Mandalay Kachal

by Thilak S. Fernando

Can a post-mortem of the death of the Sri Lanka's International Cricket Championship be regarded as grave yard humour since our national cricket team, once the World Champions, were taken apart absolutely all over the turf by the Indians and finally put to the sword with their merciless good swing of the bat? The most humiliating defeat by not even qualifying to reach the super six round spoke volumes about our world champions, thus ending the hope of millions of Sri Lankans from the sophisticated elite to the humble ' kussi ammas' at home.

Sri Lanka, in terms of cricket, was on a downhill spiral even before they arrived on the British soil and with cock-a-hoop statements of 'meda poteth denava bete' (this time also we'll give them beans!). To assist them in maintaining their World Title, a Sri Lankan cricket enthusiast in Leicester (one of the magnificent nine appointed by the BCCSL), a gentleman of means for that matter, who owns his own cricket grounds in Leicester, acted voluntarily as a 'god's sent' when he got down the whole team two weeks prior to the official date, offered them his grounds for practice in order to climatize the 'boys' to English playing conditions and spent a colossal amount for their hotel bills etc., out of his pocket not because he had nothing better to do with his money but to ensure that Sri Lanka maintained its International reputation by coming to the top once again. Yet, the misdemeanour treatment meted out to this philanthropist by the BCCSL just before the first Sri Lankan match at Lords against England was the first and a major defeat for Sri Lankan cricket - needless to say the gentleman immediately withdrew from the magnificent nine, having spoken his heart out openly to all the Lankan cricket Lords who were in England at the time. This gentleman need not have been offered an ordinary gallery ticket to watch the match ( as a mark of gratitude !) for, he could have, without batting an eye lid, paid for the whole team and their families, including the seventeen-odd captain's private entourage including a cook woman, to watch from the Grand Stand!

Then we heard of fisticuffs and assaults to another innocent member of the magnificent nine, which is being reported to the Scotland Yard and enquires, are in progress. This makes one wonder whether Sri Lanka is engaged in playing the so-called gentleman's game of cricket, a new blood sport for thousands of pound sterling or a Mafia game altogether!

Arjuna Ranatunga who has been subjected to many a criticism of late and compared by cricket commentators as a famous Napoleon's French general about his autocratic style of captaincy was yet again lambasted for his persistence of setting a defence field even though Sri Lankan bowling was not up to the mark at all, which he openly admitted on TV after the Indian defeat. The national team seemed to depend solely on the brilliance and skills of the top-order batsmen all the time, yet their performances during the world cup this time have been able to accommodate much of gossip mongers fantasies of ' match fixing' and some batsmen becoming slaves to big Dollar/Sterling back-handers! It was an obvious sight during Sri Lanka matches the lack of team work on the field and to the extent of four letter words being thrown at their team mates out of frustration (according to the Sunday Leader' on the 30th May)!

Should the English climate be made an excuse for Sri Lanka's humiliation? Not necessarily so, because Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indian teams too came from the tropics and displayed their skills with the Willow and Leather, even breaking old records and making new ones!

The President of the BCCSL in Sri Lanka has, in a statement, already admitted that the reason for Sri Lanka's defeat is due to a ' badly planned tour'. Sumathipala has stressed the need to appoint ' Resource Personnel'. Perhaps he should first of all hold an enquiry to find out as to what happened to the philanthropist who volunteered from Leicester in is his own presence when he was in England at the time.

Sri Lanka team appears to be completely under mental duress at present. The Board of Control of Cricket is ridden with allegations of infighting, corruption, thuggery and nepotism. The recent furore at the Board elections has brought much shame than repute to the game itself.

Sri Lanka may have lost the World Championship this time, but the game of cricket is not over or lost yet. We must not forget the fact that it was cricket, which put Sri Lanka on the world pedestal once and helped to make at least a few cricketers millionaires and heartthrobs in Sri Lanka. The cardinal point to remember in such a scenario would be in sports it's the spirit with which the game is played in both pitch and toss situations. Brazil was once the world champion of soccer, yet they too were humiliated & defeated later by France, and that forms a part of life.

Sri Lanka needs to recognise their flaws and try and put their act to gather in preparation for the future. The time has been ticking over for a long time for the old bones to be given a rest and young blood to take over. Private interest in the BCCSL is another damaging factor for the deterioration of the game and the reputation of the Board. If the head of the board hails from a family who are doyen of gaming in Sri Lanka it comes within serious focusing to analyse the ethical aspect behind such an appointment. By appointing a family member of a main gambling institute in Sri Lanka as the head of the BCCSL is bound to raise conflicts of interest and leaves room for palpable allegations to be cast. It would be like the gaming institutions such as William Hill, Ladbrokes or Tote in England being appointed as the head of the UK Horse Racing Association. Surely there would be a public outcry!

Emotions of Sri Lankans may have run high after Sri Lanka getting knocked completely out of the world cup 99, and some viewers may even have been rushed to hospitals with hypertension and heart attack. Has Cricket started to generate a new disease among Sri Lankans ?

Our national team has won once and lost once, and it does not necessarily mean that we all should join the band wagon and keep shouting that the game has been disintegrated to atoms. Instead we, as a nation, need to take courage and think positively that Sri Lanka has been able to defeat cricketing giants in the past, who tower over them, and from a pearl of a nation our cricketers are still mighty atoms.