Businessman’s gallery cricket more important than national pride? | Sunday Observer

Businessman’s gallery cricket more important than national pride?

14 November, 2021
Dinesh Chandimal: Who talks about raw deals for Sri Lanka’s own players
Dinesh Chandimal: Who talks about raw deals for Sri Lanka’s own players

Just when Sri Lanka’s cricketers hit some recognition and passed some kind of a competition test at the T20 World Cup, yet another disruption and detraction comes by way of a private or businessman’s tournament called the Lanka Premier League (LPL) where a kind of hysteria has been created by way of the omission of somebody’s favourite players.

What is most shocking about the whole blooming scenario is that the country’s flag-bearing cricket team does not get the same kind of attention, response and passion that swashbuckling critics like Mahela Jayawardena and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have displayed to find instant solutions to the running of the LPL which brings no pride to the country’s followers other than provide some of them with night time television entertainment.

“Difficult for a country to progress when you take one step forward and five steps backwards. Should not forget this is a domestic tournament to develop genuine talent,” was the grouse put out by Jayawardena.

And Sri Lanka Cricket responded to suit Jayawardena’s whims and fancies by issuing a Media statement saying they picked 10 more players describing them as “deserving players”, a language that is alien to people who have been entrusted to run the sport’s affairs.

Such words have never been used by SLC when the Sri Lanka team has been selected or before its selection.

Jayawardena who has now developed a kind of pompous lifestyle with a full plate at his disposal, pontificates on developing players for the future through the LPL.

But the question for many will be, what kind of chipping away or cut diamonds will a tournament like the LPL be able to showcase or make Sri Lanka benefit more than the idolised IPL that was not able to do with the Indian team failing to enter the semi finals of the T20 World Cup.

Most Sri Lankans see the LPL as an event not to develop young talent, but more to do with retired players, ageing players, the discarded and players in the sunset years of their lives from overseas looking for some financial benefits which is understandable.

No one knows it better than Jayawardena that the financial stakes are too high in the LPL to let go while many domestic T20 tournaments in the country including one for schools are not taken seriously enough for obvious reasons.

Suddenly the so-called custodians of the sport at Sri Lanka Cricket see the importance of a player like Angelo Mathews who had differences with them over a highly publicised pay dispute, made himself unavailable for a tour of England, was not part of the team for a home series against India and South Africa and above everything else made scores of 2, 11, 22, 2, 11,15 and 6, an appalling aggregate of 69 runs in the LPL last year.

So much for developing the talents of a player who has been around for more than ten years according to Jayawardena who is now in a position to display unprecedented influence and power given his connection to people in high places that can scare off the custodians of cricket in the country.

If Mathews had indicated to SLC that he would like to be part of the LPL this year, then it is most shocking. But if SLC had inserted his name not knowing that the former captain is uninterested after a poor showing in the LPL last year or is keen on making way for ‘talent’, then nothing can be further from the truth of the manner in which cricket is taken care of in good old Sri Lanka.

If Jayawardena’s concerns are genuine, then common cricket followers in the country have been left wondering what on earth happened to a contrasting player like Dinesh Chandimal who made runs in the SLC Invitational T20 tournament and led his Reds team to the final in August-September this year and was sidelined and made to sit with the reserves at the T20 World Cup.

With one dozen experts including the latest addition of Jayawardena hanging around in the UAE where the World Cup is being held, not a single one of them could have conditioned or put Chandimal on the right track or said what was wrong with him and the purists and paragons of virtue are now pontificating.

Playing private gallery cricket that offers financial stakes is the look-out of everyone targeting the LPL or wanting a piece of it that none should grudge, but when the same kind of zeal and passion connected to it is yet to be shown towards the Sri Lanka team, the whole scenario leaves a stench.