and will also be available via LIVE stream on the ThePapare.com and the Dialog Viu app. The limited over “Mustangs Trophy” match will be played in a T20 format on the 10th of May, 2021.
Due to the prevailing pandemic, Sri Lanka’s blue-ribbon annual cricket encounter will break from tradition and will be played for the first time in its 142-year-old illustrious history, out of Colombo at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium – Suriyaweva. The teams, coaches and support staff along with umpires and match officials will follow bio secure environment (BSE) protocols, in line with the COVID-19 health & safety guidelines under the supervision of Southern Province & Hambantota Regional health services.
In the 2021 edition of the ‘Battle of the Blues’, powered by Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by all-rounder Shalin De Mel, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of elegant stroke-maker, Ahan Wickramasinghe.
‘The Royal – Thomian’, has a rich and colourful history spanning across 142 years and is also the second longest uninterrupted cricket series played in the world, second only to the annual encounter played between St. Peters College, Adelaide and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, that began just a year earlier and the Australia vs England Ashes Series just 02 years before.
In 1880, the first match in which only the boys took part was played on Galle Face Green, the present location of the Taj Samudra Hotel. This was the start to the centenary series. Both teams are said to have rowed their boats across Beira Lake to play the match.
The playing fields of the ‘Roy – Tho’ has the distinction of producing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S. Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP (1901 – 1902) and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP (1927-1929) as Prime Ministers of Ceylon, while Royal produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP (1914-1915) as Prime Minister and the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, the late J. R. Jayawardene (1925).
The tally between the two schools at present stands at 35 all, with the highly-debated match in 1885, where Royal College was all out for 09 runs with no play on the second day which was considered a win by S. Thomas’ and considered a draw by Royal as shown by the respective souvenir books of the two schools. The shield at present sits, akin to the crown jewels, amongst the silverware in the Warden’s trophy cabinet at S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, after putting up a superb performance in 2019 under the captaincy of Sithara Hapuhinna, which will be challenged by a determined Royal XI, this year, who racked up impressive wins during the COVID-19 impacted calendar. The boys from Reid Avenue last won the coveted shield under stewardship of Geeshanth Paditharatne in 2016.
In 2019, on the 140th edition of the Royal-Thomian, Dialog rekindled a long and successful partnership with Sri Lanka’s Blue-Ribbon Big Match, The Battle of the Blues. The 142nd edition of the Royal-Thomian will be the thirteenth year that the match is sponsored by Dialog. Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata has also made a pledge to contribute Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and 10,000 rupees for every wicket that fell. Last year’s exciting encounter contributed Rs. 1,008,000 to the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge. The proceedings were directed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College to support and empower deserving schools in the country. Since the inception of the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge, Rs. 6,151,000 worth of cricket gear was donated to ten deserving schools.
Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have a formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one and a half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College, “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.”
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