Born Again cricket voodoo | Sunday Observer
Charith Senanayake reveals how he got beaten up:

Born Again cricket voodoo

15 January, 2023

The committee chaired by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojani Weerawardena to examine the influence of the ‘Born Again’ religious sect on the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, handed over its report to the Sports Minister recently.

The committee’s report was released in the heat of Charith Senanayake’s controversial statement that he had lost his position as manager of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team for criticising the ‘Born Again’ sect. This is the interview he gave to the ‘Sunday Observer’.

Q: What is your criticism against Born Again?

A: I said I have no problem with anyone’s religious beliefs. But if one’s beliefs become a problem for another, it is wrong. Especially in sports. If there is such a thing, you need to find it and stop it. It can’t happen. That’s what I said. I said that in 2018 as well. I will say it today and and tomorrow as well.

Q: What happened in 2018?

A: When I left the Sri Lankan team’s management, with Chandika Hathurusingha as head coach, after the first test match against England at the Galle stadium, I was accused of saying that the coach had said the team was losing because of me. Having said that, I came home after the game. If Sri Lanka loses because of me, it is not right for me to be in the team. I am doing an injustice to the team. Hathurusingha clearly said that he loses matches because of me. So I went home. But Hathurusingha and I have no personal grudges, even though we have ideologies. I don’t agree with his training process, his practices, or his beliefs. Professionally, there were some differences between us; that is all.

Q: But you came back later?

A: Yes. After that Sri Lanka Cricket brought me back as the manager of the ‘A’ team. As the manager of the ‘A’ team, I went to the West Indies.

Q After Hathurusingha joined the team as coach, you talked about the Born Again issue, didn’t you? What was the result?

A: Nothing, I just had to leave the team.

Q: Have you worked with the cricket board for a long time?

A: Yes. I worked as a sales manager for a long time.

Q: At that time, there was no question about Born Again?

A: I first joined the Cricket board in 2008 as the team manager. It was during a trip to India. After that they put me in the position of head of sales.

Q: Then who was the chairman?

A: It was Arjuna Ranatunga.

Q: You and Hathurusingha joined the team at the same time during the same visit. Did you know that Chandika is Born Again?

A: No, the man must have been Born Again after that.

Q: Is it true that cricket agent Charlie Austin introduced the Born Again concept to Sri Lanka?

A: No, that ‘Born Again’ concept existed in Sri Lanka even when we were in school. At that time too, there were ‘Born Again’ players in the national team.

Q: So there was no issue for the other players at the time?

A: No. He didn’t pose questions to others like that. He is a former fast bowler. In the past, he even held various positions on the Sri Lankan team. The “Born Again” concept has always existed in Sri Lanka. This is not something that happened yesterday. But soon it became voodoo. Just like that.

Q: Is Pastor Jerome Fernando the leader of “Born Again”? You say he wasn’t even born when ‘Born Again’ arrived in Sri Lanka?

A: Yes. It was already there. Everyone is a pastor now. They are not called pastors, they are called prophets. Men are called prophets and women prophetess.

Q: Pastor Jerome used to play cricket. Have you played cricket with him?

A: No. He is younger than me.

Q: Then when was this ‘Born Again’ talked more on the cricket field?

A: It appears to have begun after 2015. Many people are unaware of the implications for cricketers. Consider this. If the group is taken to court, the manager is a member of the Born Again sect. He always begins by reading about God. He invites the players to pray to God. Then, if there is ever a chance to choose between two cricketers, the player who came to the coach and said he wanted to join the Born Again sect will sometimes get the nod from the coach and leave the other player out.

Q: Did that happen?

A: It happened like that. Many players turned to Born Again because they thought that if they become Born Again, then they would be able to play in the team. That’s where the danger lies.

Q: Does that mean there was confidence among the players that if they became “Born Again” that they could play for the team?

A: Yes. building that trust. Thus, if someone comes to a higher position and starts sowing Born Again, his influence can definitely reach the players under him. The same thing happens with officials. Salary increases, higher positions, and contracts are all given to those who follow that belief. Everyone else fails. During the colonial period, the same thing was done. People were converted to religions. Names were changed. That’s how it goes. They turned for their own personal gain. The same trend is happening again now. Buddhists are mostly drawn to it.

