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Nepotism coming into Sri Lankan cricket

By Andrew Jayasinghe

WHEN the Sri Lankans toured Australia Arjuna Ranatunge was a main feature in the Australian press. That is even before the unfortunate incident involving umpire Ross Emerson and Muthiah Muralitharan. They called him the most powerful man in Sri Lankan cricket. That all his decisions were implemented without question. They also referred to the political connections that he had. They pointed to his brother who was the chairman of the board and the others who also played cricket for Sri Lanka on and off.

Australian writers are but ignorant of the reality of Sri Lankan society. Nepotism has always been an issue that riddled Sri Lankan politics. With the World Cup just three weeks away this unfortunate spectre is raising its head again. The Ranatunges were never a major force in Sri Lankan politics and nor will they be. The major forces in Sri Lankan politics have always been the aristocratic people who ruled the land before the colonial invaders and are still ruling it after the colonials left.

Subcontinental politics has always suffered due to these families. You can point to the Bhuttos from Pakistan, the Gandhis of India and the Bandaranaikes of Sri Lanka. These folk rule as if it were their right to rule their countrymen. This is probably how politics and democracy works in countries subjugated to years of feudalism. Yet the unfortunate truth is that nepotism and cronyism thrive under their regimes.

When the Sri Lankan president's uncle applied for the board chairman's position, most Sri Lankans got the feel of ever so familiar nepotism coming into the picture in cricket. Cricket had become an important measuring stick in Sri Lankan society and in the world after the World Cup victory. The islanders were getting to be better known for their cricket than their main export, tea.

Shouldn't the politicians who dominate the Sri Lankan political scene dominate cricket as well? Whatever their thoughts were, their chosen path shows that they do not have the good of the Sri Lankan game in mind. They should refresh their minds with the story of the mother who refused to pull the baby from the chalk circle for the fear of hurting it. What the administrators and the politicians are doing now is trying to decimate the baby (Sri Lankan cricket) and take their pieces back home for their trophy cabinets.

By the end of this power struggle it will be a wonder if the Sri Lankan cricket team has the heart to play any cricket. Already the local premier league game has been paralysed by the legal rulings. It is sickening for all Sri Lankans who love the game to see it decimated by a power struggle at the very helm.

As is the usual case, the Sri Lankan press is filled with justifications as to why this is necessary and why it is imperative that the management be changed. They also claim that cricketers should not govern themselves, as their educational qualifications are not very high, possibly due to their dedication to the game. They also forget that the management they are supporting is not the cleverest people of the land. Their educational qualifications owe more to the money they have than to their own brilliance.

It is time for the Sri Lankan cricket lovers to wake up and throw out these self-seeking individuals and expose them for who they really are (And I mean the Colombo District Court judge included). It is also time to put their support behind Arjuna Ranatunge and his boys who brought Sri Lanka glory on many an occasion.