Sanga and Mahela, photo by Dhammika Heenpella/Images of Sri Lanka
Kumar Sangakkara gave a wide-ranging and very interesting speech on the spirit of cricket. It is notable that cricket has reached the pinnacle of awesomeness on the subcontinent, but also its
barnacle nadir of shame. For every 1996 World Cup or IPL thrill, there is a story of corruption or match-fixing. The challenge for cricket is maintaining the vigor of Indic play while still remaining a gentleman’s game, or at least a fan’s one.
Sanga’s Speech (Excerpts)
For Sri Lanka to be able to select a national team it must have membership of the Sports Ministry. No team can be fielded without the final approval of the Sports Minister. It is indeed a unique system where the board appointed selectors can at any time be overruled and asked to reselect a side already chosen.
Unless the administration is capable of becoming more professional, forward-thinking and transparent then we risk alienating the common man. Indeed, this is already happening. Loyal fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned. This is very dangerous because it is not the administrators or players that sustain the game – it is the cricket-loving public. It is their passion that powers cricket and if they turn their backs on cricket then the whole system will come crashing down.
The solution to this may be the ICC taking a stand to suspend member boards with any direct detrimental political interference and allegations of corruption or mismanagement.
Between The Lines
If you read between the lines he’s saying that there is direct political interference (from the Sports Minister). He’s also implying this was what was behind the World Cup debacle, where Sri Lanka changed a successful squad at the last minute and lost due largely to that mistake. He’s saying that this a bad thing, and the recent ICC moves are in the right direction. Which is pretty bold.
The response of Sri Lankan politicians to the corruption and epic failings has been much like an Arab dictator. Reshuffle or sack the cricket board. Nevermind that the problem is the top, in this case the Sports Minister and probably the President. Sanga is saying that the balance of power is held by the fans, which is rather revolutionary if you think about it.
By supporting the ICC decision (in an extremely politically correct way), Sanga is actually taking a stand against the politicians. If you look the recent ICC decision, it’s this:
The ICC Annual Conference unanimously supported a proposal to amend the ICC Articles of Association to provide for the important principle of free elections and the independence of Member Boards.
In a roundabout way, I think he’s rightly calling for more than a reshuffle of the board, he’s calling for an end to political interference altogether.
But that’s just me putting words in his mouth. His speech at Lord’s was wide ranging and very interesting, long but worth a read, as embedded below.