Malinga ex­plodes at Min­istry probe into cricket de­ba­cle

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT - By Champika Fer­nando

It had been doubted whether Sri Lanka ex­ploited the home ad­van­tage by pre­par­ing pitches suit­able to the strengths and weak­nesses of the home team in the re­cent series against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and In­dia. Malinga’s com­ments ap­peared to put those ru­mours to rest.

Crick­eter La­sith Malinga launched a scathing at­tack on Sri Lanka Cricket ( SLC) for pre­par­ing wick­ets against the wishes of the na­tional team dur­ing the re­cent home series de­feat to In­dia.

Mak­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at a brain­storm­ing ses­sion in Bat­tara­mulla to cre­ate a new di­rec­tion for SLC and trans­form the team’s for­tunes, Malinga high­lighted sev­eral key fac­tors that he thinks have con­trib­uted to the cur­rent wor­ry­ing state of the game.

“When we asked for a grass track, they trim the grass and give us a grass less track,” he said. “When we asked why the grass was cut, they say they used the wrong blade. This has hap­pened not once but twice. I no­ti­fied the au­thor­i­ties but noth­ing hap­pened. I am not say­ing we lost matches be­cause of that but, when things don’t hap­pen the way we want, the play­ers lose con­fi­dence.”

It had been doubted whether Sri Lanka ex­ploited the home ad­van­tage by pre­par­ing pitches suit­able to the strengths and weak­nesses of the home team in the re­cent series against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and In­dia. Malinga’s com­ments ap­peared to put those ru­mours to rest.

Malinga also asked SLC to in­vest on qual­ity coaches. “We have a lot of coaches but we need to ask whether we have the right coaches,” he said. “And whether they are qual­i­fied enough to help the smooth tran­si­tion of the play­ers. For in­stance, if a player is go­ing through a bad patch, the coach should be able to help him re­gain his con­fi­dence and come back strong.”

He was crit­i­cal of the ap­point­ment of the Si­mon Willis, a crick­eter with just 16 first class matches un­der his belt, to the im­por­tant po­si­tion of High Per­for­mance Man­ager.

“Are we rest­ing the fu­ture of our cricket on a man who has no proper first class ex­pe­ri­ence?” he asked. “We should have ap­pointed some­one with nec­es­sary qual­i­fi­ca­tions and knowl­edge. We have given the re­spon­si­bil­ity to a man who has played just 16 matches and scored less than 100 runs in his ca­reer. This is a big mis­take.”

“When a na­tional player went out of the na­tional squad, they were not al­lowed to use train­ing fa­cil­i­ties by this man,” he con­tin­ued.” We spoke about this but there was no so­lu­tion. So we had to go back to our clubs for train­ing.”

Malinga was also vo­cal about the poli­cies of selec­tors which led to a lost gen­er­a­tion of crick­eters in the last decade. He urged au­thor­i­ties not to re­peat the mis­take.

“There was a pub­lic per­cep­tion some time back that we should con­sider crick­eters for na­tional duty straight from school,” he said. “So, when the selec­tors gave into the pub­lic per­cep­tion and started look­ing at young play­ers, those with first class ex­pe­ri­ence got a raw deal.”

“We wouldn’t be in this sit­u­a­tion had we man­aged play­ers like Thilina Kan­damby, Chamara Ka­pugedara, Malinda War­na­pura, Je­han Mubarak, Kaushal Lokuarachachi and Kaushalya Weer­aratne who had enough first class ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind them at that time,” he as­serted. “It’s all gone for us now. So I ap­peal you to not to make the same mis­take again and, if you do it, our fate will be the same in few years time.”

Ad­mit­ting that the coun­try’s first class struc­ture needed re­vamp­ing to pro­duce crick­eters with qual­ity, Malinga said all first class matches should be played on Test venues to help play­ers ac­cli­ma­tise to in­ter­na­tional con­di­tions.

He­maka Amara­suriya, a for­mer SLC Chair­man, Aravinda de Silva, the for­mer head of the cricket com­mit­tee, in­sisted on a con­sis­tent se­lec­tion pol­icy where play­ers are given ad­e­quate time to set­tle into their po­si­tions. De Silva is ex­pected to re­place Jayan­tha Dhar­madasa as Vice Pres­i­dent in charge of in­ter­na­tional cricket in the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee.

The one-day brain­storm­ing ses­sion was at­tended by the mem­bers of the na­tional team, for­mer crick­eters, board em­ploy­ees and a host of other in­vi­tees in­clud­ing for­mer cricket ad­min­is­tra­tors and Sports Min­istry of­fi­cials. It fo­cused on ad­dress­ing key is­sues like re­vamp­ing the do­mes­tic cricket struc­ture, a con­sis­tent se­lec­tion pol­icy and mak­ing SLC more trans­par­ent and ac­count­able.

How­ever, the meet­ing was snubbed by sev­eral for­mer play­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors who have been lob­by­ing hard for a change of guard in the wake of re­cent de­feats.

“I have in­vited al­most ev­ery­one in­clud­ing Ar­juna Ranatunga and Si­dath Wet­timuny to come and share their opin­ions so that we could pre­pare a blue­print to Sri Lanka Cricket for im­ple­men­ta­tion,” Sports Min­is­ter Daya s i r i J aya s e k e r a said. “Un­for­tu­nately, they are not here. Isn’t this the best fo­rum for them to come for­ward and help the game?” He said he will not heed to the de­mand of ap­point­ing an in­terim com­mit­tee.

Min­is­ter Jayasek­era promised that, once the post-brain­storm­ing re­port is com­piled, he will press for im­ple­men­ta­tion of pro­posed changes. “I will make sure these rec­om­men­da­tions are im­ple­mented,” he said. SLC chief Thi­langa Su­math­ipala, too, said he’s ready to carry out the rec­om­men­da­tions.

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