Hats Off to Sanga for the Courageous Speech
Posted on July 6th, 2011

Dilrook Kannangara

There are two types of people in the island nation “”…” those who love Sri Lanka and those who don’t. This is the proper yardstick to measure all action, demands and aspirations individuals and groups engage in. Where does Sanga stand in this continuum? Obviously he belongs to the first category of those who love Sri Lanka. Cricket in particular. It has an added significance. In most cases, there is a blurred area between loving the nation and loving the regime. They are not the same but the regime and many arms of it try hard to project that loving the nation is loving the regime. Sanga has proven how to love the nation not the regime. Word to word, his speech is one of the best ever made by a cricketer from the Subcontinent. Obviously there is no cricketer from the subcontinent who can match his class outside the ground; certain not even Sachin.

His statements are objective; not scandalous. Until 1996 mostly good-hearted gentleman with a natural love for the sport ruled the cricket board. Their efforts, mostly without any profit or favours, earned the World Cup in 1996. After 1996 Sri Lankan cricketers turned professional but the cricket board turned unprofessional! Money came to associate more with the game. In a sheer display of rowdy behaviour, the 1998 cricket board election was marred with violence. Thilanga Sumathipala’s cronies brought weapons into the meeting and threatened the opponents. His contestant was a well connected Ratwatte who didn’t hesitate to use his own violence against Thilanga. But Thilanga prevailed. Under his reign the cricket board suffered a depleting asset base, especially attractive liquid assets. Cricket suffered very badly. The team had an early exit at the 1999 World Cup thanks to everything from finances to selection in disarray.

The board was dissolved and the minister in charge of sport appointed a new board. For a few years the cricket board started doing well. The cricket team under Sanath Jayasuriya did tremendously well from the shackles it was in before. However, it didn’t last long. With the UNP winning the 2001 election, their cronies were promoted both in the board and the team. Captaincy was split for the first time and it went to the most disastrous Test captain ever “”…” Hashan Tillakaratne. Marvan Attapattu who didn’t deserve to become the ODI captain replacing Sanath who was doing extremely well, was promoted to the top slot. To match this disaster, cricket board elections were called. Thilanga staged a comeback against former captain Arjuna Ranatunga. Thilanga once again won the election. The uniform, cricket board’s name and the logo underwent expensive but trivial changes. Financial irregularities were rampant. The team, despite many bouts of luck, did badly at the World Cup exiting without reaching even the Semis. Money was found in the captain’s closest and players started to level allegations against each other. In a popular television talk show hosted by Lasantha Wickrematunga, Muttiah Muralitharan alleged that “ƒ”¹…”Sanga only played to keep his place’ in the team. Favourites of the administrators were brought into the team and some of them acted as “ƒ”¹…”sensors’ of what’s going on in the dressing room and informed administrators.

A temporary change was seen from this disaster by 2006 and the team reached the final in 2007. However, once again political interferences messed the administration. A prominent UNP politician was made the sports minister and his picks were political comrades including Suraj Dandeniya. No wonder cricket administration went to dirt. Arjuna was appointed to turnaround the affairs but he too appointed his cronies including Hashan Tillakaratne. Funny thing is all these cronies were anti-government! Yet the government did nothing to stop them or monitor their callousness as the government itself was functioning within a corrupt system. Changes to the board did nothing to salvage it. Sri Lanka Cricket suffered a massive loss close to US$ 70 million in the World Cup co-hosted with India and Bangladesh. Both India and Bangladesh made millions from the event and it was only Sri Lanka that suffered financial loss from the event. This is the plain truth avoided by the defenders of the board. It was sacked by the minister alleging corruption! However, apart from a few prominent names, there is no guarantee that the current board will turn things around though their conduct has been better than the previous one so far.

