Why Sri Lanka’s cricketing fortunes risk turning into a misfortune

It wasn’t long ago that Sri Lanka’s sports minister reached out to the ‘famous five’ – five former greats of the gentlemen’s game who are also among the most respected ex-cricketers from the modern era – to form an ‘advisory panel’ that would turn our cricketing fortunes around ahead of next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup.

It is true that in the longer version of the game at least, the Sri Lankans have stood their ground amid the turmoil at headquarters although the nation’s fanatical fans would hope that their heroes would slowly but surely move up from their sixth place in the Test rankings in due course.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka continues to languish in the bottom half of the rankings in the 50-over game and it is no different in the T20 format – despite the fact that we have tasted success by winning the coveted World Cup in both versions in 1996 and 2014 respectively.

Sadly, the faux pas that pervade Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) are seemingly rubbing off on our hitherto well-behaved cricketers, what with an ICC suspension of the Test team’s skipper for tampering with the ball in the Caribbean and two internal or local bans on the younger brigade for misconduct in recent times.

Add to this the spate of injuries that has sidelined a number of our front line batsmen and bowlers, and one wonders whether there’s an ‘administration’ in place to assist the national squad when it’s most needed.

Back to the famous five and their reaction to the minister’s invitation…

Well, it was flatly rejected not because Aravinda de Silva, Roshan Mahanama, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara don’t have the time to come to the party in the national interest but their unanimous belief that the present system cannot be trusted.

“If anyone wants to buy time, please don’t use us,” is how Jayawardene reacted while Mahanama was blunt when he reportedly lamented: “I detest political interference, dishonesty and lack of transparency at any level; and until someone makes a positive effort to eliminate them, I consider it prudent to stick to my principles…”

Muralitharan on the other hand, stood firm by quipping that “it is sad that [past] national cricketers are not consulted until things hit rock bottom!”

Meanwhile, Sangakkara explained that “many cricketers and administrators with genuine intentions will not come forward” because they feel they’ve been “used as pawns to buy time for political manoeuvring.”

Indeed, the political establishment in this country is guilty of running one of its most revered national brands into the ground – as it has done to just about everything else of value to the people of the land. Our most valuable assets have been systematically ripped apart for perhaps the better part of Sri Lanka’s post-independence years.

Sangakkara’s call to the nation’s two highest ranking politicians – albeit indirectly through the minister in charge – it would seem, has fallen on deaf ears: “If you Sir, are able to establish genuine bona fides, and harness the support and commitment of the President, Primer Minister and all other relevant public officials to make the revisions, changes and amendments to the constitution of Sri Lanka Cricket, and to the Sports Law, I am sure that you will receive the full cooperation of myself, the large cricketing fraternity and the public.”

Given the status quo and extreme procrastination that we see with many other issues of national importance, this may sound like a pipe dream; but that it is a desperate last call to save a game that we Sri Lankans live for is not in question.

Make no mistake, this is the last straw.