Ministers in the Lankan Government have steadfastly denied political interference, but former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara had a different story on offer for the world at the Colin Cowdrey Lecture.
Ministers in the Lankan Government have steadfastly denied political interference, but former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara had a different story on offer for the world at the Colin Cowdrey Lecture.

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Oh, the things that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) would do if only it had a little money. Pay its players for starters. It seems that the Sri Lankan international cricket players will finally see some money after going nine months without pay. With support for the players pouring in from South Africa, the SLCB has apparently agreed to sort out the issue in the coming weeks.

 

The SLC poured money into the construction of three new cricket grounds for the World Cup 2011 rather than renovating existing grounds. Fans in Sri Lanka feared even then that it was not the most prudent thing to do. But subsequent events upset the SLC’s calculations so far beyond their capacity that they are now left in debt to the tune of US $32.5 million.

 

The first big blow struck SLC when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) refused to allow Indian players to participate in the first edition of the Sri Lankan Premier League, an official, domestic Twenty20 tournament. This led to broadcasters losing interest in the League and it was postponed to 2012. Had the League been successfully organised, it would have brought badly needed funds to the SLC to cope with its mountain of debt.  Instead, the home series against Australia was all Sri Lanka had to settle for and that, expectedly, didn’t exactly set the house on fire.

 

To compound matters, the SLC has not received its share of hosting fees from the International Cricket Council (ICC) because ICC has not yet completed its audit. With neither potential revenue streams nor expected fund flows materialising in the near term, the SLC finds itself in a soup and has sought to be bailed out by the Lankan Government. It also left players’ payments at the mercy of its financial travails.

 

The ICC has apparently agreed to provide financial assistance to help SLC settle dues to players but has also demanded that elections to the offices of the cricket board be held.   SLC has thus far been run by politically appointed committees but is expected to conduct elections in January 2012. Ministers in the Lankan Government have steadfastly denied political interference, but former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara had a different story on offer for the world at the Colin Cowdrey Lecture. Differences emerged over persistent selection of Sanath Jayasuriya after he was well past his best, to say the least.

 

In a nutshell, the present condition of the SLC is symptomatic of the problems faced by cricket. The operations of several cricket boards are rather opaque affairs. Some member countries, like West Indies, have been at the receiving end of ugly player-board spats.  Political interference is a reality across Asia as far as cricket goes. There is big money in cricket and we should hardly be surprised if cash chests are misappropriated for the sake of vested interests.

 

Far from being a heart-warming success story in the ’90s, SLC now finds itself in the doldrums in spite of the richest sports body in the country. Its travails have taken a toll on the morale of the players and they have endured a dismal year, yet to notch up a single Test series win in 2011 and unlikely to do so in South AfricaPakistan has been cheating that fate for a long time but instability has hurt their prospects more and more, lately.

 

It is the reality that cricket may face at a more alarming scale if it doesn’t clean up in time. It surely doesn’t help matters when an ICC CEO has to go owing to its reluctance to act on financial irregularities in the affairs of the Zimbabwe cricket board. The affairs of cricket bodies have gotten murky over the years but they had all the money they desired and nobody wanted to play party pooper.

 

Cricket should pay heed to Rahul Dravid’s well-chosen words at the Bradman Oration. It can indeed ill afford to be blindsided by existing deals, as the SLC has learnt the hard way. The swinging world of high finance is like a rollercoaster – the steepest drop follows shortly after the tallest curve. Whether greedy officials will or will not vacate their seats is another matter, but the damage to cricket will be more permanent and the golden goose killed for good.

 

SLC has succeeded in making an example out of itself for the rest of the cricket world.  Rather than fools hell-bent on recognising mistakes only after committing them, cricket should wisely learn from this experience and put its affairs in order when it can.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)