What’s Happening to Cricket?
Posted on July 28th, 2021

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

Everyone in Sri Lanka, from children to grown-ups, know about cricket. Though volleyball is known as Sri Lanka’s national game, cricket took its place due to its popularity. There was a time when even Kussi Ammas were engrossed in the game whenever cricket matches appeared on TV screens. 

When players such as Duleep Mendis, Kumar Sangakkara, Roshan Mahanama, Bandula Warnapura, Sanath Jayasuriya, Brenden Kuruppu or Arjuna Ranatunge batted, crowds were enthusiastic. The game’s enthusiasm peaked when Arjuna Ranatunge won the world cup in 1996. Cricket is a pitch and tosses game, where one team wins today and the rivals win tomorrow. 

The rule book says that players must act on numerous regulations and disciplinary codes vested upon the umpires, captains, and the Governing bodies. The game needs to be played according to the game’s rules and within the spirit of the game.

 Initial stages of Decline

 The Decline of Cricket took place in Sri Lanka ever since she managed to win the world cup in 1996. According to some news items, officials in the cricket board with some players, coaches, groundskeepers and selectors turned the game into disrepute and did a business out of it to earn money. The result was cricket enthusiasts, not only in Sri Lanka, but throughout the world, lost interest in Sri Lankan Cricket. The deceits, such as ‘match fixing’ even the ICC (Intentional Cricket Council in the UK) becoming involved, is purely due to obnoxious activities by some players and groundsmen. This kind of corruption made Cricket unpopular, which once managed to gain respect and admiration. 

Misdemeanour 

The latest incident was when ViceCaptain Kusal Mendis, Nirosha Dickwella and opener Danushka Gunathilake were flown back home from the England tour immediately after following the breach of bio secure-bubble in Durham UK, on 27 June 2021. The Executive Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket suspended the three players immediately from all forms of cricket. It is hoped that the committee appointed to investigate this horrendous and despicable incident will take drastic action, mainly because the whole world at present is down with COVID-19, particularly in the UK. Moreover, the Sri Lanka Cricket Board chartered a separate aircraft to transport the players safely to England for the tour. 

Despite all these the three players had to bring dispute to the game and the country wholesale. Following this dreadful incident of getting defeated to England, Sri Lankan Cricket made history by being the worst side to get defeated 424 times out of 860 in oneday international matches As far as the three players are concerned, many expect them to receive severe penalties. Dhanuka Gunatilleka was in the national team since 2015. His behaviour has been erratic towards training from 2017, and he has violated curfew regulations in the middle of a Test series in 2018. 

The cricket enthusiasts have no hope of winning a match with the new lot. The public opinion suggests that thanks to the late Gamini Dissanayake, during his tenure as President of the Board of Cricket in Sri Lanka, Lankan cricketers earned professionalism . Their earnings in millions have overnight gone to some of the players’ heads. 

The present scenario is that these players only concentrate on money , and it was demonstrated when cricketers protested to renew their contracts recently. The Sri Lanka Cricket Board wanted to bring back the game to its glorious era again because of the deteriorating trend at present . The new young Minister of Sports, who himself is a sportsman, needs to work extremely hard because if he fails this time, it would be the doomsday of Cricket. 

History of Cricket

 The first national cricket team in Ceylon was formed by the Colombo Cricket Club in 1832. A ‘gentlemen’s team’ idea, exclusively for the British folk in Ceylon, was first suggested by the Patrons of the Colombo Social Club for the British Upper Class. It was located initially at the Galle Face Green, and the Ceylon National cricket team was founded in 1920. 

The game of Cricket originated in England towards the mid-16th century. It spread globally with the expansion of the British Empire. Cricket’s Governing Body is the International Cricket Council (ICC), which comprises over one hundred members; full members are engaged in Test Matches. The Laws of Cricket are maintained by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London, founded in 1787. 

The LBW ( leg before wicket ) regulation was introduced towards the latter part of the 18th century. Dr. W.G. Grace, a right-arm pace bowler in England, developed the game in England, while playing Cricket in the field as well, during the 19th century. The first England Vs Australian team took place at the Oval in 1876 in S.E. London. The competition between England and Australia gave birth to what is known as ‘The Ashes’ in 1882. This tradition is carried forward up to this day. Cricket entered a new epoch in 1963 when County cricket introduced the ‘limited over’ match concept. It enabled the first limited over Cricket played in 1971, and the ICC recognising its potential and held the first limited-over match, the World Cup, in 1975. 

Sri Lankan Cricket 

All cricket activities were controlled and executed formerly by the Board of Cricket, but now it is known as the Sri Lanka Cricket. Cricket needs excellent and efficient Management to improve the game to bring it back into its splendour again. When effective Management is in place, it naturally boosts the players’ morale to perform better. What recently happened was that influential individuals with good standing, through their political or financial influence got into Sri Lanka Cricket, which did more harm than good to the game. Politicians such as the late Dr. N.M. Perera took the lead to improve Cricket, followed by the late Minister Gamini Dissanayake, who followed it up. The two gentlemen contributed to the game of Cricket immensely. 

When Gamini Dissanayake became the President of the Board of Control of Cricket, he took a special trip to London, especially to have face-toface discussions with the ICC officials. ICC initially refused to grant membership to Sri Lanka stating that ‘Sri Lankan Cricket ” did not pull spectators to test matches; as such, the ICC was unwilling to take a gamble.” 

On 22 July 1981, at the MCC Grounds, Gamini Dissanayake appealed to the ICC thus: “Give us the Full Membership, and we will look after the rest.” Finally, he returned to Sri Lanka with the good news of ICC enrolling Sri Lanka also as a member of the ICC. The late Gamini Dissanayake also made improvements to various other cricket grounds across the country. 

He improved The Singhalese Sports Club in Colombo (SSC), Galle Esplanade, Moratuwa Grounds, and the Grounds at Radella. The late Gamini Dissanayake opened doors to every schoolboy, wide across the country, who shone in the field of Cricket at a time when it was conclusively selected from Colombo schools. It was Gamini Dassanayke’s dream to see Sri Lankan cricketers to become professionals.

 However, still in some players minds the word professionalism has gone into their heads! They deem to think only about what they get as professional salaries and money can do wonders! These players tend to believe that being professional, they can even supersede the law, discipline, or the spirit of the game while they tarnish the country’s image by losing almost all the international cricket matches! The recent dispute on cricketers’ refusal to sign their annual contracts that offer lower basic salaries and more performance-based incentives is a clear sign of this endeavour. 

Meanwhile, Angelo Mathews, an allrounder, has decided to withdraw from National Duties. In contrast, 29 members of the cricket pool have signed tour contracts before they proceeded for the limited-over series against India , played recently and lost hopelessly. It is why Cricket has gone from bad to worse and enthusiastic spectators who were glued once to TVs do not care a damn about watching Cricket anymore, because the word ‘cricket’ itself has become despicable to them.

tilakfernndo@gmail.com

published in Ceylon Today on 27 July 2021

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