At the press conference held by SLC upon the team’s arrival from the most disastrous England tour, Sanath Jayasuriya put on his best act in trying to justify the selection of Ramith Rambukewella for the T20 match. He explained with a straight face that “Ramith was drafted in to the national T20 team because of his ability to clear the boundaries and bowl off-spin”. He went on to explain that “Ramith already being in England with the A squad was a major factor in him getting the call”.
Ramith Rambukewella’s selection in Sri Lanka’s T20 team was a well-orchestrated, politically motivated, daylight robbery of Sri Lanka Cricket’s future and a slap in the face to other well-deserving cricketers!
Everyone in Sri Lanka knows who Ramith Rambukewella is. He is unfortunately notorious for all the wrong reasons. He’s had enough question marks about his discipline and character alone, to never even be considered for national honors. Yet, as the son of a highly influential politician with very close connections to Jayasuriya and others within the cricket administration, Rambukewella always finds a way out of trouble and straight in to the national team!.
Sanath made it clear that Rambukewella being in England with the A team was a significant factor in his selection. Let’s look at how Rambukewella got in to the Sri Lanka A-team’s four-day leg of the tour! Even Sanath Jayasuriya, in-spite of his shameless attempts at justifying Rambukewella's cricketing powers, had never professed Ramith’s potential or ability to play TEST cricket! Even his diehard supporters silently agree that Rambukewella simply does not have the physical fitness nor commitment to play the longer version of the game. Yet, Rambukewella gets selected to go on Sri Lanka A-team’s four-day leg of the tour to England!
For those who do not follow the sport too closely, here are Rambukewella's statistics from the recently concluded domestic first-class tournament: 10 Matches, 16 wickets with a best of 4/34, at an average of 37! In the list of highest wicket-takers, there were more than 35 bowlers who took more wickets than Rambukewella! The highest wicket-taker, Lakshan Sandakan, with 52 wickets, did not make the Sri Lanka A-team’s four-day leg to England! Nor did other promising spinners like Edirisinghe of NCC, Pushpakumara of Moors or MA Aponso of Ragama, all with more than 35 wickets! During the season, Rambukewella scored 216 runs at an average of 19.6. At his club Tamil Union alone, there were seven other players who scored more runs than he did! So how did Ramith Rambukewella get selected to represent Sri Lanka A-team’s four-day leg of the England tour with such below ordinary performances and serious disciplinary issues? The simple answer is that “Sri Lanka was playing an international T20 match in England during the A-team’s four-day leg of the tour and Rambukewella needed to be at the right place at the right time!”. So much for using A-tours to groom the next generation of cricketers! So much for all the hard-work and commitment shown by those other players whose performances warranted selection! So much for the patience and support that loyal fans continue to show during this rebuilding process!. So much for the unconditional love, support, affection and loyalty that Sri Lankan fans continue to treat Jayasuriya with!
Let’s pause for a second and give Sanath the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that although Rambukewella has no first class record to warrant even representing Zimbabwe’s A-team even at their most desperate moment, perhaps he does warrant a T20 consideration! Let’s look at Rambukewella's statistics from the recently concluded domestic Super-T20 event. Rambukewella played six matches, batted in five with two not outs and scored 58 runs at 19.33. He took TWO WICKETS at an average of 70.5. Only one other bowler on his team did worse!
Well, let’s even give Rambukewella the benefit of the doubt and assume he had a one-off poor series! Let’s consider his overall T20 statistics to be fair: Played 41 matches, batted 29 times, scored 452 runs at an average of 18. Captured 36 wickets at an average of 20. For a domestic cricket structure that is considered one of the weakest, certainly not the statistics to warrant any recognition!
Now let’s revisit Sanath Jayasuriya’s explanation for selecting Rambukewella for the T20 international! “We needed a hard-hitting middle order batsman who can also bowl spin and someone whom we could ideally draft from the A-team already in England”. The only qualification Rambukewella full-filled was to be in England at the right time! That too, through the backdoor! Rambukewella did not even have to play a single match for the A-team, just needed to be there, so he could be conveniently drafted in to the national team! Spare a thought for those talented, hard-working, performing cricketers who missed out on an opportunity to play A-team cricket and deserved to play in the T20 match!
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Certainly not the intelligent cricket fans of Sri Lanka! We the fans may be powerless when it comes to being able to do something about this type of abuse of political influence, favoritism and corruption, but we will NEVER BE FOOLED!