SrI Lanka’s senior batsman Kumar Sangakkara has lashed out at the cricket administration back home, saying their ‘corrupt’ practices have tarnished the image of the sport in the island nation.
Sangakkara said the loyal fans in Sri Lanka are becoming increasingly disillusioned.
Sangakkara, while delivering the MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture at the historic Lord’s Monday, made startling claims about the dirty board politics prevailing in Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) that, he said, has also involved the players from time to time.
The stylish southpaw, who resigned from captaincy after the 2011 World Cup, chose the occasion also to inform the audience about the history of Sri Lankan cricket, its ‘most powerul moment of unity’ in 1996 when they won their maiden World Cup crown and how sport, if run properly, can be a tool of reconcilliation between the Tamil and Sinhala community after the end of a 30-year-old civil war.
‘After 1996 the cricket board has been controlled and administered by a handful of well-meaning individuals either personally or by proxy, rotated in and out, depending on appointment or election,’ said Sangakkara. ‘Unfortunately, to consolidate and perpetuate their power, they opened the door of the administration to partisan cronies that would lead to corruption and wanton waste of cricket board finances and resources.’
‘It was and still is confusing. Accusations of vote buying and rigging, player interference due to lobbying from each side and even violence at the AGMs, including the brandishing of weapons and ugly fist fights, have characterised cricket board elections for as long as I can remember.’
Sangkkara’s comments came after Sri Lanka’s sports ministry dissolved the SLC’s interim committee last week following allegations of financial mismanagement against it during the last World Cup which Sri Lanka co-hosted alongside India and Bangladesh.
The 33-year-old went on to say that players getting involved in the board politics made matters worse.
‘Players from within the team itself became involved in power games within the board. Officials elected to power in this way in turn manipulated player loyalty to achieve their own ends. At times, board politics would spill over into the team, causing rift, ill feeling and distrust.’
Sangakkara feared that fans might feel disconnected from the game if the cricket administration remained in a shambles.
‘Unless the administration is capable of becoming more professional, forward-thinking and transparent, we risk alienating the common man. Indeed, this is already happening. Loyal fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned. This is very dangerous because it is not the administrators or players that sustain the game – it is the cricket-loving public. It is their passion that powers cricket, and if they turn their backs on cricket, then the whole system will come crashing down.’
On the sport playing a part in the war-torn nation, Sangakkara said: ‘Cricket played a crucial role during the dark days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, a period of enormous suffering for all communities. But the conduct and performance of the team will have even greater importance as we enter a crucial period of reconciliation and recovery.’
‘It is also an exciting period for cricket where the reintegration of isolated communities in the north and east opens up new talent pools. The Spirit of Cricket can and should remain a guiding force for good within society, providing entertainment and fun, but also a shining example to all of how we all should approach our lives.’