Sweeping cricket’s burning issues under the carpet

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The whole nation is talking about a sex scandal involving the national cricket team that emerged out of the blues. There is no evidence, no eyewitnesses or no complaints on the alleged incident. Yet, the career of a professional who was well respected in her field and within cricket circles in recent times has been completely ruined. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation for believing and spreading gossip. 

Read More : Sri Lanka left with nowhere to hide

This is a common trend in our cricket; whenever the Sri Lankan team is going through a bad phase, some unfounded allegations emerge.  It’s either a sex scandal, a drunken escapade of a player or late-night partying by the entire team. As a result, the real problems are buried. We as a nation of gossip mongers, take our wild imaginations beyond reality. 

Every time the team does badly, some alleged off the field incident is brought to the fore and we are quite happy to deal with it, forgetting real problems. The real problems facing our cricket are numerous.  The number of teams with First Class status, Sri Lanka ‘A’ not involving in a series for nearly two years now, fitness levels of our contracted players and our poor ICC rankings. Rather than discussing these issues, we are dealing with a pack of lies which have been denied by the manager, coach and captain. 

New Zealand was the first cricket team to have a lady in their support staff. That was more 15 years ago. Subsequently, teams like England, Australia, South Africa and even neighboring India have had women in their support staff. These were professionals who did a fantastic job. There have been ladies as Media Managers travelling with the team and they were terrific and earned the respect of all and sundry. 

Suddenly, when a lady becomes a part of our dressing room, we are happy to entertain baseless stories and as a result, for the foreseeable time now we will not have a lady in the dressing room no matter how qualified she is. Shame on us as a nation. Spare a thought for the person whose career has been destroyed. It is hoped that she lodges a complaint with the CID so that the authorities can go into the bottom of this and those who spread rumours are exposed and taken to task. 

It is also hoped that after the inquiry that SLC has initiated, if the doctor is found not guilty, her to be reinstated in her position. Rumours will keep the real issues at bay temporarily but they will not go away unless remedial measures are taken. 

Team Manager Ashantha De Mel has been given a torrid time for not placing enough emphasis on discipline. The card games on the opening day of the Test match in Galle when Sri Lanka were falling like a pack of cards hasn’t gone down too well with those who saw the footage. The incident involving some senior players did not take place in the team dressing room but the in the family room above the dressing room which earlier used to be the west wing of the Press Box. 

The extended squad comprising 22 players was later pruned to 15 and the incident was heavily criticized with former players coming down hard. 

If the management had disciplined the players immediately after the cameras zoomed on them playing cards, they could have avoided all the unnecessary hassle. But action was taken only 48 hours after the first Test and by then the wheels were coming off. 

It was a shambolic performance on day one of the first Test in Galle and the team could have done without this distraction.  

Read : Cricket returns but Galle lacks the old charm

De Mel as Chairman of Selectors has done a pretty good job. He has decided to step down as Manager but would continue as Chief Selector. In the last 20 years, De Mel has had quite a few stints as a selector and for considerable time he has been the Chairman. People forget that during his previous tenures, Sri Lanka reached three World Cup finals, beat England 5-0 in their own den, won Test matches in places like New Zealand, England, West Indies and Pakistan. 

Barring some poor selections during the 2019 World Cup, De Mel has done quite well and has picked some players out of the blues and they have gone onto come up with winning contributions. 

There have been instances when people have doubled up as Chairman of Selectors and Manager both on tour and at home. But in modern day cricket and that too during COVID times a Manager has to do multiple roles and one person cannot oversee everything. It will be interesting to see SLC’s choice for the role ahead of West Indies series. 

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ThePapare.com.