Implement Justice Jayawardene’s recommendations

Recently giving verdict on a divorce case, a judge was rattled by the response given by a little girl.

The judge had asked the girl, ‘Now that your parents are getting divorced do you want to live with your mummy?

Little Girl – No, my mummy beats me.

Judge – Well then, I guess you want to live with your daddy.

Little Girl – No, my daddy beats me too.

Judge – Well then, who do you want to live with?

Little Girl – I want to live with the Sri Lankan Cricket team. They beat nobody!!!

Once the world beaters, the national cricket team has become the laughing stock in the world cricket at the moment. We are used to hearing former great Sunil Gavaskar heaping praise on our past batsmen like Mendis, Dias and de Silva, but during the third Test at Pallekele, which ended inside three days, he ran down Sri Lankan cricket by saying that a Ranji Trophy team – a team playing First Class cricket in India – would beat the Sri Lankan side.

Sri Lankan cricket never failed us. Despite temporary setbacks, there were always the moments of joy. But 2017 has been a year of disaster. Easily the worst year since we were granted Test status in 1981. Beaten 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in ODIs in South Africa, beaten by Bangladesh for the first time in a Test match and beaten by Zimbabwe for the first time in an ODI series. As if these weren’t bad, India exposed Sri Lankan cricket badly handing a 3-0 whitewash. Shame on the politicians and administrators who have brought cricket to this level.

SLC chief Thilanga Sumathipala faced a barrage of questions during a media briefing earlier this week on the status of the sport, but he kept dodging the serious issues facing cricket and looks only interested in finding scapegoats for the woes. One main reason for the standard of cricket to drop is that Sumathipala in a bid to please the clubs that had voted him for power granted First Class status to clubs that were competing in Tier ‘B’. Sri Lanka used to have 14 teams playing First Class cricket and Sumathipala increased it to 24.

Sumathipala has been criticized for his failure to implement the Inter-Provincial tournament and under tremendous pressure, he eventually agreed to carry out the tournament, but reminded all present that he is not willing to do anything that will be detrimental to cricket clubs. He maybe not able to win a General Election, but Sumathipala knows the art of winning cricket elections. Here is why.

At present, we have 147 votes held by 85 member clubs and associations, some of whom do not play any serious cricket at all. Sri Lanka Cricket has four types of members; Associate Members; Affiliated Members; Controlling Members and Cricket Associations.

The number of electors are significantly low in other parts of the world. Take for example England where only 18 members vote. In India, 42 members vote. In Pakistan 17 members vote while in Australia 22 members vote. So why should Sri Lanka have such a huge voting base?

Here, a Cricket Club commences membership as an Associate Member and graduates to the status of Affiliated Member after a period of five years, provided that such Club has a minimum of 50 members. Then, an Affiliated Member graduates to the status of a Controlling Member after a further period of five years provided it has a minimum of 100 members and a suitable ground of its own.

Meanwhile, a Cricket Association can obtain membership if it conducts Tournaments with a minimum of three Clubs.

At present, we have 27 Associate Members (five Provincial Associations and 22 District Associations), 23 Affiliated Members, 29 Controlling Members and six other Cricket Associations (for example Mercantile Cricket Association). All Controlling Members, Affiliated Members and Cricket Associations have votes at the AGM of SLC at which the Executive Committee is appointed. Each Controlling Member and Cricket Association has two votes while each Affiliated Member has one vote.

The danger of this system is that virtually any club hat has fielded a team in one of SLC conducted five tournaments can obtain Associate Membership of SLC and then ascend to Affiliated Member and be in a position to vote at the AGM in five years time by having a membership of 50.

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara has ruled out appointing an Interim Committee to run the sport. Surely he doesn’t want to be remembered as the Minister during whose watch cricket in the country hit rock bottom. Minister Jayasekara is flirting with danger.

One of the main reasons why the Rajapaksa government became unpopular among the youth was that President Rajapaksa’s sons Namal and Yoshitha were having a negative influence on the game of cricket. For example, cricket was being telecast in the channel owned by Yoshitha while Namal’s pet project – the international cricket stadium in Suriyawewa cost SLC an arm and a leg and as a result players went unpaid for months.

The man who suggested the idea of a television channel to the Rajapaksa boys was none other than Nishantha Ranatunga. He held the dual role of CEO of Carlton Sports Network (CSN) and Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket at the same time. He manipulated the awarding of television rights to CSN over Rupavahini and the corrupt deal was one main reason why President Rajapaksa lost the 2015 election.

Furthermore, Namal was inserting undue pressure on the selection panel and the likes of Ramith Rambukwella and Jeewan Mendis received an extended go due to those influences. President Rajapaksa wouldn’t have thought in his wildest of dreams that he would lose the 2015 Presidential Election. But his sons had done irreparable damage to his reputation.

Minister Jayasekara is one of the brightest young politicians and has a very good chance of leading the SLFP one day. He is ruining his political future by allowing cricket to nosedive. Without any delay, the Minister should put into act the recommendations given to him by Supreme Court Judge Prasanna Jayawardene.

A die-hard cricket fan, Justice Jayawardene last year had recommended several changes to SLC. Sadly, the Minister has failed to implement them.

Justice Jayawardene in his assessment had said that Sri Lanka Cricket is the most valuable brand in the country. He had recommended that SLC should be incorporated by an Act of Parliament and to differentiate SLC from other sports association since SLC had a balance sheet of over Rs. 6000 million. Virtually, Justice Jayawardene was requesting the Sports Minister to relieve SLC from the Sports Law and let it be governed like a company. His recommendations basically ruled out any chance of foul play with the finances of SLC.

The recommendation had called for a Board of Governors consisting five persons that included two former Test captains, who had ceased to play First Class cricket at least 15 years prior to their appointment. The rest of the individuals were supposed to be independent and eminent professionals.

The International Cricket Council had approved the new recommendations and sadly Minister Jayasekara has done precious nothing about it.

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