Q: What is his purpose?

A: The objective is to convert them and grow their lot. Look how they have grown. Parts like this started with small rooms. But now look at the multi-storey buildings. The car park is arranged inside them. How can there be so much growth? Millions have been spent. How can they do this. Recently I heard that a wedding ceremony was held for one of Jerome’s pastors, and 1100 guests attended the Shangri-La Hotel. Look at it. They are not real Born Again parts, they are called cults in English. Cults become a cult or worship. That’s where the danger lies.

Q: Is the new generation getting into it too?

A: Yes, for commercial gain. They come directly and say that if you join this sect, you will get high positions. When you are told that God gives you these things, a man loses his self-confidence and starts thinking that God gives everything. That’s what happens.

Q: How does this effect our young athletes, especially for players coming out of school?

A: Without confidence in their abilities, they are looking for shortcuts in other aspects to play for the Sri Lankan team.

Q: Does it cause the ability to be lost?

A: Yes, you can’t go on God’s path and play cricket in the world without going on the right path. They are trying to play for the Sri Lankan Team by cheating without developing their abilities. But nothing can be done at the international level. They are useless in the international arena. Mythical views should be removed from the cricket institute too. If there are superstitions, they should also be chased away.

Q: Do these work with new technology?

A: They are all owned by new technology, new capabilities, and new fitness levels. It happens in the new world, not just in cricket but in any sports team. Religion has no place in international sports. That can be done in a traditional manner. It should not be brought into the game.

Q: Didn’t anyone suggest you join the Born Again sect?

A: I have friends. I have family members. I have been invited to join them but I have turned them down. However I have no anger towards them.

Q: Are you a Buddhist?

A: I was born into a Buddhist family and went to a Buddhist school. However, I go to church if I want to. If you want, you can go to the mosque; I have no problem with that. But more than all that, my self-confidence is valuable to me. I do what I like.

Q: Ok. Let’s go back to where we started. You have been informed in writing that you are the manager of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team?

A: I can prove that I was spoken to as the manager of ‘A’ team.

Q: You say you were fired without notice and that was not the right way?

A: If I had done something wrong, the proper way would have been to bring me in and investigate, then there is no issue.

Q: Then what are you saying?

A: The problem is that I was fired without prior notice. What is this mysterious force that goes behind my back and talks about me during the England tour. I played cricket and played for the country since I was a child, and after working in the cricket institute, I did not think that the institute would ever do such low-level work. It is not good to lie. Then the credibility of the company is destroyed. Maybe I could have been wrong or the Cricket Board could be wrong. As two parties working closely together, we could have talked and resolved it. But it is not good to lie, especially to the media.

Q: Usually, when the Sri Lankan team goes on a foreign tour, religious ceremonies are also performed. Did it happen when you were a manager?

A: Yes. It happened because that is my responsibility and also because the manager is the boss of the team.

Q: It’s not done now, is it?

A: That’s the news. As far as I know, it stopped during the Covid epidemic.

Q: Those are things that need to be done, aren’t they?

A: This is a traditional thing that has been done since the time of Robert Senanayake, when there was a governing body of Sri Lanka Cricket. As Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, this is not a religious issue. Regardless of religion, everyone wore a thread, regardless of their faith. It was put for everyone’s safety. No one questioned it. I don’t know if it has become a passion now. From the time when we were playing overseas we tied a thread together. This is not something called Buddhism it was a blessing for the team’s safety.

Q: Does the committee report handed over to the Minister mentions this?

A: That report says about ‘Born Again’. It says that if we don’t investigate this, it can cause a big disaster.

Q: You said that before?

A: I said this before this report came out since 2018. Stop it here before it becomes a question. No one listened to what I said. That’s why I had to go home three or four times after saying that. This is what the Cricket Board always did to me.

Q: Is this is a special interview ?

A: Yes. I gave this interview only to ‘Lake House’. Since it was the first to write about this. Others wrote worthless issues.

Q: What do you hope to do in the future?

A: I have two things to do. One is to be Born Again then you can go to the cricket Board again or you can tell the gods and stay at home. That means you can praise the gods and join the cricket Board. Or you can stay at home without praising the gods.