Let’s just say, if you are not living under a rock, or Sri Lanka, whichever is more under the soil now, you would know that Sri Lanka are very lucky. In fact, incredibly lucky to be playing international cricket. But does the buck end there?
If you are not a stranger to Sri Lankan cricket, you would have expected the downfall to happen, after Mahela Jayawardene ‘politely’ declined to coach the national cricket team, instead taking up the top job with Mumbai Indians. Now it is a crime, a real crime to be comparing an international side with a club team, which incidentally only happens to be playing internationally.
Now let’s go on with it, the mess - Sri Lankan cricket - is a well-known one, in fact, well renowned now, thanks to Andrew Fidel Fernando, who was nearly considered to be in the squad for the series against India. All of it only came about because of Arjuna Ranatunga, the man who won a World Cup for the Islanders in the 1996 edition of the World Cup.
"This is a second-string Indian team and their coming here is an insult to our cricket. I blame the current administration for agreeing to play with them due to television marketing needs," Ranatunga said.
In this day and age we are living in, one comment is enough to spark a war. ‘Messi is better than Ronaldo, ‘It is coming home,’ are mere examples of it. But Ranatunga took it personally, in fact, took it more personally than the offended English football fans living in India. If you dissect his comment very carefully, you will understand how this series is of utmost importance for Sri Lanka, not just because they are facing India.
They are facing India, the Indian media and the Indian Twitter community, who claim Shubman Gill as even better than Rohit Sharma. But let’s leave that to another day. He called the Indian team that is in Sri Lanka an ‘insult’. Now that’s where the irony kicks-in. Let's be honest, no one cares about Sri Lanka as much as India and rightfully so, even a third-grade Indian team can topple off the Islanders.
If anything, Sri Lanka should be thankful to the BCCI for even sending a team, now even more, when the team has one of the coveted global T20 stars, Suryakumar Yadav. To set the context, England had to cross an ocean and take the bullet in the longest format to set up an appointment with the Mumbai Indians star. Sri Lanka should, in fact, be thankful that Suryakumar has decided to grace his presence in the country.
Even if you put aside the ‘B’ team comments for a while, it would last longer than the time Sri Lanka did in the field across six white-ball clashes against England. If anything, they should include ‘rain’ as a member of the squad for the upcoming series against India, something that potentially could save their face, in case they had one.
Now the real point, the real focus, or so as they call it, the real problem - a war over contract, one that sparked immense controversy. Believe it or not, their problems on the field are not even problems, at least according to how the team has been reacting. If one woke up and the first article they read was the contractual issue, they would automatically assume that Stephen Curry’s wages are too-pricey and his skills overtly overrated.
But if you had an iota of his talent, this team would be competing with the best, not getting dunked under pressure against Bangladesh, a side that was still learning to play cricket when Sri Lanka won the title in 1996. As Fidel Fernando put it, “On one side are a playing group whose on-field output is barely fit to be mentioned in the same column as that of former Lankan sides. On the other side, well, is the Sri Lankan cricket board.”
Even if you call it classic negotiating, there are two sides to the negotiation - the performer and the evaluator. Unfortunately, in this case, a case study of Sri Lankan cricket, there is only one party, shambolic. Neither the Board nor the players, both of whom have proven to be highly incompetent, are in a stand-point where their words hold of any value. Forget the contract system that they established, or even tried establishing, or even failed trying to establish or let’s just call it an ‘embarrassment,’ even then the players were fortunate enough to get themselves a contract.
29 players out of the 30 groups of players shortlisted agreed to a contract, the remaining one, the sane one, the wise one or Angelo Mathews, as he is named, backed out of the entire mess. Even the Sri Lankan legends team that played in the Road Safety series would have more wins internationally and intentionally than the men’s team.
The real mess - captaincy - has gone around like a merry-go-round on a one-house street, where there are only two kids. While the merry-go-round in the past might have been part of the mega carnival, well lit by the presence of Kumar Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and even Lasith Malinga, to an extent, the present location of the carnival has made it a ‘mockery’ than a lottery. Two real options existed, Kusal Perera was the ‘chosen’ one for the England series, with Dasun Shanaka being considered as the newest option.
If you are being really honest, no captain, not even say MS Dhoni out of retirement, could save the state of Sri Lankan cricket. Now the stand-off is really between Shanaka and Shanaka’s cricketing ability, for becoming the new leader of the ‘now contracted’ Sri Lankan players. The mess is not stopping any time soon. Just have a look around, the Lanka Premier League, the league which was considered to be a ‘retirement home’ for already retired Indian stars, is on the verge of being postponed.
One has to be terribly honest. The tournament has been postponed more times than it has been conducted and, to add to that, even when it was conducted, it was marred by rain, who ultimately should have won the Player of the Tournament but that’s for a later time. If that, somehow, gets postponed, like it always does, take it as a surprise, cause this is the least of Sri Lankan cricket’s problems. Look at Australia, a successful team, which thrashed India at home, oh wait, maybe not that.
It makes ‘complete’ sense for the tournament to be postponed, say sources in the know (which are completely made up, like the promised players in the first season). But the larger problem here is not LPL or the Sri Lankan Cricket board or the players, who are often called Hasaranga and co like they were a local Asian store in Britain should be postponed. Instead, the entire Sri Lankan cricket should be postponed, a country that had won two World Cups, when they had a chance of winning more than that.
A country that was called home to Sanath Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Muralitharan, Aravinda de Silva, Chaminda Vaas is now restricted merely to one player - Pinnaduwage Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva, whose name is actually smaller than Vaas’.
The downright reality is, this Sri Lankan team, for whichever lens you want to wear, is a team that is made up of ‘stars’ available in the country. Until 2020's LPL, Sri Lanka's top T20 tournaments were either bloated 23-team affairs or strange "provincial" tournaments that barely lasted two weeks, as Fidel put it.
Where do we even start, you ask? The terrible state of affairs is that Sri Lankan cricket has more problems than they have won in the ODI Super League. In fact, their cricketing abilities have been restricted in such a way that the Netherlands needed just one series to go past their points in the Super League. Instead of watching the national side masquerade pain as a sport, instead of cricket, the Sri Lankan national team, yes you guessed it right, Hasaranga and the others should spend time at home, on their couch, watching other teams play.
PS - All content in this article is true and, more than that, it is an accurate reflection of the state of Sri Lankan cricket. But for reasons unknown, let us leave it as a Satire and call it ‘peace’.