Sri Lanka Cricket goes from shoestring to heavy stocking | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Cricket goes from shoestring to heavy stocking

25 June, 2023

A once beggarly organisation now supports jet-setting players whose predecessors never had a penny in their pockets:

There are no known experts or bank governors running the economic affairs at the country’s richest sporting institution, but Sri Lanka Cricket has come full cycle from a beggarly organization to a corporate company that can even keep a government from crumbling, at least momentarily.

This week Sri Lanka Cricket boasted that it had surpassed all past revenue rakings and made a colossal Rs 23 billion in profits thanks to what has become a household brand name and public passion that is also the pride of a nation otherwise cornered internationally over political abuses and downright economic corruption that is no longer a taboo topic.

Increase in International Cricket Council (ICC) funding, revenue generated from playing international cricket and sponsorship contracts have all contributed, according to SLC, for the giant leap in the massive financial turnover.

“We have been able to carefully manage our US dollar account in a way to suit the income that we earn,” said SLC secretary Mohan de Silva who himself can count nearly 20 years in cricket administration.

De Silva first entered SLC as a virtual cub among the tigers, invited by the now given-up Thilanga Sumathipala in 1999, and is considered one of the last remaining public-relations faces in the island’s cricket set-up.

“We dearly needed this kind of income to march forward with our international stadium revamping business and the upgrading of lesser clubs,” said De Silva.

Ironically the financial turnover comes at a time opponents of the sport’s administration, including former greats of the game, are clamouring for a change in the system that they claim has nurtured financial mismanagement and abuse of position for self gain by officials, a charge dismissed by Shammi Silva the incumbent head of SLC as mere envy and jealousy.

“They (opponents) are good at making baseless claims,” Silva told journalists just minutes after he was reelected for a third two-year term last month.

“Most of the people (who call for change) are trying to get in because of the money and they have past records.”

He had no match as his opponents who were expected to throw in the dice, threw in the towel and Silva and his team had the last laugh on the sidelines.

He is now seemingly one of the most influential personalities in sports governance in the island who has even wooed opponents to join him while Opposition politicians called for his ouster in the aftermath of a team debacle at last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia where players violated the code of conduct and one of them faces a court case over rape.

But Silva and his administrative team also bask in State patronage after SLC bailed out the government with a huge donation of Rs. 500 million that it said was made to improve and prop up urgent needs at the country’s life-saving cancer hospital.

At the same time SLC also provided almost Rs. 400 million to the national sports development fund and propped up a penniless Netball Federation that could not reward its players who returned home as Asian champs and received a celebrity welcome with a street parade usually reserved for the adored cricket team.

Prosperity at SLC has also brought Sri Lanka’s present crop of cricketers untold riches and financial gains in a way that their predecessors who won a World Cup in 1996 did not have and above all made pre-Test era cricketers of the 1970s paupers of their time, thrown into the deep end to fly the flag with nothing asked or given.

Win or lose it is super luxury pampering for present day players who drive the latest model cars, jet-set to play in enticing Leagues across the globe and get the best Seven-star comforts representing the Sri Lanka team.

No longer are Sri Lankan cricket administrators running the game and team on a shoestring budget like their predecessors did nearly half a century ago while corporate companies rush in to promote their goods and services on television thanks to the image of the players and public craving to see them play.

“Today it is Christmas everyday whether you are a player or administrator and the stockings are always full. But at least we are pleased that what we sacrificed was not in vain.

“Like in some cases prosperity comes not because you have done something in the present, but because something had to be done in the past,” said a former batsman who was in the team that won the World Cup in 1996.