Rex Clementine, in Island, 30 October 2017, where the title is striking: Ä fish rots from the head”
Sri Lanka have succumbed to yet another series defeat this year. Friday’s loss in the second T-20 in Abu Dhabi was a bitter pill to swallow. To point at numbers will be a tedious task so we refrain from doing so, but to put it bluntly, it was Sri Lanka’s 15th defeat in a row in limited overs cricket. There doesn’t seem to be a way out of the mess. And the World Cup is less than two years away. Our administrators keep giving us the assurance that everything will be tickety-boo by the time the injured trio of Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne and Kusal Perera return. But the reality is far from that. Here’s why.
The difference between the two teams during Sri Lanka’s two-wicket loss at Sheikh Zayed Stadium was fielding. Pakistan managed three run-outs – all top-order batters and two of them were direct-hits. Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz are the trio that Pakistan are banking on to raise the intensity on the field in limited overs cricket. The trio remind you of the famous threesome of Jonty Rhodes, Herschelle Gibbs and Dereke Crooks during the golden era of South African cricket under master tactician Bob Woolmer.
Having covered a lot of cricket this year, we can’t remember the last time a Sri Lankan managed a direct hit to change the course of a game. Least said about their catching the better. Pakistan are putting a massive premium on fielding. Their Fielding Coach is Steve Rixon, a man who had been the Head Coach of two international teams. Their Head Coach Mickey Arthur has coached two other international teams. Pakistan are on the right course for the 2019 World Cup in England.
Sri Lanka are clueless which way they are heading. Our administrators blow their trumpets on how this year Sri Lanka were able to win T-20 series in South Africa and Australia, but conveniently forget that those wins came against weaker oppositions.
No disrespect for Sri Lanka’s coaching staff, but there’s a vast difference between the fielding drills of Manoj Abeywickrama and Steve Rixon. The same goes with Nic Pothas, a wonderful man who will one day go onto become a fantastic Head Coach, but the problem is, he is still learning on the job. Time is running out. And fast too.
It has been four months since Graeme Ford ‘vacated his position’, but Sri Lanka Cricket is yet to hunt down a Head Coach. The eagerness they have on their vanity projects sadly is not visible when it comes to giving priority to making the best environment for the national team.
In June when SLC was sidelining Ford, former great Kumar Sangakkara warned that administrators needed to leave the coaching part to the coaching staff without meddling their fingers into the affairs of the team. Sangakkara, a brilliant student of the game, didn’t point out any names, but it was clear to whom he was referring to. Sanga’s plea didn’t receive a fair hearing. Officials who think they are the alpha and omega of cricket were having a field day. And Ford didn’t suffer fools gladly.
The Sports Ministry needs to conduct an investigation into Shammi Silva’s alleged interferences with the selection process. There’s strong evidence to suggest that a cricket stalwart threatened Bloomfield players that there’s no hope for them by remaining in the club and to move away from Reid Avenue across the road in search of greener pastures. And then there was a mass exodus of players from Bloomfield to CCC. The number of players who have gone onto represent the Sri Lankan team from CCC in the last 18 months is indeed stunning.
SLC last month decided to ban all players involved in corrupt practice in the Pandura SC versus Kalutara PCC First Class game, but let the officials, who were the masterminds of the fixed game off the hook. By fixing the game, Panadura SC were promoted to Tier ‘A’ while Kalutara PCC avoided relegation to Sara Trophy. Prominent members of both clubs such as Ravin Wickramaratne, Priyantha Zoysa and Anura de Silva are powerful members of the SLC Executive Committee.
After the players appealed, the Sports Ministry launched an independent inquiry, but there’s little hope that the culprits will be brought to books given the impunity with which they roam the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A transparent organization should have suspended all officials concerned until investigations were over after it came to light that these three gentlemen were the masterminds of the match fixing fiasco.
SLC Chief Thilanga Sumathipala has failed miserably to lead the country’s most glamorous organization. His lack of leadership has pushed country’s favourite sport into its current predicament. Instead of dealing with the corrupt steadfastly, he has adopted a hand in glove approach with the men who have brought cricket’s reputation to nadir.
When we failed to make it to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy, the blame was pointed at Graeme Ford and he was made the scapegoat. When we were beaten by Zimbabwe, blame was shifted to Angelo Mathews and he was made the scapegoat. We wonder whether any of the blame for the current mess actually belongs to Sumathipala?
Cricket’s finest brain Mike Brearley has a simple answer. His book ‘The art of Captaincy’ is perhaps best work on cricket ever. In that he says, ‘A fish rots from the head’.