Add to the woes, ICC has made it mandatory to separate cricket from politics by June 2013. It is no doubt a colonial assertion to discredit good performing subcontinent teams; but it is the law and Sri Lanka must comply. Holding an election to select the board is not the best way as can be seen from past events. In most cases, the biggest spender (who is the most corrupt) wins the election! Ministerial appointments are not going to save Sri Lanka Cricket either. There should be a transparent mechanism to elect the Board among people who genuinely love the sport. It requires a local mechanism to ensure genuine lovers of the game are elected to the top posts. Appointing persons from each major ethnic group is another stupid thing that has been going on for some time. Although cricket has a role to play in the reconciliation process, it should not mess with the Board or the Team.

Sanga has posed a challenge to the nation’s cricket lovers and the board; not a threat. He should be commended for his courage and genuine love for the game. If everyone keeps praising the regime as the story of the naked king and his expensive clothes, things will get nastier by the day as happening today in all spheres in Sri Lanka. Sanga, like the bold child in the story, had the courage to state things as they are. Disciplining Sanga and/or sacking him from the team due to his speech are short-sighted moves that will ridicule the entire nation. Instead his challenge must be accepted boldly and required changes must be made without delay. Having said that, Sanga too has a role to play in and outside the field. His cricket shows a steady decline in all aspects of the game since the start of the year. Now his performance behind the wicket and before the wicket is sporadic and appalling. He regularly misses catches; fails to bat as he used to and more significantly doesn’t encourage bowlers and fielders any more. It has nothing to do with captaincy. He was a very vocal keeper before and after becoming the captain. But now he has gone silent as if the loss of captaincy has created an attitude of indifference. He must communicate with the bowler and fielders more often and encourage them as before. It is hoped that Sanga’s remarks are an eye opener and a timely call to put the house in order.

23 Responses to “Hats Off to Sanga for the Courageous Speech”

  1. Naram Says:

    Thanks Dilrook for bringing some more facts into the discussion. I saw in papers that Hashan TIllekeratne had come oput to bring out more fare facts about the corruption in the bygone years. I noticed that talented youngsters in the team had not received sufficient training in facing / ducking the rising ball which was the cause ofmany a collapse.

    I for one do not believe that sport can be separated from political life of the country. Cricket fields belonged to rich people who did not like Sarong Jonnies trespassing their premises. In the old day Senanaykes and De Sarams were prominent among the richest cricket club SSC and NondescriptsCricket Club with NM Perera to amongits membership was the next best poor cousin. Not many outside of ROyal and St Thomas’ got places in the national team and I recall in ’58 Ceylon XI were all out for less than 50 in a match against the MCC as they could not deal with the pace of Truman and Tyson.

    I personally do not think Sri Lankans do not have the sort of money to rival the Indian billionnaires to build and run cricket grounds with associated infrastructure or run League Cricket. Our output and level of achievement will be far lower without government patronage.

    There you have the conundrum, if government isto finance the politicianwill demand a say in how it is spent – how the cake is spread – selection of promising youth, training, accommodation, medical care, team selection, pay structure, coaching structure though it cannot be done in Kachcheris or by education department.

    There you have the many potential vacancies forpolitical fixers, marketing men for alcohol and tobacco, gambling organisations advertising sector etc. You have the same pressures in Olympic team selection ticketsales etc even in UK. THere were well publicisedstories about Political parties taking backhanders from tobacco firms till quite recently.

  2. jimmy Says:

    great article
    I admire Sanga, good speech, good kid

  3. Sunil Mahattaya Says:

    Yet another endorsemt of Sanga’s class!! The outpourings of admiration continue deservedly and Dilrook has researched his sources towards the credibilities he associates with Sanga quite thoroughly.I might add that in Sanga we have a cricketing personality way ahead of his time whose efforts to salvage whatever is left of Sri Lankan Cricket towards posterity will be given a huge boost!

  4. ranjit Says:

    We should be proud to have a son of Lanka in Sanga’s Calibre. He is a real gentleman in cricket and a good ambassodor for the country. Dilrook is great to bring such articles to our readers. My view is politics should not be involved in any sport. Sports is for sportsmen not for politicians.These two are two different ball games. Politics is corrupt in the whole wide world but sports cannot be like that.It should be sporty and should have fun in every game.we win and lose doesnt matter.

