Clarke backstabs Sri Lankan cricket


ECB boss Giles Clarke

 by Rex Clementine

In Jackie Chan’s suspense thriller movie Rush Hour, the character Thomas Griffin played by actor Tom Wilkinson falls from grace dramatically. Griffin, a close aide of Chinese Counsel Solon Han, gives him the assurance that he will do everything within his means to save Counsel Han’s daughter, who had been kidnapped by the notorious gang led by Juntao. The climax of the movie is when spellbound viewers realize that Griffin is in fact Juntao and was responsible for the kidnapping and demanding the ransom of US$ 50 million from the Chinese Counsel.

In cricket circles, English and Wales Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke did a Juntao earlier this week.

When negotiations were on for the Big Three’s takeover of cricket a month ago, the other ICC full members including Sri Lanka were given a firm assurance that the future for the game was going to be good once England, India and Australia take more control of the game. All countries were going to benefit following the takeover, we were told.

Clarke was one of the key figures along with Wally Edwards of Australia and N. Srinivasan of India who were promising the lesser influential boards that they were going to safeguard the interests of the fellow members of the ICC.

Barely a couple of months later, Clarke, the Bristol born and Oxford educated former chief of Somerset cricket has left Sri Lankan cricket reeling by making Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Paul Farbrace to defect to England’s rank.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) yesterday reacted angrily ‘ECB has communicated to us their interest in considering Paul Farbrace to be recruited as one of their coaches. SLC have in no uncertain terms expressed surprise and disappointment with regard to this development since Paul is in contract with SLC for a two year term ending in December 2015 and particularly because the Sri Lanka national team will be visiting England within the next few weeks,’ a media release from the board said.

ECB has let down SLC badly. After all the assurance that the Big Three will play a crucial role in protecting the game and helping the lesser affluent boards, ECB has gone back on its words.

Farbrace’s defection is a massive setback for SLC. Finding a successor for Graham Ford proved to be a tedious one for Sri Lankan authorities and it finally ended last December when Farbrace came on board.

During his five month tenure, Farbrace had a dream run. He won both the Asia Cup and World T-20. His overall record during his brief stint with Sri Lanka is extraordinary. Under his watch, Sri Lanka won all eight ODIs, won seven of the eight T-20s and of the two Tests he was in-charge, Sri Lanka won one and drew the other. Overall of the 18 games he was Sri Lanka’s Head Coach, Farbrace won 16 matches, drew one and lost one. Not even Tom Moody or Dav Whatmore can boast of such an impeccable starts.

Sri Lanka’s authorities were hoping to build the momentum with Farbrace. The national cricket team’s tour of England in a fortnight’s time was going to be a new beginning for the recently crowned World T-20 champions. Sri Lanka were hoping to reach new heights and improve on the Test rankings as there were two competitive inbound tours by Pakistan and South Africa followed by the away series in New Zealand. The biggest of all challenges were to come in March next year in the form of the ICC Cricket World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. All that has been brought back to square one. Sri Lanka have to start fresh.

It’s doubtful whether the authorizes will be able to get a coach on board before the team leaves for UK. What this blow also means is that it will take some time for the national team to gain the momentum back under a new coach.

One of the side effects of the IPL is that the demands of international coaches have gone through the roof. Before IPL coaches around the world used to get paid in the range of US$150,000 annually. But now with that kind of money on offer for a stint of two months in the IPL, most top coaches aren’t interested in taking up international assignments anymore.

SLC struggled to hire a top coach to replace Ford and had to settle for Farbrace, who was coaching Yorkshire’s second XI. When all allowances were considered, SLC was paying Farbrace around US$ 13,000 a month. Whether SLC will be able to convince any international coach to take up the role for that sum remains to be seen.

One thing remains certain. The person who takes over from Farbrace will not be an established coach with international experience unless SLC is able to provide significant incentives.

Farbrace is a decent man. He had a vision. He made a conscious effort to improve the team’s fielding. It’s said that he was particularly good working with the younger players and had the full support of team’s seniors.

It has been said that Farbrace will be Assistant Coach to Peter Moores, who has taken over the position vacated by Andy Flower. ECB can afford to pay more than what SLC did although Farbrace is only the Assistant Coach. Furthermore, the prospects of working on home soil must excite him. Although many wouldn’t approve what Farbrace did, people will understand why he did it although it has come at a massive loss for Sri Lankan cricket.

The blame, however, needs to be placed on the doorstep of ECB. For the post of Assistant Coach, ECB could have chosen someone from its vast base in county cricket. They are certainly not short of coaches. But by ‘stealing’ Sri Lanka’s Head Coach, ECB has sabotaged the progresses of another country. That simply isn’t cricket.

The timing is wrong on two counts. First, Sri Lanka will be England’s opponents in three weeks time and secondly this is not the leadership role that we expected from the Big Three. There are many ways ECB can redeem themselves, one of them could be by providing financial support to secure the services of a top coach.

By the way, we Sri Lankans also believe in karma. Are we paying the price for what we did to Geoff Marsh?

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