We have got it all wrong, haven't we?
When I saw the Sydney Cricket Ground a sea of pink with a sell-out crowd in attendance, it was time to reflect on the difference between what is going on in Sri Lanka vis-a-vis Australia.
In Australia they rally round a worthy cause, they turn up in numbers to support their team and the team can hardly not perform. The crowd supports them unreservedly and all differences are left outside the boundary ropes.
There is dissention against the selectors and all the usual things, but they are trashed out before the event and a compromise is reached. Professional managers and executives are in charge of the game and transparency is paramount.
We say Australia is “the lucky country”. It is not luck, it is the support and the determination of the people that makes things happen. The people are committed, due to the fact that the majority have confidence in good governance practices and access to transparency in most matters.
What do we have in Sri Lanka? No one comes to Test matches, and of course playing them on week days to facilitate the television networks doesn’t help either. There is no professional marketing or planning that goes into Test matches. In Australia, the dates of the summer Test matches and the venues are set in stone. Everyone knows that the first day of the first Test of the Australian summer will be at the Gabba. People buy tickets literarily years in advance. Occasions are incorporated into the Test matches to incentivise people to come, and even bring their families.
Why can’t we do this in Sri Lanka? We can if we go professional! If we remove the past players and same old officials who have played musical chairs with the jobs going at SLC. If we recruit internationally, God knows we can afford to pay competitive salaries! If the selectors are experienced professionals who are held accountable to a Minister who knows his subject or even a panel of experienced players from the past. If the media gets knowledgeable people who report with a clear conscience and not based on ulterior motives.
Sri Lanka cricket has never been as low as this. All the malpractices that have been going on for over decade have brought us to this position. The last full tour of Australia resulted in the Muralitharan incident, and was used to rally our team into a unit and won us the World Cup. Let’s turn this debacle also into something positive!
Change Sri Lanka Cricket from top to bottom.
By this I mean most of the officials, the selectors and the very fabric of the organisation. An organisation firmly entrenched in corruption, in cronyism and in political interference. Get in international professionals and re-negotiate all the contracts with the players and the television moghuls. Deport player managers who are the catalysts of the corruption. Introduce taxes for earnings of players’ and player managers if they are not already in place without taxing the poor middle-classes of this country. The law to exempt sports earnings was introduced in the days when players earned pittances. Now a reasonable tax is a must!
While supplementing the coffers of the country, a tax will also make the players think twice before they go "pot hunting" at the expense of the pride and honour of playing for the country.
We saw the contents of the “leaked e-mail” the sums of money earned by a single player for one tour is mind boggling. So much so that a sum of money spoken about Rs 12 million is more than any middle class worker can hope to earn in their entire working life. Why should these earning be tax free?
Cricket is the only sport that Sri Lanka can hold her own on, in the world stage. To let it join all the others in which we are “also rans” would be desecration of our very history.