    I hope the minister of sports without blaming Sanga take his advise and clean the whole mess. We know this Government can do the right things for sports without selecting favourites but real sportsmen who loves sports and the country they were born. We need good bowlers,batsmen,alrounders not from rich class in Colombo and cities but from around the country. We need good coaches,equipments etc. The best should get the place not the political favourites. Sanga should be admired for his courageous speech. Bravo the braves!

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thanks to Dilrook for exposing the facts. This is how it should have been done in the first place – write in the facts of the
    matter, exposing all to the public, and let the public decide what to do. However, the damage is done – Sri Lanka has shown to the world that it cannot manage its sports sans corruption !

    It is really better to solve our Cricket problems (and other problems) locally through write up that expose the problem to the public here than take the case to Britain, bearing in mind that, after all, Sri Lanka is an ex-Colony of Britain, and suffer the masses did under British rule. May be no suffering for the Colombo folk (or have the Sinhala people forgotten the total crushing of the Colombo Sinhala leaders by Brits in 1915 ? – Read book “Revolt in the Temple”), but the general masses of Lanka did suffer under Brit rule. It is a further humiliation that after 63 yrs of Independence from Britain, that some of us still go to the ex-Colonists for justice. Are we incapable of solving our problems in our homeland – are we that crushed as a Nation by Colonists ?

    Back to the Problem : Isn’t it possible to create an Ombudsman (or two) for the Lanka Cricket Team, chosen only by the SL Cricket Team Team ? Also, all Cricket team players to be chosen by the Team, by vote.

  6. KingSasanka Says:

    Appointing an Ombudsman is not a problem but who is going to Bell the Cat is the problem.

    Unless we are really ready to address this issue collectively and individually, shifting blames and pointing fingers will not solve any of our problems in cricket and in other spheres too.

    Are we ready is the question and I do not think we are yet?

    We are happy to blame (Colonial masters, etc) others for our own failings than taking responsibility for our own actions.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    KingSasanka : Failings we will have as human beings, and overcoming them is our Challenge. Taking our Sports problems to ex-Colonists is the worst thing we can do at this point in time, post-war – it is humiliating & an admittance that we are unable to cope with our problems re Sports. Our own failings are compounded by ex-Colonial action in Sri Lanka. It certainly weakens Lanka as a Nation. Britain lived on the takings of “Divide & Rule” – or have we forgotten that too ?

    Public Opinion has to be sought in the appointment of an Ombudsman for Cricket affairs. Lanka is a Democracy and the People rule this land. Through lively discussions in the media (tv as well), the “cat is/will be belled”, and Change for the better can be pushed forward. Use People Power to solve problems. People know what is right for this land.

  8. Dilrook Says:

    For those who didn’t listen to him here is a link.

    http://www.cricturf.com/newsbox/pprofile/1094-live-stream-sangakkara.html

    Please listen to the entire speech. The weakest link in our cricket is not the team, schools, clubs, talent, finances or effects of violence, but the (sometimes) corrupt and volatile boards. Given the true significance of cricket, more public participation in cricket administration is needed. Hope this is the start of fixing the weakest link in our cricket.

    If Kumar spoke of anything apart from cricket, it was about our proud military victory that brought us freedom. He did a much better job in taking the case of Sri Lanka to Britain than anyone else. Truly remarkable.

    Not just Trinity, law, cricket and oratory skills, this man has many more things in common with the great Lakshman Kadirgamar.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    Dilrook : I totally agree with you that : “The weakest link in our cricket is not the team, schools, clubs, talent, finances or effects of violence, but the (sometimes) corrupt and volatile boards. Given the true significance of cricket, more public participation in cricket administration is needed. Hope this is the start of fixing the weakest link in our cricket”.

