How unchecked success leads to corruption/greed/failures – a case of Sri Lankan cricket

This piece in Cricket monthly magazine (requires free subscription) is on the famous number in cricket. One expert says it is 99.94, another says it 0 (duck), another points to 365 by Clive Lloyd and so on.

Vithushan Ehantharajah says it is 1996 when SL won the World Cup against all odds:

A “World Cup legacy” is a strange thing. It is a magnanimous yet malleable entity that can be forced into any shape to fit a particular narrative, often one of an everlasting love brought about through the healing power of sport.

It is, ultimately, nonsense.

The sight of Aravinda de Silva, sleeves billowing in the Lahore evening air for an unbeaten 107, taking Sri Lanka through to their maiden World Cup win, even now takes me back to 1996. I was crouched, battling with a cousin for floor space next to the radio, which was doing its darnedest to spit out what it could of this faint, long-wave broadcast. This isn’t a side-street cobbler in Jaffna, by the way – this is St Stephen’s Road, Ealing. “It really changed the fortunes for Sri Lanka cricket,” said de Silva, in an interview in 2013. By that point, he had taken on a number of roles within Sri Lanka Cricket, including chairman of selectors, in a period that saw the relationship between the country’s players and administrators at an all-time low.

The reason? Greed and corruption stemming from that World Cup victory. It was Sri Lankan cricket’s tipping point. The team members became marketable assets and there was money to be made. The board, run by volunteers up to this point, was suddenly part of a multi-million dollar organisation. Gradually the well-intentioned were eased out and the politically savvy, self-motivated moved in. They have yet to be displaced.

Almost 20 years on, there has been little drive or consistency from those on the countless selection panels and interim committees. They simply line their pockets, boost their profile and move on. Voting was often rigged for the highest bidders, and AGMs could be violent affairs, with intimidation frequently the strongest currency.

Financial impropriety meant the government had to step in and dissolve its own appointed interim committee, as the board found itself saddled with US$23 million of debt after the 2011 World Cup.

Prior to that competition, which Sri Lanka co-hosted, just as they had done in 1996, Kumar Sangakkara had offered his resignation as captain, having become disillusioned with tasks that included negotiating the contracts of other players and battling constant political interference. He eventually relinquished the role after Sri Lanka’s defeat in the final to India, but his gripes featured prominently in his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s, delivered later that year.

In 2012, Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain in ’96, condemned the state of the SLC after their first elections in seven years ended in controversy, with one of the two groups contesting withdrawing because of political interference in the process. During Ranatunga’s brief tenure as SLC chairman in 2008, he felt the effect of that interference when he was sacked by then sports minister Gamini Lokuge without any hearing.

Perhaps most galling of all is the transformation of Sanath Jayasuriya, Player of the Tournament in ’96. In 2010 he became an MP, representing the party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the United People’s Freedom Alliance – the same government suspected of serious war crimes within Sri Lanka by UN and human rights organisations. Jayasuriya was then appointed as national selector by sports minister and fellow UPFA member Mahindananda Aluthgamage. Since then he has been embroiled in countless disagreements with players, ranging from contract disputes to quarrels with Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who have used their profiles to aid the team over their national board.

The glory of that March evening at the Gaddafi Stadium inspired a nation. Unfortunately, it also created an administrative monster that shows no sign of changing its ways.

Legacies aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Superb. We keep talking about similar things in most walks of life. Don’t let success get to your head.

Also, it reflects on the quality of cricket institutions in Asia and other countries. Asian countries which won the World Cups like India, Pakistan and SL all have seen mountains of corruption rising. Whereas countries like Australia have prospered with no such signs. Whereas it is mostly professional in Aus cricket governance., it is mostly corruption in Asian counterparts.

India has still managed to surge ahead given the huge population and craze for the game. They are bale to play the players and so on. Same isn’t the case with SL and with Pakistan it is a different story altogether..

 

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