Sa’adi Thawfeeq, in Daily News, 26 December 2018 where the title is “New Sports Minister, new hope for cricket?”
A change in the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) constitution reducing the voting strength of its membership has been a long standing requirement if the game is to be freed from politics, corruption, financial mismanagement etc that has affected this noble game over the years. The appointment of former Josephian sportsman Harin Fernanado as the new Minister of Sports in addition to his duties as Minister of Telecommunications, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment has renewed hopes that this could become a reality.
Without wasting much time the Minister has got down to brass tacks and made it known that he is all for a change in the SLC constitution, but the only issue with it is that he needs to buy time to make the effective changes which has to be done in parliament as obtaining a two-thirds majority from the membership of the SLC is out of the question. The majority of the membership would not want a change because of the present autonomy they enjoy as controlling members (2 votes) and affiliated members (1 vote).
When the SLC constitution was first drawn up it was done with good intentions and those who held office prior to the country’s 1996 World Cup victory did so with passion for the game and with a will to contribute to towards the betterment of it.
To be more descriptive the Ceylon Cricket Association (CCA) was formed in 1922 with Dr John Rockwood as the first president and Col OB Forbes as the first honorary secretary. The formation of the CCA came into being as the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) which governed international cricket at the time wanted a cricket association, a controlling body for cricket in Ceylon (as it was then known) in place before it would send out an official team.
A new controlling body for cricket was formed in 1948 and the CCA was renamed the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) with P Saravanamuttu as the president and MKM Ismail as the honorary secretary. It was renamed Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in 2003. The SLC is thus the apex national body for the administration and development of cricket in Sri Lanka, including management of the Sri Lanka cricket team.
Winning the World Cup not only brought immense joy to the passionate cricket followers but also uplifted the game in all corners of the country. At the same time with their new found recognition as one of the cricketing powers of the world the SLC’s finances started to swell of undreamt proportions and this attracted many businessmen to run for the presidency and hold office much to the detriment of the game.
What happened afterwards was that in a bid to hold onto power member clubs were brought over by those in power and promoted to play in the country’s Premier inter-club cricket tournaments thus diluting the quality of cricket played which has had a direct bearing on the quality of cricketers coming through the system that has gravely affected the national team’s performances. Corruption has been rife and there has been question marks raised over the distribution of finances and the eligibility of certain officials to run for the top office-bearer posts.
A court case is currently pending over the latter that has resulted in the SLC elections being postponed and a competent authority appointed by the former Sports Minister running the day to day affairs of SLC.
Now with a new Sports Minister in place determined to clean up the Augean stables there is renewed hope that he will be given the time and support to do so.
The government came quite close to changing the SLC constitution based on the proposals put forward by former Sri Lanka cricketer and former interim committee chairman Sidath Wettimuny and presenting it in Parliament during the time when Navin Dissanayake was the Sports Minister but unfortunately the portfolio’s changed at a very crucial time and Dayasiri Jayasekera became the Sports Minister. Being a close associate of the then SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala the much looked-forward to changes to the constitution never took place and simply went under the carpet allowing Sumathipala to administer the game to his whims and fancy.
Cricket today needs honest, committed people who uphold the game in its true traditions to run it. It is not that we lack such individuals but they don’t stand a dog’s chance to get elected under the present SLC constitution. The only way they can serve the game is through interim committees which are not the right answer to the problem at hand because unlike an elected body they cannot function for long. The ICC too is not keen on countries being administered by interim committees because they are government appointed.
However according to the new Sports Minister the present situation deems an interim committee be appointed to administer SLC until such time the necessary changes are made to its constitution. Let’s hope for the sake of the game it becomes a reality.