    If Cricket is linked to Politics, then Public Participation in the Administrative affairs of Cricket, particularly the BoC, is imperative, at least in the appointment of the BoC & the players in our Cricket team.

    Again, thanks to Dilrook for the exposure of what ails our world of cricket.

  10. AnuD Says:

    Appoint an Ombudsman or a Panel of retired Judges to investigate this and looks after this. but, all will answer to one politicians who will run it exactly the same way.

    It will produce some billionair politicians or thgeir children or relatives.

    Sri Lanka shoot the messenger instead of being humble, acceptimg the criticicism as a gentle person and growing up. But, the way most sri Lankans talk we just blame the one who criticized for saying that we are naked thieves.

  11. KingSasanka Says:

    This is turning into another debate other than cricket now.

    The Cat will be belled eventually but when is the question because we had more than six decades to fix things yet we are still blaming the colonial masters only.

    I agree when you said “People know what is right for this land” and that is what we got during last six decades and is it good enough?

  12. Vis8 Says:

    Good talk by Sanga, but the Brits took great effort in using it to discredit Sri Lanka.

    I wrote the following to Peter Roebuck, in his Cricinfo article’s ‘comments’ section, but of course they are not going to publish it :)

    “Mr. Roebuck, Please be good enough to verify facts before you ‘air’ your opinions on Cricinfo. The “Channel-4″ video you mentioned has been doctored by Tamil terrorists for their own propaganda, and the original, unedited video has been aired in Sri Lanka, which indicates that the killers were Tamil terrorists dressed in captured soldiers’ clothes. It were the soldiers that were shot.”

    “You are beginning to sound very much like a British politician who has just received a lot of “campaign contributions” (a.k.a. terror-money) by the Tamil-refugee terror-supporters, and airing his ‘opinions’ to discredit Sri Lanka. I hope you are not aspiring to be a British ‘politician’: you would be very much better off sticking with being a cricket “critic”.”

    Hope the moron read it. Of course, he did not publish it (Cricinfo’s “comments” are “moderated” by the writer himself :)

  13. Fran Diaz Says:

    KingSasanka : The debate turns away from the Game of Cricket because there are more important issues attached to Cricket.
    Cricket is merely a bat hitting a ball by the able hands of a sportsman, but ah ! there may be Politics attached to those hands
    too ? Are the days of Ramadeen & Valentine and a clean Game gone or can we bring back such times ?. And Cricket comes from Britain. Personally, I do like the English language, Cricket & my cup of Tea, all legacies from Britain. But, aren’t we an Independent nation now ? We are not a Dominion of Britain and do not have to carry our internal complaints to Britain. Some self respect would be nice.

    The last six decades have been spent warding off separatists, vested interests, adjusting to Democratic norms, erasing Caste & Class, an imported run away Caste War from Tamil Nadu and adjusting to a Globalised Economy, etc. Through all the pain we have grown, become more aware of the facts and figures than we have been before. It was not time wasted.

    How do other countries manage ? Imitate what we admire the most in how other countries run their Administrations in various fields. For an instance, the Indian Union of States hold together because of their good Civil Service. Please add to this all other factors we can imitate. Yes, KS, the “People do know what is right for this land”. When what is right happens, we all feel good & become happy. Happy people are productive and prosperity follows.

  14. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Fran ! I quite agree with you when you say that ‘ we do not have to carry our internal complaints to Britain. Some self respect would be nice ‘.

    Sanga is a Sri Lankan celebrity who attained fame with his talents. Yet, he could have been very discreet on his expression of inner feelings, against his motherland. Possibly, shows immaturity.

    This is not a question of freedom of speech.

  15. KingSasanka Says:

    Astonished to read your very optimistic stand point “Happy people are productive and prosperity follows” and I hope that I will live that long to see it finally here.

    As for the Caste & Class matters, suggest opening the matrimonial section in the next Sunday newspapers to get the picture.

