Don’t shoot the messenger!


Shammi Silva

By Rex Clementine

Not often we Sri Lankans compete with Japan and come on top. ‘Japana Hapana’ is a popular saying among locals to appreciate the work ethic and efficiency of one of our friendliest nations who have made giant strides since the end of World War II. However, if you scrutinize carefully, we Sri Lankans have done better than the Japanese in certain fields. Despite all their financial success, Japan had one of the most unstable governments in 1990s. From 1990 to 1999, over a ten year period, that country had seven different Prime Ministers.  Here’s our stake to fame over Japan. Sri Lankan cricket has had ten different Head Coaches since 2011, over an eight year period. Howzat! Japan’s economy despite an unstable government didn’t suffer. However, Sri Lanka’s cricket after constant changes hit new lows. 

Early this week during a media briefing in Colombo, SLC Chief Shammi Silva while justifying the unceremonious sacking of Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha, placed the blame on the doorstep of the media for hiring Hathurusingha!

Funnier things have been said in this land over the years and you shouldn’t be amused.  Nowadays, we seem to be having cricket officials emulating legendary bovine King Kekille, who always saw to it that justice was stood on its head and the wrong party hanged in a trial. It looks as if King Kekille were being cloned on a cricketing scale.

We don’t think that SLC President’s claims are of his own but they belong to the entity that he represents. Shammi Silva appears to be having little control over cricket governance since becoming President by default early this year. Cricket is being run from Campbell Place and not Maitland Place.  Thilanga Sumathipala not only stole the show during Lasith Malinga’s retirement game but appeared on television outlining his vision for the game. Is there a better example of ‘puppet on a string’ than this?

Thilanga is not the only person who is dictating terms to the SLC President. Sports Minister Harin  Fernando is  all over him. Here’s an example. All-rounder Thisara Perera asked clearance from the board to play the Global T-20 in Canada. SLC turned down the request. Thisara approached the Minister and SLC’s decision was overturned at the drop of a hat. Now that’s called having a soft corner for a fellow Josephian.

While big boys like Harin and  Thilanga  are busy running Sri Lanka Cricket, Shammi is flexing his muscles giving punishment transfers to peons at SLC.

It is not the media that harped on Hathurusingha’s  coaching credentials but the players who worked under him. The media just reported what the players said. Of all people, Kumar Sangakkara has spoken highly of Hathurusingha’s coaching credentials and obviously media reported it.  Then his unceremonious sacking in 2010 received wide publicity as well with the D.S. de  Silva  Interim Committee making blunder after blunder.

As expected, Hathurusingha tasted success wherever he went from New South Wales to Bangladesh. The media again reported it. The media however, didn’t endorse SLC hiring Hathurusingha at the expense of Graeme Ford. Without an exception, all media outlets criticized SLC for selling Ford down the river having fought tooth and nail to obtain his services midway through his stint with English county Surrey.

Neither did the media tell SLC how much to pay Hathurusingha nor did they endorse the amendment of the constitution to give the coach selection powers. It was all done by SLC’s Executive Committee that was running out of ideas as the national cricket team started to hit new lows.

SLC anyway has little time to consider the facts that the media has been highlighting. Shammi Silva was an accomplice to SLC’s decision to expand the number of teams that play First Class cricket to 24. Many ex-players and current players have used the media to highlight the disadvantages of a bloated First Class structure and SLC has had little time to fix the mess for the simple reason that they will anger the clubs and lose votes. 

Another major incident that the media has highlighted is the match fixing between Panadura SC and Kalutara PCC two seasons ago. Despite overwhelming evidence of corrupt play, SLC with the help of three successive Sports Ministers have pushed the investigations under the carpet. Both Thilanga Sumathipala and Shammi Silva have shielded Ravin Wickramaratne, the Vice-President of SLC, who is a central figure of the sordid episode that tarnished the reputation of the great game beyond repair.

One of our former Editors, Mr. Gamini Weerakoon, used to say, ‘The media should only report the news. They shouldn’t be the new or create news.’ That’s what we did in Hathurusingha’s case. The same was done with the Panadura – Kalutara match fixing affair and then the increasing of First Class teams to bloat vote base. To take action or not is up to SLC. There’s absolutely no point in shooting the messenger. It’s as same as barking up the wrong tree.

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