My passion for Cricket and Justice
Posted on November 25th, 2011

By Sarath Abeysundera

 (The Text of a Speech delivered in Kalutara, Sri Lanka on November 25, 2011 to mark the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the founding of the IllstonAbey Cricket Club, Kalutara, which is affiliated to the Illston Abey Cricket Club, Illston, Leicester, UK.  Mr. SarathAbeysundera, an old boy of Royal College, Colombo is the Founder – President of both these two clubs)

 My life has been driven by two strong currents “”…” love of cricket and belief in justice.

If one were to say that cricket is an euphemism for justice and vice versa, he would not be far wrong. Both areas overlap each other and are inter- twined. Such is the relationship between these two spheres.

 Ever since I joined the Kindergarten at the Royal Primary School in Colombo, cricket has been part of my life. If there was one game that bound me to my friends as kidsrightthrough our school career and even beyond that was cricket.It served as the life blood of young school boys in Colombo particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Cricket walked with us like a shadow and gave us a level of excitement that was unmatched by any other sport.

 Many of my childhood friends had to part with cricket when they had reached adulthood for obvious economic reasons. But I accepted the challenge to co-exist with cricket in my post-school life. There was never a question of giving up on cricket at any point of time in my life.

 My service to Cricket in Sri Lanka

 I left for England in 1967 as a starry eyed nineteen year old with hardly any money in my pocket but nevertheless with great hopes and even greater belief in myself and my capacity to achieve.

 The pre-eminent German Poet Goethe once said that the world adjusts itself to accommodate a step taken in the forward direction by a spirited person and thereby give life to enterprise. Many a great idea has collapsed at birth largely due to thecompulsive fear to take the first step forward.

 I benefited largely from Margaret Thatcher led economic recovery in the 1970’s having entered the textile field. That is another story.

 In 1985 I decided to sponsor young talented cricketers from Sri Lanka to visit England and obtain invaluable experience on the playing fields of English County Cricket Clubs. Since 1985 to date i.e. last 26 years, I have sponsored almost 70 young budding cricketers from Sri Lanka to gain exposure to cricket and playing conditions in England. Asoka de Silva, former Test player and now International Umpire was one of the three players that I first sponsored. The other two

Players were SarathWijeratne and KrishanDharmasena, who later played for SSC, NCC and the Sri Lanka “ƒ”¹…”A’ team.  Three to four young cricketers from Hambantota and Debarawewa, Tissamaharama areas have also been to England under my sponsorship. 

 In this connection I must acknowledge with gratitude the role that President MahindaRajapakse has played while he was functioning as the Minister of Fisheries about 10 years ago. When it became known that I was trying to pick a young cricketer from the south for further training in England he contacted me and then arranged for about 20 young cricketers fromDebarawewa to play in a trial cricket match at Hambantota.

 President MahindaRajapakse (then a Minister) came in his vehicle (chauffeur driven) picked me up from my residence in Colombo and we then proceeded to Hambantota. We witnessed the trial cricket match and upon its conclusion we both discussed and picked one player namely SulanJayawardena who subsequently visited England for cricket training under my sponsorship. Test players such as DhammikaRanatunga have also visited England under this program.

 I have also helped in organisingthree pre “”…” season tours to Sri Lanka of the Leicestershire County Cricket team. Three players from this team namely Russel Cobb, Jagiger Nick and Troit played in Sri Lanka from January to March 2011 and represented local cricket clubs such as the Tamil Union and the CCC.

 My service to Cricket in England

In 1995 I purchased with my own private funds a lovely cricket ground in the heart of Fernie Hunt country, in the hamlet of Illston on the Hill and named it as Sigiriya Cricket Grounds. I then established an all-Sri Lankan team which shot through the lower divisions of Leicestershire’s Everard League and sat, though somewhat precariously, in the premier division.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning side visited Illston andchristened the new club. It took many of my neighbours by surprise. Nevertheless it was a pleasant surprise to them.

 My aim is to make the Sigiriya Cricket Ground in Illston available, among other things, to cricketers from Sri Lanka to play, train and develop their skills under English playing conditions.

In the long run it will help them to become better international cricketers.

 The Spirit of Cricket

 The notion of Justice is deeply embedded in the game of cricket. It is such that when people say”ƒ”¹…” it is not cricket’ it means that there is no fair play.

 The catchword “ƒ”¹…”hora umpire’ was very much part of the cricket culture in our growing years.

We knew when a wrong decision was given by an umpire. We could do nothing to overturn it.

Except shout “ƒ”¹…”Hora Umpire’.Wrong decisions of umpires have brought miserable outcomes, distorted results, crippled careers and sometimes even strained relations between cricket playing nations.

 With the introduction of technology the situation became worse. The mistake of the umpire was vividly shown on TV screens to a worldwide audience without making use of the very same technology to correct the error of the umpire.A manifest injustice was allowed to stand.This was totally contrary to the spirit of cricket which has always stood for fair play and justice.

 This vexed problem of “ƒ”¹…” hora umpires’ and “ƒ”¹…” hora decisions’ remained unresolved in cricket until one of my own ex – classmates at Royal College, Colombo came to the fore and gave a solution that turned cricket adjudication on its head. He challenged a fundamental premise of traditional cricket i.e. umpire’s decision is final. This finality is no longer granted to an umpire’s decision is largely due to the campaign of myex-classmate who vehemently argued in the international arena that player dissent should be allowed for a noble cause i.e. to right a wrong. He used his legal training effectively to debate and put forward his case.

 The UDRS has been hailed as the most revolutionary step taken to reform cricket rules since the inception of the game. A  Sri Lankan / old Royalist has conceived a concept i.e. player referral, which has brought fairness to umpiring decisions. It has been adopted by the ICC since October 1, 2009.

 We must commend this achievement. To stand together with Senaka Weeraratna though he has many more hurdles to clear before he gets final recognition from the ICC.

At a personal level I have decided to back Senaka Weeraratna’sfight for due recognition which I am certain will bring in turn recognition and glory to Sri Lanka.

I will launch a public campaign in Colombo shortly seeking recognition from the ICC for the conceptual contributions made by Senaka Weeraratna through his writings since 1997 which finally helped ICC to devise a system called the UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) in 2009.

I am convinced as many other cricket fans in both Sri Lanka and overseas are that the basic elements underlying the UDRS have come from the mind of Senaka Weeraratna. The UDRS is basically his brain child.

I will lead this campaign in the capacity of Director and spokesperson and co-opt right thinking people interested in meting out justice in cricket, to this campaign.

When I return to England shortly I will retain a legal team under the charge of K4 Law, a reputed law firm in Leicester, to instruct Barristers and obtain advice to proceed further.

The practice of double standards by the international cricket establishment so evident whengranting (or not granting)recognition in respect to contributions made by cricket enthusiasts towards reform of Cricket Rules, must be brought to an end.

Thank you.

SarathAbeysunderaNovember 25, 2011

 Memberships

 1)     Life member, Leicestershire County Cricket Club, UK 

2)      President, IllstonAbey Cricket Club, Leicester, UK

3)      Member, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), UK

4)      Member, Carlton Club, London, UK

5)      Former Chairman, UK Committee, Sri Lanka Cricket Board (2001 “”…” 2008)

6)      Owner of Sigiriya Cricket Grounds, Leicester, UK

7)      Email address “”…” sarath_abeysundera<[email protected]>

8)      Tel. No. 0044 (011) 6 259 9840 (UK), 079 80 211 939 (mobile UK), 072 355 3162 (mobile SL) Currently in Sri Lanka.

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