Charith Senanayake drama highlights the lack of professionalism, integrity and good-governance at SLC
Even the stray cats and dogs at Maitland Place know one fact with hundred percent certainty; a well thought out “Rotation Policy” was NOT the reason to sack Charith Senanayake from the post of national team manager. Rotation Policy simply was the code name used by SLC in yet another cover-up at Maitland Place. SLC certainly had its reasons for this abrupt change and the fact that they aren’t coming out clean with it raises serious concerns about SLC’s commitment to professionalism and transparency.
At the SLC press conference, the two De Silva’s, Ashley and Mohan, tried desperately hard to put on a straight face and deliver SLC’s story, that this was the result of a rotation policy. However, it was painful to watch the guilty faces of everyone at the head-table, with the two Silva’s stumbling over their own statements, struggling to make any sense while answering questions from journalists. Even Nishantha Ranatunge had looked far more believable each time he assured us that former president Mahinda Rajapakse had no influence in SLC building an international cricket stadium in the middle of the Hambantota jungle.
To a journalist’s question, Mr. Mohan De Silva replied that the rotation policy was a well thought out, pre-planned, long-term strategy to groom local talent for support-roles. He further explained that this strategy had been discussed even before offering Mr. Senanayake a contract extension. But neither Silva’s had an answer to the question, “why then would you have offered a one-year contract extension for the post of national team manager to one individual?” Nor did they explain how a 72 year old fits into this strategy aimed at grooming future talent. There was no explanation as to why this well thought out strategy was only put in to action just days before a major tour and why the 72 year old new manager was notified of SLC’s investment in his skills at such short notice.
Mr. Senanayake explained that he only heard of the impending axing through a journalist inquiry just days before the press conference. So chaotic had been the execution of this well-planned out strategy that, Mr. Senanayake found himself sitting at the press conference head-table with no title, and even worse, NO CLUE, as to what his role was within SLC. It was very obvious that his only intention of being there was for the purpose of damage-control. Mr. Senanayake expressed his frustrations and disappointment over a media report that speculated his axing, apparently based on information received from a SLC insider. The fact that it was leaked to the media and portrayed as a consequence to Mr. Senanayake’s “very bad relationship with the team staff, use of bad language and negligence of duties”, suggests a far more serious force in action than even a poorly executed rotation policy.
This mysterious rotation policy comes at a time when the national team had finally put together an impressive five-Test match winning streak. The kind of success that even the greats, Sangakkara and Jayawardena, were not able to achieve in recent memory. True, success against Australia came at home in familiar conditions and to beat Zimbabwe, even away, isn’t quite conquering Everest. However, the team had just returned from one of the worst tours to England and the young team was physically and mentally bruised and scared so badly that most pundits were predicting a 3-0 win for Australia. The team that left to Zimbabwe was so depleted and so young that it might as well have been called Sri Lanka A. One of the factors that remained a constant during this period of remarkable resilience, perseverance and triumph within this young team was its manager, Mr. Charith Senanayake. By some accounts, he had done a remarkable job with this young team on all of these tours by attending to everything from overcoming logistical challenges, injury challenges, guiding players through mental challenges, helping with training and serving as one of the tour selectors.
It was on the back of such an all-time high that this very young team was preparing to embark on a tour to South Africa. If there was ever a case for continuity of personnel, personalities, practices and processes that had brought proven success, this was the time! To change a winning formula and remove a successful manager certainly cannot be what president Sumathipala had in mind when he spoke about introducing “scientific methods to cricket”.
Understandably, in a country where cricket is the number one religion, the whole cricketing community immediately set out to find the real reason behind this drama that unfolded just days before the team left to South Africa. One of the theories that had gained steam in social media suggests a fall out between Mr. Senanayake and Aravinda De Silva, who is an advisor to SLC. Sri Lanka Cricket had been using a computer system developed by a local group headed by Mr. Charith Senanayake. SLC had replaced this system with one from an Indian based company, apparently at a significantly higher cost. Rumor has it that Mr. Aravinda De Silva was the architect behind the acquisition of the new system and the hiring of an Indian national as the system analyst. Some sources speculate that manager Senanayake has found fault with the team’s analyst, thus falling out of favor with Mr. Aravinda De Silva, leading to his demise as manager. The same source also suggests that the computer analyst has ties to match-fixing. The appointment of an Aravinda confidant, Mr. Ranjith Fernando, as the new manager, has added fuel to this conspiracy theory.
Could this have been the result of an attempt to cover-up a suspicious and very disturbing situation within SLC? Could there be more to the treat of match fixing within SLC than just the stigma of having a president who has had direct involvement with the gambling world? Or is it a case of SLC finally running out of patience with Mr. Senanayake’s alleged flaws, in spite of the team’s success during his time? Or is this a case of a disgruntled entrepreneur who couldn’t handle the reality of his product being replaced by a superior one and resorted to retaliation? If that is the case, why is SLC retaining him on their payroll with no duty to honor?
One thing is for sure. This is not part of a rotation policy, but a certain cover-up of a matter, one way or the other, that warrants a formal inquiry. As Mr. Senanayake himself pointed out during the press conference, no one deserves to have their name associated with speculation that can bring damage to their reputation. SLC owes it to these individuals, if not to the general public, to honestly and truthfully address these issues. Cricket is our number one religion and anytime the intelligence of its followers have been insulted, as SLC had done in this case, they have a right to demand answers. The time has come for the good-governance sports minister to walk the talk by initiating an unbiased inquiry into this matter.