Cricket administrators need to take measures to bring the game of cricket up
The Sri Lankan cricket team has in recent times, even lost to teams such as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, while we faced the most humiliating test defeat at the hands of India during their recent tour to Sri Lanka. Having watched the continuous defeat suffered by our Sri Lankan team, it is a question in everyone’s mind as to what is happening to the game of cricket of this country, that was once considered a formidable force in the cricket arena.
Another experienced cricket coach told us that every country has suffered losses and recorded wins and this is the nature of the game. But he said what is happening today is that those in the selection committee as well as the administration, are those with no knowledge or experience in the game of cricket. When those with no knowledge of the game try to control the game, this is the end result. He said this downfall of cricket in this country is not something that just happened recently. This is something that has been happening over a considerable time and eventually this is what it has eventually come to.
 
In all fairness, the Indian team is currently the world’s best and strongest team and losing to them cannot be considered a humiliation. But, in the selections for the team it is a known fact that there have been disputes and conflicts between the selection committee and the cricket administration. In such an instance, selecting the best players and coming up with a strong and balanced team becomes a big problem. Moreover, there is no stable coach for the team at present. The current supportive coach has been serving in the team for a long time now. The team also lacks a good fast bowler and we also do not have a good spin bowling coach. After Rangana Herath there is no one that has managed to take his place. However, there is no shortage of batsmen. Yet a past coach said today it is questionable as to how committed the players are to the game.
 
He said in the past it was more important to win a match and the glory of winning was paramount. Whereas today it is not whether we win or lose the priority is the amount they get paid. Cricket today in Sri Lanka is highly commercialised and players are only interested in how much they can earn from the game rather than protecting the integrity of the country and the game. Commitment is the most important factor in cricket and that is exactly what we are lacking.
 
Asanka Gurusinghe was recently brought in as the team Manager. Yet, he was not someone who was involved in the game since his retirement from cricket and instead he was involved in another profession in Australia altogether.  Having taken over as the team manager, his attitudes have led to the dissatisfaction of the players which in turn has led to many internal disputes and raised tension within the team. Graham Ford also stepped down as Sri Lanka’s coach. One of his grievances was the expanding powers of Asanka Gurusinha, who in February was appointed "cricket manager" - a position with a broadly defined range of duties, some of which Ford is understood to have felt infringed upon his freedom as a coach. In the time since his appointment, Gurusinha was also made a selector.
 
Similarly Angelo Mathews who was the captain of the team also decided to leave the team due to these reasons, it is reliably learnt. Gurusinha’s pettiness was clearly evident in his recent order, banning cricketers from consuming biscuits in the rest rooms. How far this rule was required in terms of the quality of the game is anyone’s guess, but instead it is quite clear that it only led to creating further tensions and disharmony within the team.
 
In addition, the back to back departure of Mahela and Sanga from the team, also brought down the morale of the team as there was no back up to take on the void created by their departure. Under the current circumstances, it will take Sri Lanka a considerable amount of time to build this young team as a formidable side. At a time when team spirit and standards were at a low level it was unfortunate that we had to face a formidable team like the Indians.
 
According to Arjuna, the mere resignation of Thilanga Sumathipala will not rectify the problems faced by Sri Lanka cricket at present. Arjuna cannot directly be appointed as administrator and he can only do so through an interim committee.  Perhaps he has that thought in mind. However, even during Arjuna’s tenure too we lost to India 3-0 and merely removing the cricket head cannot resolve the issues we are facing. The selectors need to be clean and persons without other agendas and be able to focus on what’s best for the team. They need to focus on talented and gifted players who are committed to the game irrespective of its financial perks. Today cricketers and cricket administrators are more concerned about earnings, foreign trips and perks rather than commitment of winning for the country.
 
Hence the administrators need to take measures to bring the game of cricket up to its former glory and cast aside their petty politics and issues and focus mainly on the upliftment of the game, before it is too late.
 
All modern facilities and equipment and even technology have been provided to the Sri Lankan cricket team by the government fulfilling their responsibility, while the government will continue to do so in the future too, said Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara. However, the players should know what they should do on the playing field and it is their responsibility to make good use of all the facilities that have been provided to them and improve their game, he said. However, the minister urged cricket fans  to give the cricketers their positive support and the strength at this juncture granting them their blessings to uplift the game.
Meanwhile, former cricketer and current minister, Arjuna Ranatunge says when wrong people are controlling and managing cricket, such a situation could arise. He warned that what the Sports Minister should do is hand over Sri Lanka Cricket to proper administrators in order to resurrect this beloved game from its current pathetic plight. If not, it is inevitable that cricket in Sri Lanka will deteriorate further.
 
According to Dayasiri Jayasekara, the Sports Ministry had provided the cricketers all possible facilities and the players too should have a sense of pride about the country and play with responsibility. He said although losing was a great pain to all, it is something that we would have to bear with even for a while. The minister said this in response to the current pathetic situation that has befallen the Sri Lankan cricket team and the game of cricket as a whole has suffered great setbacks.  
 
Minister Jayasekara said the players had been provided every facility imaginable and even their salaries were increased, leaving no room for any shortcoming and it was the best team we have that was sent for these games. He said the trainers had the freedom to appoint anyone they saw fit as captains and were also given the free hand to select the players they felt were best performers. However, he said perhaps some of the good players may have been overlooked and favourites of those who control the team may have been included in the team. He said as the administrative board they had not put any pressure on the players nor the selectors, adding that all measures were taken even to ensure the mental peacefulness of the players. One of the Indian former players had even ridiculed the Lankan team saying that had the rugby team played against the Sri Lankan cricket team they could have easily won. However, it was mentioned at various stages that the Sri Lankan team lacked experienced players, an allegation that the sports minister vehemently refuses to accept.
 
 Meanwhile, former captain and the current Petroleum Resources Minister Arjuna Ranathunge said still Sri Lanka is not second to any other country in terms of ability and talent in the game of cricket. However, he noted with great sadness that the current situation that the Sri Lankan cricket team has come to is pathetic and sad. Looking back at the game of cricket, as the captain of the team in 1996, Ranathunge commented on winning and losing. He said the team is currently mentally very down and said he had been warning the administrators about the future of Sri Lankan cricket for the past two years. He added that we cannot blame only the cricketers for this pathetic plight Sri Lankan cricket has come to, pointing out that the cricket administration in this country has deteriorated, leading to the collapse of the game. He said that Sri Lankan cricket has never before reached such low standards and warned that the game of cricket cannot be uplifted by constantly changing the trainers and players in order to appoint those whom the administrators want. He said this game cannot be resurrected and brought back to its glory days as long as those in charge of cricket are trying to destroy the game. He added that the players alone cannot be blamed for the pathetic state of cricket in this country and said the administrators should take the blame too.
 
Further former cricketer and trainer Promodaya Wickremesinghe said currently those with no knowledge of the game are controlling the game and it is their inability and lack of knowledge that has brought the level of cricket in this country to this low standard.
 
Expressing his views former cricket captain and selector, Sanath Jayasuriya said all three components of the game, batting, bowling and fielding have to be  excellent in order to win matches. However, he said just as much as everyone is happy when we win, the moment we lose a few matches everyone questions as to why we did not win. This is the nature of the game and we cannot always win. You have to win some and lose some and we must understand that this is common in any sport. This, he said is a dull period that the Sri Lankan cricket team is experiencing and these errors and shortcomings have to be addressed and rectified and it will be done in due course. He assured that as the selection committee, they are doing everything in their power to uplift the standards of the game.
 
AshWaru Colombo
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