The sorry plight of Sri Lankan cricket

In one of the most sordid actions with regard to sports in recent times, the Ministry of Sports has hijacked Sri Lanka Cricket, acting under the despicable Sports Law of 1973.

It all began when, in an equally sordid political move, the then government passed this law, purely to oust Mr. Robert Senanayake, the brother of Hon. Dudley Senanayake both gentleman of the highest order. Robert Senanayake had been elected to office, unanimously, as President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) for a continuous period of 15 years.

The law permitted the President and the Honorary Secretary to function for a maximum period of two consecutive years. At the time this law was introduced, I was the Honorary Secretary of Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. Hon. K. B. Ratnayake was the Minister of Sports. Hon. Ratnayake, however, took a great interest in the development of the game, without interfering with the affairs of BCCSL.

When the President of Pakistan Cricket Board, Mr. Abdul Hafeez Kardar, a Minister of the then Ali Bhutto Government and a staunch supporter of Sri Lankan cricket had proposed our application for Full Membership of the ICC. Hon. K. B. Ratnayake requested Mr. Robert Senanayake and myself to meet him to discuss this proposal.

When we met him, he assured us of his full support for our effort to obtain Full Membership. He wanted Mr. Senanayake to inform the ICC that the government would guarantee financial support for any infrastructure development such as internationally acceptable venues etc.

Armed with this guarantee and with the support of Pakistan and India, Mr. Senanayake was confident that we could get Full Membership that year. Mr. Kardar went to the extent of indicating that it would be nothing but racial discrimination that would deprive Sri Lanka of Full membership. But this was not to be, as England and Australia used their veto powers to reject the application.

Hon. Ratnayake had very cordial relations with Mr. Robert Senanayake, who was targeted by his government, and hardly ever interfered with any selections or other activities of the BCCSL. He requested us to contact him if any help from the Ministry was needed. When I look back at the stature of this Minister and some of the recent ones, it would amount to comparing chalk and cheese.

Coming back to the present era, I wish to remind the Ministry of Sports which has hijacked Sri Lanka Cricket, that the Sri Lanka Cricket Board really belongs to the member Clubs and Associations, who over a period of over 80 years have been solely responsible for the development of this game and which led to the winning of the World Cup in 1996 and which also brought the greatest honour in the history of sports in this country.

I would like to give a brief account of the history of Sri Lanka Cricket so that those in the Ministry of Sports who are completely ignorant as to who were responsible for its origin, and whose hard work and selfless service towards this game over the years, has been responsible for developing the game, culminating in winning the World Cup.

A brief history of Sri Lanka cricket is as follows: in 1922, the Ceylon Cricket Association, as it was then called, was formed with Dr. John Rockwood being unanimously elected President and Colonel O. B. Forbes being elected as Hony. Secretary. The following Clubs who attended the inaugural meeting were elected as Controlling Members: Sinhalese Sports Club, Malay Cricket Club, Bloomfield Cricket Club, Burgher Recreation Club, Nondescript Cricket Club, Colts Cricket Club, Colombo Cricket Club, Dimbulla Agrapatna Cricket Club, Dick Oya Maskeliya Cricket Club, Tamil Union Cricket Club, Colombo Sports Club, Galle Cricket Club, and Kandy Sports Club.

A few years later the following Clubs were elected as Affiliated members: Notts Cricket and Athletic Club (1924), Magpies Sports Club (1928), Uva Gymkhana Club ( 1928), Nugegoda Sports Club (1930), Panadura Sports Club (1932), Moors Sports Club (1932), Kalutara Town Club (1935) and Colombo Recreation Club (1935).

A few years later the following were upgraded as Controlling Members: Kalutara Town Club (1937), Panadura Sports Club (1937) and Moors Sports Club (1938).

In 1948 the Board of Control for Cricket was formed with P. Saravanamuttu as the President and M. K. M. Ismail as the Hony. Secretary. Later A. E. Christofelsz (1950-1952), J. R. Jayewardene (1952-1956), Lt. Col. S. Saravanamuttu (1956-1957), Robert Senanayake ( 1957-1976) were elected as Presidents.

Thereafter, Maj. Gen. B. R. Heyn, Dr. N. M. Perera, T. B. Werapitiya, Gamini Dissanayake, P. I. Peiris, Lakshman Jayakody, Tyronne Fernando, and Ana Punchihewa, held the posts of President till the year 1996 in which we won the World Cup.

The posts of Hony. Secretary were held by the following after the formation of the BCCSL in 1948 till 1996: M. K. M. Ismail, B. J. H. Bahar, F. C. de Saram, A. R. M. Hathy, V. J. H. Gunaskera, Trevor Jansz, Nisal Senaratne, Dennis Hapugala, S. Pathmanathan, M. R. Naina Marikkar, Neil Perera, Bandula de Silva, Nuski Mohamed and Anura Tennakoon.

Special mention must be made of A. R. M. Hathy who served as Hony. Treasurer, for a period of 16 years. Everyone of the above mentioned, were men of honour and great distinction and rendered yeoman service to Sri Lanka Cricket.

Before the imposters in the guise of the Sports Ministry hijacked Sri Lanka Cricket, the cricket administration was carried out by a democratically elected body. Over 50 Cricket Clubs and Associations representing all cricketers countrywide annually elected their representatives to run the administration of cricket in the country. The constitution of the Cricket Board required that not only all the Clubs and Associations, but most importantly, the Cricket Board, must table the Annual Accounts at the respective Annual General Meetings. After the hijacking, however, no accounts have ever been presented. In my opinion this is a criminal act, and the money belonging to Sri Lanka Cricket has been squandered as everyone knows.

Neil Perera

(This writer is a former Hony. Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka)

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