    If you are still not convinced I can even take you to places of worship where people are allowed to sit according to their Caste than first come first serve basis even today.

    With such demeaning segregation, class is automatically determined.

  16. Fran Diaz Says:

    KingSasanka : We in Lanka have come a long way from a century ago re Caste & Class in Sri Lanka. Caste matters here are getting resolved through education, inter marriage & higher ordination allowed for anyone in the Buddhist clergy. Now it all depends on how a person behaves in society & in their private lives to gain social acceptance. Acceptance is immediate, with good manners & ability in their chosen professions. Honesty and ethics are all important – in Sri Lanka word gets around how a person conducts himself/herself. So it all comes back to the individual – each of us can make or break ourselves.
    With Development of the country and increased Productivity and material needs, the Class system will fall away. We have free education and Health care, not found in some of the most developed countries in the world. Let’s be proud of the real things we have, and keep those pluses whilst improving our Material needs.

    See how we are discussing things that have nothing to do with Cricket. Cricket itself only shows how to play a Team Game, and is akin to the Game of Life, & is also pure Entertainment. Real Cricket is not about winning, but about how the Game is played, as in Life. It is a great pity that Money & Politics have entered the game of Cricket. We have to do away with both, or else the game will deteriorate into something shoddy. If you read Dilrook’s article carefully, you will see that the present GoSL is handling matters better re the BoC than the situation from 2001 onwards.

    Back to the Lanka situation: I do prefer to look at the half full glass than the half empty glass. There is tremendous potential here in Lanka with the Buddhist values and foundations. Each of us have to find our Inner Self first through Meditation – to touch daily the Inner Self which is the place of Peace & Happiness within, without which experience even billions of $ will not satisfy. Each of us will pass away from this world one day, and preparation toward that end is the wisest thing we can do. We have to get real here. What matters is how each of us see our own Self, and ignore how others see us. When we see ourselves in a true way, others too will accept us in that manner. It cannot be forced in anger & frustration.

    I still maintain that Sangga should not have taken the BoC woes to the Lords cricket ground. In a way, he has inadvertently indicated that the BoC at the present time is to be blamed, and the GoSL. I do not know the details re the BoC right now, but Dilrook has indicated that the BoC now is better than earlier. What I feel is that the manner in which Sangga’s speech was made, at Lords in Britain at this point in Time, is made to appear as if he was afraid to say the same thing while in Sri Lanka, and that it is the present govt. that is at fault. Therefore, Sangga’s remarks appears unpatriotic & unfair to me particularly when the present President has gone out of his way to upgrade all Sports in Sri Lanka – in fact, Hambanthota is to be Sports City. While I admit that the BoC perhaps could be improved on (i.e. leave out the Politics & big money – just play for the Game & Fame), everything else in the country could improve too ! The rest of Sangga’s speech was good. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumptions here.

  17. Fran Diaz Says:

    P.S.: KingS: re the place of worship that is Caste ridden, I would advice people to boycott such places.

  18. jay-ran Says:

    Susantha Wijesinghe is exactly correct to say ‘Sanga,Possibly, shows immaturity”.More than that he thinks too much of himself totally disregarding the present situation in Sri Lanka as many white skinned moroons who are been bribed by the LTTE diaspora were waiting for every oportunity to criticise and redicule SL Govt.His speech is out of time and place as well.

  19. KingSasanka Says:

    Dear Mr. Diaz,

    As anticipated, we have gone way off from the original subject “Cricket” now.

    If you are convinced that “ We in Lanka have come a long way from a century ago re Caste & Class in Sri Lanka. Caste matters here are getting resolved through education, inter marriage ” then my humble supplication again is to read the coming Sunday (10th July 2011) matrimonial section in the newspapers (both Sinhala & English).

    If we have come long way as you have described, than you will realized that we may have to go thrice the distance or more thus far arrived to finally reach a place san Caste segregation.

    Perhaps people may not be openly talking about such issues today but the core of the issue has not taken any fundamental change to see any improvement in the foreseeable future.

