Need for Rambo-like inspiration for cricket’s revival | Sunday Observer

Need for Rambo-like inspiration for cricket’s revival

We entered the hallowed portals of the International Cricket Council 37 years ago. And there were glory days in those precincts. But now the image of Sri Lanka Cricket has been so badly tarnished by poor performance that the damage and humiliation begs the question, when will we be down-gated or booted out!

This does not give us scribes any joy to wallow in criticism. As cricket enthusiasts we join the millions of the country’s cricket fans under the weeping willow tree to ask “what next?”. What should and could be done to restore the image of Sri Lanka Cricket. At the time of writing, every adjective that is ugly in the game has been on display.

We say it in abundance on the tour in New Zealand, Australia and finally South Africa on form is going to end in disaster. The game that was described as ‘cricket, luver’ly cricket’ in Calypso style has now morphed into a flat, has been and will not be wrong to describe it ‘as cricket, ugly cricket’ in out-of-tune abundance. Read a morning newspaper, listen to the news on radio or view the news on any TV channel, email, facebook and when it comes to the sports segment, what spills out is the infighting, the disunity, name calling and other invectives that cannot be put in print. And add to all that, insults are hurled, indiscipline is rampant. All this does not speak well for the players, the game, the administration and for the country.

We can continue to moan and groan about this sad sate of affairs. No postmortems or inquests are needed to identify the ugly defeats suffered by the cricketers. Instead, the time is opportune to recall and draw inspiration and lessons from the pioneering efforts by those who sweated and toiled and were rebuked time and again by the Lords at Lord’s who refused to admit us into the portals of Test cricket, citing frivolous excuses.

But the country finally entered, to use a Bibilical term – the Promised Land. Since then there have been hard fought gains in the days of the Wettimunys, Jayasuriyas, Mahela J and Kumar Sangakkara. All of them, while not infallible and made mistakes too, stood for a disciplined approach to team play and made an art of the cricket. They had class that achieved world class. Primarily the administration of the game was in safe and competent hands. And team play was paramount. We reminisce to remind the ‘now generation’ of what trials and tribulations former guardians of the game suffered and surmounted to give cricket its rightful place in the international scene.

And now all that effort is moving rapidly toward being desecrated. Those were the days when stewardship was very seriously taken. The Late Gamini Dissanyake who could be rightly called the Messiah of Sri Lanka cricket and the guardian angels of cricket at that time – Abu Fuard, Daham Wimalasena, R. Rajamahendren, T.Murugesar, Nisal Seneratne and others whose names are too numerous to mention gave their all to raise the standard of the game to a pinnacle with the winning of the World Cup in 1995/96. They were determined to confound those who stood against Sri Lanka’s entry by displaying a “yes we can” spirit. After watching in frustration for years the snubbing by the ICC every time we ventured into seeking entry to the house of the cricket lords at Lord’s, we had men --nay Giants-- of the calibre of Abu Fuard who fought for justice with substance rather than use political clout. He did so by having a strong and disciplined administration that delivered. They created their own revolution in the administration and took firm control. Then there was the tremendous effort put in by then President of the BCCSL Robert Senanayake to break the shackles and enter the ICC. But he failed but never gave up but gracefully called on others to help. Fuard was rubbing Alladin’s lamp to find the genie to grant his wish that of entering the ICC and bracketing the local game with the best in the world.

And that genie came in the form of the game’s Messiah whose name deserves to be mentioned not only in bold letters, but letters of gold GAMINI DISSANAYAKE who became President of BCCSL unanimously. Dissanayake an illustrious Trinitian was fed all the cricketing ammunition by Fuard, Wimalasena, Rajamahendren, Murugesar and Senaratne. Dissanayake took his stance before the ‘white’ dominated ICC at a meeting at Lord’s fired stinging verbal volleys making a case demanding inclusion. For the first time the ‘Lords’ were floored like when the great Muhammed Ali got Henry Cooper to hit the canvass and admitted defeat. The end result was the acknowledgement and admission into the elite league. Everything the game lacked, infrastructure and wherewithal, Dissanayake put in place in double quick time. There was nothing that the game lacked, that others had. While Dissanayake padded up as administrator helped by Wimalasena, Rajamahendren and Seneratne, he handed over the destinies of the game to Fuard. Fuard did not let his master down and acted as a true leader cum facilitator. Sri Lanka became the youngest cricket playing nation to win Test matches in a short stint in the big league beating Kapil Dev’s Indians and Imran Khan’s Pakistanis. If the game is to get anywhere near sniffing distance of what esteem and joy it was held then, it requires searching for another Dissanayake, Fuard and the names mentioned. One also needs mention that the 1984 team to England to play the first ever Test match at Lord’s put the strong England team to second best with a sterling effort.

When that team to tour was picked Dissanayake handed over the training of that team to Rajamahendren. Rajamahendren to whom nothing matters than success had the ‘courage to be different’. And what he did, even spending his own money, he helped to tune that team to a delta force that would do better than the strong England team. To inspire and motivate the team Rajamahendren got some of the best mentors and motivators to pep the team up and inspire them with attaining the impossible by not only pep talk but with films of dare devilry like ‘Those who dare win’ and ‘Rocky.’ That the team performed Rambo like in that one-off Test at Lord’s is an outcome of such mentoring and coaching. The writer goes down memory lane recalling the men who did wonders for the game so that those going to be elected soon to run Sri Lanka Cricket will take a leaf from them and attempt to emulate them and rescue the game that is at the moment gasping for breath.

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