Batting for betting nabobs – II



Thursday 14th December, 2023

Harin Fernando has done what he was made the Sports Minister for. After dilly-dallying for about two weeks, he has disbanded the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) interim committee, which was appointed by his predecessor, Roshan Ranasinghe. He must have received a pat on the back from the very hand that delivered a knuckle sandwich to Ranasinghe.

When President Ranil Wickremesinghe sacked Ranasinghe, who was trying to rid the cricket administration of corruption, we predicted in an editorial comment that a stooge would be handpicked as the Sports Minister and the interim committee would be done away with.

The government has demonstrated for the umpteenth time that it allows no one to take on the corrupt who look after its interests. It gave away its battle plan immediately after Parliament had unanimously passed a resolution calling for the ouster of the SLC Executive Committee members. President Wickremesinghe, Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and several other government members warned of an International Cricket Council (ICC) ban on SLC. Wijesekera went to the extent of arguing that all 225 MPs would be held accountable in such an eventuality. Their wish came true; the ICC imposed a ban, which the government used against Minister Ranasinghe, claiming that the appointment of the interim committee had prevented the country from hosting the ICC Men’s Under 19 World Cup 2024.

Minister Fernando has claimed that he chose to disband the cricket interim committee because the ICC is antipathetic to the word ‘interim’, and he had been left with no alternative but to do what he did to have the ICC ban on SLC lifted. He seems to think that the Sri Lankan cricket lovers are suckers. There are other countries where cricket is administered by interim committees, South Africa and Pakistan being cases in point. But the ICC has not imposed bans on them. Sri Lanka also has had more than a dozen interim committees but there were no ICC bans. It has now been revealed that the SLC called upon the ICC to impose a ban.

The government has undertaken to take up with the ICC the revelations the Auditor General has made about corruption in the SLC. Fernando has sought to justify this course of action by arguing that the allegations of corruption pertain to ICC funds. Let him be told that what is at issue is not the ownership of funds as such but rampant corruption that the Auditor General has exposed.

The onus is on Sri Lanka to take action against corruption, and that cannot be shifted to the ICC. In fact, instead of abusing its power to strengthen the hands of the corrupt Ranasinghe took on courageously, the ICC should have thanked him for his efforts to eliminate corruption in cricket and help save its funds. The ICC’s partiality to the corrupt who were exposed by the Auditor General’s report makes one wonder if a section of the world cricket governing body also benefits from corrupt deals of Sri Lankan cricket administrators.

Perhaps, some ICC nabobs want to keep the corrupt in key positions in the cricket administration here so that they could have their interests served at the expense of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s cricket crisis, in our book, boils down to the fact that the administrators of the gentleman’s game are not gentlemen. One cannot become a gentleman by donning a three-piece suit and living the high life.

A game, or anything else for that matter, in the clutches of a bunch of Mammon-worshiping crooks is doomed. This may explain why Sri Lanka’s de facto national sport, cricket, is in the current predicament. As for the SLC, the only noteworthy win for a long time has been that of Danushka Gunathilaka in a sexual assault case down under!

Perhaps, in a country which is in the grip of kleptocrats, it is an exercise in futility to combat corruption.