Preparation for next year’s all important Davis Cup was on somewhat slowly but surely, under Maxwell de Silva, head of the present Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA).
That began with the naming of a 16-player Special Pool by the SLTA with a view to picking up the final combination for next March’s Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group-II tie against New Zealand, to be held at the SLTA clay courts.
Sri Lanka emerged second out of eight participating countries in the Asia-Oceania Zone Group-III last April in Syria to qualify for Group-II in Davis Cup after ten years.
The above said Special Pool, named below, has been picked by considering the current local men’s National rankings. The names were (in order of rankings): Thangarajah Dineshkanthan, Amresh Jayawickrema, Harshana Godamanna, Artha Hewacottege, Shehan Gomesz, Guyanga Weerasekera, Michael Siyaguna, Ashan Dep, Sankha Atukorale, Mohamed Shakir, Eshan Jayamanne, Amith Weerasinghe, Yasas Dewage, Rohan de Silva, Sumedha Weerasuriya and Rajeev Rajapakse.
But, the veteran Davis Cup campaigner for Sri Lanka, Rohan de Silva said on Nov. 3 that he would pull out of this 16-player Special Pool.
There was an obvious reason for de Silva’s decision. It was reported in the previous week that de Silva has also been short-listed as one of the members of the new National Tennis Selection Committee nominated by the SLTA and sent for the Sports and Public Recreation Ministry approval.
"I will be available only as a selector (of the National Tennis Selection Committee) if the SLTA requests me to do so," said de Silva, who has represented Sri Lanka in Davis Cup until 2006 in a career spanning over a decade.
Some of the names proposed by the SLTA for the National Selection Committee were: Suresh Subramaniam (Chairman), Iqbal Bin Issaq, Rohan de Silva, P. S. Kumara, Ayendra Bandaranaike, Dinali de Silva and Dhammika Gunasekera.
The Sports and Public Recreation Minister Gamini Lokuge was expected to consider those names last Friday (Oct. 13) before ratifying them.
The SLTA nominations had earlier been confirmed by the National Sports Selection Committee, a superior body that considers and recommends all National selection committee nominations, sent in by various sports associations, to the Sports Minister.
This overall sports selection committee comprised: Indra de Silva, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) Chairman Hemasiri Fernando, NOC General Secretary and the present SLTA President Maxwell de Silva, Dr. Maiya Gunasekera and B. L. H. Perera.
But Maxwell de Silva said a week ago that he would not sit in a meeting that discussed about the nominations sent through by the SLTA, which he headed. If he was to sit in a committee that considered proposals sent in by his own administration, such an act could have been deemed unethical, though not unlawful, he believed.
Sudden comeback of Subramaniam –
The Davis Cup preparation of the SLTA and nomination of names for the National Selection Committee popped up another interesting issue. That was the re-entry of one familiar name in local tennis; Suresh Subramaniam, former six-time SLTAPresident. He was to re-emerge this time, as the Chairman of the National Tennis Selection Committee.
Subramaniam’s name was last involved in tennis when there was a power struggle for the control of the SLTA, seen early last year, which resulted in Sports Minister Lokuge appointing an Interim Committee for tennis under Janaka Bogollagama.
Subramaniam’s nomination, though raised many eyebrows. How a person who worked in the capacity of President of the SLTA for six long years (2001-07) —with much hype and grandeur— become, say, not a patron of an association or someone who is holding any honorary post, but work in a position that requires extremely technical and practical application.
The post like the head of the National Selection Committee asks for pinpoint accuracy and 100% commitment. It requires up-to-date knowledge about all leading players in the National player-base. To do that, a National selector is expected to watch at least a decent number of matches in all the main tournaments.
The Selection Committee Chairman is expected to talk to the media and other responsible institutions to justify team selections mainly of National importance. How will Subramaniam, being a leading businessman who is known to have a busy international schedule round the year, find time to see all the juniors playing in tennis tournament in Colombo.
Then the only possible alternative for him would be to depend on others’ information in selections, which is believed an unhealthy practice.
Why so keen? -
In the mean time, the Subramaniam nomination as selectors’ head brought up another pertinent problem to the fore. Why is he craving so much for involving in tennis administration?
The former heads of the place, for instance D. L. Seneviratne, completed a remarkably successful tenure as the SLTA President in the 1990s and it was during his period that the SLTA played part in hosting the Colombo SAARC Games.
It was during that period that the SLTA got a new two-storied headquarters to replace the previously existed shabby metal - sheet – roofed, tent - like installation at Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, (Green Path) Colombo 7.
Seneviratne, starkly in contrast to Subramaniam, was hardly seen in tennis administration after his retirement and only continued to engage in some social tennis in his club, played in the inter-club tournaments but not seen trying to poke into affairs in tennis administration. His kind of involvement could well be regarded a voluntary service to sport.
In such a backdrop, Subramaniam’s prolonged involvement in the field of tennis is to be looked at as something extraordinary. It appears his involvement obviously spills out of the peripheries of any sensible ‘voluntary – service’ in any kind of sport administration.