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Firm administration necessary to prevent overall decline

 

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Aravinda de Silva
Can he regain the fitness of his youth?

by Mahinda Wijesinghe
"Money is the root of all evil" warbled the grizzly cowboy, many moons ago, strumming his battered guitar in the open prairie atop his trusty steed. How true even today. Now look what has happened in England, the country that gave us the once-noble game of cricket.

Kent is one of the four earliest of English counties — others being Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Sussex — to play competitive games of cricket against each other. As the respected doyen of English cricket writers, E. W. Swanton, who edited Barclays World of Cricket (Collins - 1980) commented:

"There was no formal institution of the County Championship which for many years existed only to the extent of tables occasionally published in the press. As early as 1837 there was a reference in a Maidstone newspaper to a game between Kent and Notts....For 250 years the history of Kent is really the history of cricket. Of the scanty reference to the game in the 17th century many come from Kent...."

Scantiness and Kent

Talking of scantiness, the current players from Kent have taken it to the extreme! This is the county that could proudly call her own the autocratic Lord Harris, known as the father of Kent. Asked why legislation on the game are referred to as Laws and not Rules, he retorted: "Laws are to be respected, Rules can be bent". The gentlemanly Lord Cowdrey was another gem in the crown of Kent, and who was responsible for writing the Preamble — the Spirit of Cricket, in the Laws of Cricket (2001). Again, Kent it was who provided England with a string of famous wicket-keepers in Huish, Hubble, Ames, Evans and Knott. Their headquarters at Canterbury is the only first-class cricket ground in the world with a now-famous lime tree within its playing area, and last but not least, this is the county where our very own Aravinda de Silva made himself a name in 1995, and by comfortably heading the county’s batting averages enabled him become Kent’s Player of the Year as well.

Not only Playboy bunnies

Yet today, a Kent county cricketer, in order to collect funds for his Benefit Year, has published a calendar where he, along with some of his team-mates, are posing in the nude, and some alongside provocative females in the altogether! We, the old fogeys, thought only American Hugh (‘Playboy’) Heffner’s ‘bunnies’ posed sans clothes. In any event, we considered Americans not ‘civilized’ enough to play cricket! It now appears the clock has turned full circle. News has also just been received that Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar was hit by a brick while fielding against Bangladesh at Dhaka during the second One-day international game. Who said that cricket is a gentleman’s game? It was, but not anymore. Today it is all about money whether it be in England, the home of cricket, or in the off-shore destinations of Sharjah, Nairobi or Toronto. O Tempora, O Mores.

Aravinda de Silva and fitness

Talking of Aravinda de Silva, the 36-year old is very much in the news. No, he is not appearing the calendar published in Kent! The new Selection Committee has requested de Silva to get himself fit by 31st March in order to be considered for the upcoming tour of England. His experience of the playing conditions in England, would of course be of immense value, especially now that Sri Lanka has to play in the cold of May. Why we accepted an itinerary to play Tests during that period is another story. Anyway now the die is cast. That de Silva can bat, especially a fitter de Silva, none can argue. The big question however is whether he can now field to the standards required of a modern-day international cricketer. 34-year old Hashan Tillekeratne, on the other hand, may not have the batting skills of de Silva but his prowess as a close-in fielder is unquestionable. Any batsman, at whatever level he plays, can sometimes fail with the bat but he cannot be excused for being an incompetent fielder. Certainly not in today’s international cricket scene. As much as the strength of a chain is the strength of its weakest link, a weak fielder can spell the ruin of a team and upset its equilibrium. Let us all hope Aravinda de Silva will be made fit to the exacting standards required.

A coach eligible for selection?

Another move by the new Selectors is to recall former paceman, 31-year old Pramodya Wickremasinghe, to the national squad. Unlike Aravinda de Silva, Wickremasinghe’s track record in both forms of the game is not something to write home about. Having played in 40 Tests he has captured 85 wickets at a cost of 41.87 runs per victim. In the One-day form of the game he has played in 132 matches and captured 108 wickets at a cost of 39.48. The figures tell the story and I have not heard any story of Wickremasinghe sprouting new wings of late. What is even more disconcerting is the fact that he is reportedly assisting in coaching the fast bowlers in the national squad. I hope somebody can tell me I am wrong. Even in a modern world where cricketers are stripping for money, it is too much to swallow the fact that a coach — presumably paid as well — is eligible for selection alongside his students. The conflict of interest in the Cricket Board does not stop there. There is a national Selector who is a paid coach of a leading school as well. Too many hats worn by too few, reflect poorly on the management of the Cricket Board.

What a waste of money!

Last Sunday it was reported that the current Interim Committee is being reported to the Bribery Commission on some alleged misdemeanour with regard to a TV agreement. It is also likely that, in defence, the accused party would have to take recourse to the law themselves. All this means colossal sums of money, rightfully meant for the sustenance and development of cricket, being spent on gentlemen in the black jacket. Previously too millions have been spent. When and how can we stop this? Perhaps with the new Minister, and hopefully, when a democratic administration is elected in the near future the clouds will soon roll by.

Sensational feat by Jeewan Mendis

News of a sensational win in the U-19 World Cup match against Zimbabwe played in Auckland has just filtered in. Wicket-keeper Charith Sylvester had accounted for 8 victims while Jeewan Mendis, after joint top-scoring with 57 runs, returned the astounding figures of 9.2-2-19-7 with the ball. This performance by Mendis, by any standards, is nothing short of sensational. What made his bowling feat, of claiming seven wickets, even more incredible is the fact that Mendis was the seventh bowler brought on by his skipper!


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