Running against the wind
My dear Thilanga,
I thought I must write to you to congratulate you on our latest cricketing achievement – losing a test match last week to Bangladesh, the youngest test playing country which gained ‘test’ status nearly two decades after we did. It was also the first time we lost a test to a ‘younger’ test playing nation!
In terms of being an achievement, I suppose this must be second only to winning the World Cup under Captain Cool over two decades ago. Given the state of you relationship with Captain Cool, I suppose you can now finally say that you have now done something which even he couldn’t do!
We were bound to reach such dizzy heights some day, because of what has been happening at Sri Lanka Cricket and in many ways, winning that World Cup was a curse in disguise. It may have lifted the game in this country to a different level, but it also brought with it a different set of problems.
Before the World Cup win, people who loved cricket gave freely of their time and effort to Sri Lanka Cricket. After winning the World Cup though, some were smart enough to realise that big money would come in to the game, so they rushed to get themselves elected to high office there.
Since then, Thilanga, you have been in and out of Sri Lanka Cricket many times. Various people have tried to step in and make a difference. In fact, we have had many ‘interim’ committees but they have been just that: managing the affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket in the interim – until you took over yet again.
Isn’t it strange that it is harder for someone to become the President of Sri Lanka Cricket than it is to become President of our country? Why, although most people didn’t think it was possible, Mahinda maama was voted out of office, but no one seems to be able to get rid of you as boss of our cricket.
It is not because people – and even governments- hadn’t tried. Remember, there was that time when Satellite’s uncle, Clifford, tried to oust you and failed miserably even though Satellite used all the muscle at her disposal. In fact, that election was more violent than some of our presidential elections!
Even Captain Cool tried to remove you from your pedestal and found that winning a World Cup by beating Australia was easier than beating you at this game. That is why we admire you, Thilanga, because you have learned a trick or two from Mahinda maama, from the time you were with him.
Remember how Mahinda maama made sure he was at the top by winning over some reds and some greens by making them ministers? It was not good for the country because we had ministers coming out of every bush and they cost an arm and a leg and a duty free car – but Mahinda maama was safe.
Maithri does the same thing now but you too use the same tactic: you allow two dozen cricket clubs in our first class circuit, so their standard is quite low. But then, they vote for you and keep electing you as their President – so who cares if the standard of our cricket falls slightly and we lose to Bangladesh?
It was also under your watch, Thilanga, that some of our players became superstars. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but some of them also became mercenaries, plying their trade in cash rich tournaments around the world but somehow becoming injured when they had to represent the country.
There were ‘legendary’ cricketers who ran behind politicians. They got elected to Parliament, and when they were dropped from the team, got help from the saatakaya to win their place back. Other legends who are supposedly ‘gentlemen’ got tours postponed so they could play in the IPL for money.
You presided when all this happened, Thilanga, so you must be proud. Take my advice – there is just one more thing to do: introduce a ‘National List’ to get appointed to Sri Lanka Cricket. That way, you won’t have to worry about elections even if you lose. After all, that is how you got in to Parliament!
Meanwhile, spare a thought for our long suffering cricket fans who feel that cricket is the one factor that unites our country and also for sincere cricketers like Rangana, who should be spending his time dyeing his hair. Instead, he is still toiling away, aiming for the impossible – to win some games for us!
PS: We heard you say recently that our plans are focussed on the next World Cup. I am sure they are, Thilanga, so how much would you bet on our team winning the World Cup again in two years’ time? Ah, pardon me, I forgot that you are not a gambling man!