By Gamini Jayaweera –
Who Is Responsible for The Administration Of Sri Lanka Cricket – Minister Of Sports Or The Elected Members of The SLC Board?
Since 1980 successive Sports Ministers in Sri Lanka, have used their authority to politicise the sports institutions, either by direct intervention or by helping their political supporters to run these organisations. This has been done at the expense of creating independent progressive sports bodies who could have produced an environment to develop world class sportsmen and women.
Talented impartial officials have been side-lined. Talented athletes have not been properly managed or supported to become the world beaters that they could have become. In addition, these sports institutions have been used by political party organisations to enhance their own political careers and their own propaganda work. Most of the Sports Ministers have had no vision, no objectives, and no clear strategies to develop sports in Sri Lanka from grass root levels.
The only occasion when Sri Lanka have had a vision and implemented a strategy was when Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe served as the Minister of Education when the development of sports was introduced with limited available facilities to all schools throughout the country.
Grass root level development coupled with the introduction of National Sports Festival open to all schools in the mid-80s by the Ministry of Education resulted in the production of world class athletes such as Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darshana, Sriyani Kulawansa, and Sugath Tilakaratne.
We must also not forget the visionary leader, Mr. Ana Punchihewa, the former President of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for providing an invaluable service and implementing a well-thought-out strategy to win the Cricket World Cup in 1996.
In democratic societies, sports bodies are independent organisations that are run by officials who have been appointed through the ballot box by their membership for a period as stated in their constitutions.
SLC also holds its elections to appoint office bearers through the ballot box except for a few occasions where some of the previous Sports Ministers have used their authority to appoint Interim Committees to administer the SLC against the wishes of its membership.
This direct interference by the Ministers of Sport, both past and present, is continuing today making a mockery of the decisions taken by the independently elected office bearers of the SLC Board. The new Minister of Sports is young and enthusiastic but inexperienced. He is making quick decisions without realising the consequences of his actions.
Too many clever people think that they can solve all the problems by being clever. But history shows that this is not the case.
Wisdom is needed to solve certain domestic and work-related issues in order to arrive at correct decisions. Development of wisdom does not happen overnight just because one becomes an influential person. Experience, calmness and honesty are also needed. It must be said that enthusiasm is better when combined with wisdom. It is essential that one should be true to oneself in tackling complicated issues. The Minister of Sports should possess all of these qualities in order to give leadership and to formulate processes and procedures that will outline the framework required to conduct the duties in an orderly manner in all sports bodies in the country.
The new Minister of Sports attempts to introduce rules and regulations especially for the SLC, are unfair and unreasonable. Such action by the Minister of Sports could be considered to be discriminatory and illegal.
Selections for the World cup
It is sad to learn that before, during, and after the Cricket World Cup the young and enthusiastic but inexperienced Minister of Sports had become personally involved in some of the internal affairs of the SLC. As I understand, it, the Minister of Sports is involved in the selection process of the players for the Cricket World Cup because the process involved the squad for the Cricket World Cup (nominated by the SLC) being ratified by the Minister of sports. Accordingly, he has the final authority to reject and add any individual player whom he thinks is not “fit” to be in the squad.
If the Minister of Sports is part of the process to finalise and authorise the selection of cricketers for the World Cup, he is also partly to blame along with the members of the selection panel for the team’s poor performance during World Cup.
Why the Minister of Sports wants to be the final authority for selection of the Cricketers, Athletes, Rugby players, etc. when he has no expert knowledge of selecting the most suitable players for the task is a mystery to me. I consider that it would be correct and ethical for the Minister of Sports to hand over the final selection and authorisation of a squad or a team to the relevant sports governing bodies allowing for them to act without any political interference. Authorisation without responsibility is laughable.
Selection of the Head Coach
The revelation that the young and enthusiastic new Minister of Sports has personally been involved in the process of sacking the current Head Coach from his position and approaching other well-known coaches for the vacant position is disturbing.
Mr. Hathurusinghe, the previous Head coach is a well-respected world class Cricket Coach. Yes, Mr. Hathrusinghe, in this instance did not perform his task to get the desired results, but it is a matter to be solved between his employer, SLC and himself. With all due respect, I would like to point out to the young and enthusiastic Minister of Sports that sacking and appointing Coaches, Selectors, or other officials, and getting involved in the administration of the SLC is not his business.
If the current Minister of Sports is really serious about removing the current Coaches and Selectors after the World Cup, I would suggest that the Chairman and members of the Selection Committee, the Coaching Staff, and the Minister of Sports himself should have all tendered their resignations and taken collective responsibility for the poor performance by our cricketers during the World Cup, because they are all responsible for the selection of the Sri Lanka squad.
No One is bigger than “Cricket”
It appears that the unnecessary intervention and the behaviour of the young Minister of Sports has spilt into some members of the cricket team. It has been reported recently in the daily newspapers that the fast bowler Lasith Malinga has dictated his own terms to the SLC Board if the SLC wanted him to carry on as the Captain of the world T20 competition in 2020.
Make no mistake, Lasith Malinga has been a one of the fiercest bowlers in the world and he has served SLC very well for many years. Because of his valuable contribution and with the help of other fellow cricketers, we have managed to win ODIs, Test Matches, and T20s in the past. But it does not mean that he has the right to dictate the terms and conditions to SLC Board for his future participation.
It appears that either he is trying to dictate the terms to SLC now, because the Leadership of the SLC governing body is weakened by the intervention of the Minister of Sports or he thinks that he is bigger than Sri Lanka Cricket. If it is the latter, I personally feel that he has made a very big mistake.
Unless the Leadership of the SLC demonstrate that they are in charge of the administrative activities of the SLC, and not the Minister or the internationally renowned players, the SLC will fail domestically and internationally as an independent governing body which is responsible for making and implementing its processes and procedures for the betterment of SLC.
Although I do not agree with the way in which the elections are conducted involving large numbers of representatives to elect the office bearers, we have to accept the results and allow the office bearers to carry out their lawful duties until such time as the SLC Constitution is amended to reduce the number of representatives.
This is where the young and enthusiastic Minister of Sports could give leadership to carry out changes to the Constitutions of SLC and other Sports Institutions where applicable, to implement a process to have voting rights for a reduced number of representatives to elect the office bearers.
The Minister of Sports should not treat SLC differently to other Sports Bodies, when formulating new rules and regulations through Parliament. This is a long outstanding issue where all other previous Ministers of Sports have failed to deliver.
If the Minister of Sports is trying to single out the SLC by introducing new rules and regulations especially for SLC, I believe that it is high time for the Leadership of the SLC to flex their muscles in order to exercise their democratic right to carry out the duties as specified in the Constitution without giving in to the interference by the Minister of Sports.
If any player, no matter whether he is world class or not, wants his own terms and condition to play for the country, he should be dropped from the side if he does not agree with the terms and conditions of the SLC management. There are a lot of world class players in many international teams, but no one is bigger than the game itself.
The SLC Leadership must give a clear direction to everyone who is involved in the organisation and if it can’t, it will show the weakness of the Leadership, which will result in “chaos” in the institution.
If the SLC Leadership do not stand up to safeguard the independence of the institution and do not allow the SLC official bearers to exercise their authority freely, it will make a mockery of the policies put forward by the elected officials of the SLC Board.