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The secret hand behind the Cricket Board elections

By S. R. Pathirawithana

The Sunday Times was the first to say it. Yet, it was no secret – the Sri Lanka Cricket which was under the rule of an ‘Interim Committee’ for seven long years (If the queen permits that idiom) finally got down to the business of electing members to the beleaguered sports body at the behest of the ICC. Nevertheless the idea of having the ‘yes men’ in the system had gone in deeply and there was no way that the trend could be reversed. Then when it came to the elections, the same yes men who had been at the helm of the government appointed Interim Committee were ready to take the reins as members of the elected body.

Perhaps, the system understands that this is one way to keep a section of their people happy and under their wings. (Perhaps for a while the seat was a toss up between the two Dharmadasa brothers – Upali and Jayantha, who was the interim body chairman from 2005-2007. But a reported compromise made way for Upali to take the first turn at the helm).

At the initial stages the pen learned through the grapevine that it was only a change of names and the same Interim Committee that was last in power was going to take over as an elected body as a result of an unopposed election. So with the blessings of the system, Upali Dharmadasa was ready for the change of the title – from chairman of the Interim Committee to president of Sri Lanka Cricket. So much so, only a few days before the last Interim Committee was dissolved Upali Dharmadasa, who once held the title of the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, some his colleagues were in India on a mission of bridge building on their own steam in an attempt to renegotiate India’s upcoming Sri Lanka tour so that it could be made into a limited over series instead of a cash-tight three-Test series. India’s Test-only decision was largely attributed to a series of misunderstandings between the BCCI and the D.S. de Silva administration that preceded the Upali Dharmadasa administration. A full Indian tour of Sri Lankan means a substantial cash reprieve for Sri Lanka.

While these moves were taking place at the top half, the vote base of the cricket community -- where the majority is the club affiliates -- was assessing the situation. However what disturbed them the most was the move by the Dharmadasa IC’s Cricket Committee (CC) led by former Sri Lanka captain Michael Tissera to move the Provincial Cricket over the Club Cricket and reorganize that as the premier league in Sri Lanka.

The CC was also planning to segment the clubs into provincial zones and thus develop a new culture. Then the ultimate result would be that the club zones would run their own provinces with the aim of building their own provincial team and also building their own administrative system. This meant in the long run the clubs themselves would have a lesser say in the direct administration of the game. The members of the SLC direct administration would be the few heads of the provincial system. It looked quite a philosophical move with far reaching yields as the game would grow to be a lean and mean entity on and off the field.

But the clubs were not going to jeopardize their hold on the game. Through this jolt the moves began. The clubs wanted to show a team under Thilanga Sumathipala which had more credibility. So they coaxed people of the calibre of Ana Punchihewa, who agreed to be a part, but was not prepared to go in for a contest.

Initially the Thilanga group seeing their bench strength was under the impression that the sheer numbers would throw panic into the Upali camp and they would succumb to pressure. At least Upali Dharmadasa who had the blessings of the system was unperturbed. He was confident that his path was clear.

Then came the news that Nishantha Ranatunga who was the secretary of the notorious DS gang was coming forward for the same position also with the blessings of the system. This caused some ripples in the Upali camp and the secretary-nominate from their ranks – Prakash Schaffter -- along with treasurer-hopeful Nimal Perera had to make a retreat because they were not in favour of facing a contest.

Then just prior to Sumathipala handed his nominations Ana Punchihewa who was going to be one of the vice presidents along with former SLC president Mohan de Silva pulled out. While these moves were in progress, behind the curtains there were hectic negotiations going on to have a shared body and an uncontested election, but, both sides held on to their pound of flesh and the negotiations broke down.

Then as expected the iceberg began to melt. Thilanga Sumathipala who had settled in for a good bout in the ring suddenly moved out of the competition, leaving Upali Dharmadasa and little known Sumith Perera from Badureliya SC (who was expected to and did also at the last moment) to go in for the contest.

Meanwhile Upali Dharmadasa though not inviting the young Ranatunga into his camp left the post of secretary uncontested and the move was more than obvious. The system was at work. Though Sumathipala pulled out one of the other power towers in cricket, where the club entity was concerned -- Michael de Zoysa the SSC stalwart was contesting the post of secretary along with the rest of the gang minus Thilanga.

Then with a few hours left for the elections finally the towel was thrown in. Mohan de Silva who was leading the headless Thilanga gang cried, “The Sri Lanka Cricket elections are not held in just and fair manner. The procedure prior to the elections violated the cricket board constitution. We have made our protest. We will not contest this election”.

Only the post of assistant treasurer was contested and Upali camp Ajita Pasqual beat little known Nihal Leuke by a huge margin. Next we saw the SLC machine celebrating – “Sri Lanka cricket is pleased to announce the composition of the executive committee members elected at the board elections held on 3rd January 2012.”

President- Upali Dharmadasa,Secretary - Nishantha Ranatunga,Vice Presidents - KMathivanan,Asanga Seneviratne,Treasurer -Nuski Mohamed,Asst Treasurer-Ajita Pasqual, Asst Secretary -Hirantha Perera Controlling Clubs - Dunstan Goluhewa,Camilus Abeygoonawardene,A J M Muzamil Affiliated Clubs- Jayananda Warnaweera, Harigupta Rohanadeera District Cricket Associations -Tilina Tennekoon, Lalith Rambukkawela Member Cricket Associations -Lt. Col. Shiran Abeysekera, A T Rauff Tournament Committee-Roshan Iddamalgoda(Chairman) Priyantha Upul, S Osmund, Kavindra Liyanage,Manoj Karriyapperuma Umpires Committee-A R M Aroos,(Chairman) Lal Ranasinghe, Hiran Jayamanne,Dumindu Hemal,Minesh Jayasekera Sponsorship Committee-Marlon Fernandopulle,Rajan Udeshi, Anusha Abeysinghe,Anil de Silva, Prithiviraj Gunathilake Tour Organizing Committee -Jayalath Aponsu, Lal Perera,Mangala Kumara, Tiranjan Fernando Every dark cloud has its own silver lining. With this move another message is written. Thilanga Sumathipala who was invincible for more than a decade after building up his vote base while taking Lankan cricket politics into the oblivion now has learned that there are other ways of fighting fire. We are not saying that two wrongs make one right, but only wondering where all this is going to take Lankan cricket.

- Sunday Times

Posted on 2012-01-10 08:56:15
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