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Lanka: no need to be nasty

ARJUNA Ranatunge has his faults and many of them at that. He has been villified enough in the Sri Lanka press and a lot of the criticism hurled at the man is justified. But I don't think there is any need to treat him the way he is being treated at the moment. The humiliation being heaped on the man will come back to haunt Sri Lankan cricket one day, be sure of that.

I have written once before in Ranatunge's defence and will therefore not detail his contribution to the upliftment of the game in a country which was once considered merely attractive cannon fodder for the big guns of world cricket. It is time for the bosses of Sri Lankan cricket, be they old or new faces, to examine things in perspective and not merely listen to the cries for blood emanating from the gallery.

Dav Whatmore may well have played some role in helping Sri Lanka develop into a team that could win the World Cup but there is no guarantee that he can do as much anymore. Of course, it doesn't hurt to try. But Whatmore's return ensures one thing -- it will be extremely difficult for Ranatunge to get into the Test team again for there is no love lost between Whatmore and the former Sri Lankan captain.

The return of Chandra Schafter is also instructive -- the man is a disciplinarian and there are indications that such people are needed. The team has developed some flab, literally and otherwise, and many observers tend to feel that the World Cup win went to the heads of some players. But this does not mean that Ranatunge should be openly humiliated as he is at the moment.

If he needed to be pulled up for going to Canada to participate in a friendly tournament, there was no need to make it a public affair. This is not a time to score political points, this is a time when Lanka cricket needs to rebuild. If things were allowed to get out of control after 1996, then the administrators need to take a good deal of the blame; structures which collapsed cannot be erected again overnight.

I doubt that Sanath Jayasuriya will make a great captain. The old argument that a good batsman or bowler makes a good leader is specious and nothing else. Mahela Jayawardene will make a good captain but he is young and by the time his turn comes, there may be forces at play which prevent him from taking over. If Aravinda de Silva could not be retained in the team and also given the leadership, then perhaps it was time to look to somebody like Chaminda Vaas. But given Vaas's ancestry, that would possibly not have been the politically correct decision. Marvan Atapattu was also an option but then there would have been cries of nepotism as he is a relative of Ranatunge.

This Lankan situation is similar to that which has been seen many times in both India and Pakistan. Why, we had a similar drama in Bangladesh after they had done nothing more than just qualify for the World Cup!!! There are too many pulls and pressures for cricket to prosper for too long. Too many people want a piece of the action. Politicians want a role as well. Performance becomes secondary. This is the tragedy of the subcontinent.

One needs a strong person to get anything done. Ranatunge may not have been correct all the time but he was single-minded enough to lift the game to some level of respectability. hether the people who follow can do as much is very doubtful.