    Again though “higher ordination is allowed for anyone in the Buddhist clergy” the existence of purely Caste based ” Nikayas ” cannot be denied even though it is shameful to admit the existence of such a disgraceful act in the land labelled “Buddhists”.

    Although, perhaps you may not be aware that your recommendation to boycott places of worship which are “Castle ridden” has been going on for many decades and one of the main reasons for one of the most contagious issues of today “The Religious Conversions” is simply because of this demeaning Caste segregation only.

    Even the 1971 uprising can easily be linked to this issue than Class struggle.

    Half filled glass is only half filled, no matter from which angel you may looked at it.

    Inadvertently (I hope) but you have raised some very interesting questions here.

    Those are “The manner in which Sangga’s speech was made, at Lords in Britain at this point in Time, is made to appear as if he was afraid to say the same thing while in Sri Lanka, and that it is the present govt. that is at fault”.

    Here you have to find yourselves only as to why he (Sangakkar) has to be afraid and who is really at fault for this debacle

    The Badminton Association of Sri Lanka too is going through the same process now and no sports association in Sri Lanka is free or safe from such unwanted interferences today.

    Have a Good Day!

  20. Fran Diaz Says:

    I hope Dilrook will bear with the digression from the main topic of Cricket & forgive us for using up a lot of space …

    Dear KingSasanka :

    Thank you for response.
    Let’s think positive. I am glad you have a quarter glass full right now. Let’s get to work on filling the rest of the glass.

    You can build up any Community in this modern age. We do not have to stick with archaic ideas such as Caste of eons ago which ought to have been discarded when their use in societies became a burden to that very society. Here’s some ideas on how to build up a Community.

    (1) Introduce Meditation into your Community to build up the spiritual strength without which it will be without a solid foundation. Meditation brings understanding about oneself & others, in other words understanding about society, that everyone deep inside first wants Peace & Happiness, and Beauty in their lives. Teach Buddhist Meditation to adults & kids. Or go website http://www.wopg.org, watch videos, follow through and learn the art of meditation taught there. Adults & kids in the Community should look after each other as much as possible and Meditate together to foster peaceful relationships of mutual understanding.
    (2) Acquire some books of good value (in English, Sinhala & Tamil), and start a small library for your Community.
    (3) In your Community, foster a spirit of Achievement & Co-operation and not Competition. Competition only brings envy & hatred. Tell Adults & kids to share any knowledge of skills they may have with others who want to learn, without payment.
    (4) Teach kids & Adults loyalty to the Nation – to take care of all the People of Lanka.
    (5) All positive activities should be encouraged within the Community. Any ‘outside’ people who wish to join your community activities should be allowed to do so, provided they promise good conduct.

    There are endless ideas on Community building. Please publish any good ideas you may have to help everyone who is seeking a better life.

  21. KingSasanka Says:

    Blowing one’s own trumpet was never being in my armoury and strongly believes and advocates that vital space and time should not be used to for that purpose and to get one’s own ego fatten more.

    Sure prescription for creating a useful society is every individual to follow “Preach only what you are ready to follow and earnestly follow what is being preached” policy.

    Hypocrisy kills the society.

  22. Fran Diaz Says:

    Just in case there is some misunderstanding here, I have participated in almost all of the above activities I have written about.
    Being a senior in years, it was easier for me. It is up to the younger generation to do the things that work to build up a society, and not bring it down further than it has in the last 30 yrs.
    I am signing out of this thread of the debate.

  23. Dilrook Says:

    Now the Defence Secretary and Gomin Dayasiri have come out openly supporting Sanga’s speech, it is clear he did the right thing overall. They are not politicians but people who achieved great things for the country. Both of them keep out of politics for this reason. Without the defence ministry coordinating anything with him, he did a good job for Sri Lanka. He is definitely of the category of people who love Sri Lanka and we should love him in return. He has his shortcomings in cricket which we should take up separately.

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