Thoughts on Sri Lanka’s Recent Cricketing Defeats

Michael Roberts, 7 February 2019

Marvan Atapattu has contended that “Sri Lankan Cricket has been in a rut for the past two years” and that whereas “there have been bad times, …. we always could see a light at the end of the tunnel. But the way things are being handled and what I see now, there’s nothing like that.” [1]

Balanced thoughts? Up to a point. The fact remains that the Sri Lanka cricket administration has been a roller-coaster from 1996 to 2018; and some of the squads secured pretty good results despite this background situation – no more so than 2016 when they bested the Australians three-zip — admittedly in home terrain.

One of the problems with assessments from outside fly-in-by-night commentators and dip-the-wick ‘experts’ from the West is that they are so captivated by the notion of an “elected body” and “democracy” that they do not probe further. The system of cricket elections by clubs in Sri Lanka has been rotten to the core for decades. There are clubs that do not field teams that have two votes. It is a system with “rotten boroughs” and “pocket boroughs” that would rival the infamous British parliamentary electorates of the late 18th century. What we have seen is an oligarchy dominated by manipulators.

The master of this sort of system has been Thilanga Sumathipala; but some of his rivals have been little better. The best administrations have been those dictatorially appointed from above by government intervention  with Rienzie Wijetilleka, Vijay Malalasekera and Sidath Wettimuny in charge at different points of time (alas for brief spells). But the magic wand of “democracy” has induced the ICC to step in recently and demand “elections.” To this miasma within ICC thinking has been added the evidence of match-fixing and betting scandals –that is corruption among a few coaches and cricket big-wigs from yesteryear. As I know little about the specific charges and the background. I will place that sphere on hold.

Be that as it may, we must consider and weigh the cricketing reasons for the bad series of defeats recently: versus England, New Zealand and Australia. One factor that many seem to by-pass by is the nature of cricket. “Cricket luv’ly cricket”[2] is just that. Cricket is topsy-turvy, as Lord Superior would say. A few months back England trounced Sri Lanka even when playing away by utilizing both pace and spin and splendid batting. However, the same squad (more or less) have been roundly trounced in two Tests by the West Indies – admittedly on pacey pitches. But their batsmen were undone not only by pace but by Chase (beautiful rhyme that).

Secondly, we must allow for the processes that seem to have generated quantum improvements in some cricket playing nations – notably India, New Zealand and, more unsteadily, Pakistan, Australia and Afghanistan (and even, maybe, the West Indies — who let me remind were beaten at home by Sri Lanka not so long ago — ah, Lord Superior would smile ruefully). In short, Sri Lanka’s recent drownings in New Zealand and Australia underline the cycle of cricket of turnabouts that is one of the attractions associated with the game. Ask Lord Superior.

Let me stress that I expected the SL squads to struggle in New Zealand and Australia. In my thinking then in early January the result of the Test Match in Brisbane was a foregone conclusion. The Gabba is a bouncy lively pitch and India had the political clout to avoid a match there. So, Sri Lanka was ‘bound to be a gonna, there at the Gabba’.

There are other deeper considerations and factors to bring into any assessment of the Two Test disaster in Australia and the shakeup in the Selections that has followed. That will be Episode Two in this my survey.


Atapattu, Marvan [2019] “Kota Uda: “Our Cricket in Deep Dungeon” says Marvan,” 5 February 2019,… originally in Times

Fernando, Andrew F 2019 “Profound Problems for Sri Lanka Cricket,” 5 February 2019,


[1] See Atapattu 2019 and Fernando 2019.

[2] Famous ditty sung by one Lord Superior.

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