Sri Lanka Cricket paying the price for player mismanagement | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Cricket paying the price for player mismanagement

16 January, 2022
Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara would have sensed the disaster ahead
Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara would have sensed the disaster ahead

Sri Lanka is a country that has a rich culture of cricket which runs way back into the 19th century introduced by the British. On a professional level, the game was launched in the country around the year 1832 where they played their first-ever international game in their cricking journey. After many historic decades, the rise of Sri Lankan cricket was marked in the early 1970s, with the influence of some of the greatest players ever to wear the Sri Lankan colours and some wonderful man-management skills by the governing authorities the promise of dominance in world cricket was declared.

The likes of Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias, Bandula Warnapura, Sidat Wettimuny and others led the charge in that era where they fought with their hearts and souls. All of these legends’ efforts were paid off when Sri Lanka received ICC Test status in the year 1981. Thereafter Sri Lanka found their way to success in the international arena and the most remarkable revolution occurred when the golden era of Sri Lankan cricket was born.

Led by captain cool Arjuna Ranatunga, that team was the most consistent complete team ever to wear Sri Lankan colours on the big stage. This team was so decorative and elegant with the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralidaran and they lived up to their great promise and potential when the first historical moment of Sri Lankan cricket was marked in 1996 when the team lifted the ICC World Cup to bring pride and joy to a whole nation.

Later series after series were lost and harsh management decisions made the situation even worse by creating more unwanted chaos. As a nation once considered to be a dominant force in the world of cricket, this blow made a huge impact to drag down the whole nation to a cricketing disaster where they found themselves as underdogs in a world where they once used to reign. A huge number of issues can be identified that paved the way for it to happen and the most obvious reason was mismanagement.

Cricket management plays a huge role from player management to tactical management. In the recent past, Sri Lanka lost its gig in management of cricket and that came haunting them back big time. This mismanagement led to the downfall of a number of players who had great potential due to unwanted chaos that was created in the team. Poor tactical decisions, poor team selection, hiring coaches with under par standards, unwanted political influence and corruption were the main reasons that damaged the whole infrastructure of Sri Lankan cricket. The rise of countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh and teams that were under-performing in the past such as New Zealand and England started finding their rhythm, form and tactics where good and responsible management led them into a golden generation of success.

When success was floating around these countries, Sri Lanka was on a journey backwards where they found themselves not being at the performance level. Sri Lanka was forced to take a step backward. Another factor that concerned Sri Lankan cricket was confidence in the game. Confidence is a key factor that is needed in a cricketing arsenal to achieve greater heights in this sport.

This is a key factor that Sri Lanka was missing in the recent past that led to a phase where they found themselves in a shelf of disbelief and de-motivation. The main reason for this was the lack of international exposure to the young players where when a young player comes into the international arena, they feel proud to wear the national colours, but at the same time, they also feel the fear of failure. This is obvious taking a look at the profiles of young cricketers who rose up to the national team in the recent past.

Under-par domestic circuit and school cricket were also a long-term issue that was hurting Sri Lankan cricket. The heart of Sri Lankan cricket was found in its domestic and school cricket set-ups. For many years these two were the main pillars of true quality players to the nation and for their development. In the recent past, Sri Lanka lost its flavour in the absence of these two pillars in terms of its standards as well as in its potential. This has been a major concern where young players were not able to adjust to international level.

Modern-day cricket has been evolved in the last decade into more of an energetic game with the influence of the emergence of T20 cricket across the globe. High scoring games with big hitters who are beyond the mindset of surviving with innovative and remodeling cricketing techniques as well as the influence of technology for player development and training have been the main force that was formalizing the game more and more into a new phase. Sri Lanka made that mistake of not adapting to modern cricket.

Franchise cricket was another piece that was missing in the complexion of Sri Lankan cricket. “Money brings success” is a quote that is attached way down into the human theory of success and the same applies to the game of cricket nowadays along with the emergence of franchise cricket which has been an influential prospect in the cricketing calendar across the globe. Mega events such as the Indian Premier League, Caribbean Premier League, Big Bash League, The Hundred have been instrumental towards the growth of cricket along with the growth of their relevant countries’ own game.

The problem that arose with Sri Lankan cricket to fall in line with the rest was that for many years the country didn’t have a franchise league. In 2012 Sri Lanka Cricket organized a franchise league tournament but that too went into history books as a flop. Another reason that was hurting Sri Lankan cricket when considering franchise cricket was the drop in the number of players who played in the national ranks of Sri Lankan cricket not able to participate in any of the major franchise leagues across the globe.

Another factor that was there to drag down Sri Lankan cricket was the end of a golden era between 2004-2014 with five World Cup finals (3 in T20 and 2 in ODI). In the victorious 2014 edition of the T20 World Cup, the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayewardene, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralidaran, Rangana Herath and Chaminda Vaas played their part.

With the retirement of these players, Sri Lankan cricket entered a rebuilding phase where the weight of it was on the shoulders of young players who were so promising to carry out the good work those legends left behind. Any team or a group depends on their seniors. They needed to take responsibility for leading the team and guiding their young peers. In the past, this was a great practice Sri Lankans did to their best potential but after that golden era players who were the seniors that were there to take the charge and take the team forward were not able to live up to standards and the rebuilding of the team was undone by this. Seniors like Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga and Thisara Perera were responsible for not taking the team to the next level.

Misfiring young players were the other reason and Sri Lanka found itself fragile as a team and as a nation.

Major differences between the cricket board and players, player mismanagement, unfair player selection criteria and favoritism of some players who were performing below par were a practice of Sri Lanka Cricket.

This came back hurting them with the misfiring performance of those favoured players and there was not a second-string team to take over that marked one of the biggest mistakes Sri Lanka Cricket made in the recent past.