Short sighted past selections causing issues today

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2017-09-17

Sri Lanka Cricket and its experts are trying and working hard to find the way forward to overcome the current teams decline. The reasons for such a situation are still being searched. Many from the most qualified to the fan on the street have their opinions and most of it has very good substance when closely examined.

One thing about the issue causing the current problem is that it can't be confined to a particular reason or two. Besides it has to be accepted that such problems don't have a quick fix and the process could be a more drawn out affair. Besides it's not certain whether it's a fair assessment to blame one set of administrators for the current losses on the field in as much a single set can't be credited for success either.

Players and their development and identification are based on a long term plan. Therefore, it becomes a process for a player to graduate to a national team. It's akin to the process how a player in his career goes through many coaches from different age groups.

In the end his survival will depend on his strength and largely on decisions the respective administrators take at the time of their helm.

The situation today is based on the inconsistent selection policies adopted and how it has impacted the national team. Once again it's plainly obvious that the thinking is not the only reason though when examined closely it could be a major factor. It could be analyzed and believed that selection has been an issue especially in the past. Inconsistency and favouritism used to regularly raise its ugly head. It was common knowledge that one selector, especially one who had served the panel in an unbroken sequence, had even asked for bribes from players to select them. None of the players ever came out in the open to testify against such happenings, though it was common knowledge to everyone and how certain players got picked regularly. There was also a player or two who were playing ball with the said selector and knew teams and squads beforehand during the past, which can confirm the theory.

As stated, most players with self-respect never subscribed to the overtures from this said selector through his group and sadly the affair paled into insignificance. At the recent brain storming meeting organized by the Ministry of Sports, Lasith Malinga; an outspoken personality but with a very knowledgeable cricket head, was heard harping on the fact that a generation of cricketers were lost due to ill-conceived policies. The above factor only reinforces awareness of such happenings. This writer in his limited capacity of a player, administrator and a media person for the last forty years in cricket has been privy to the said happenings and can only endorse it.

Malinga was bold enough to mention names of players who were lost to Sri Lanka in this cause and some of them were Malinda Warnapura, Kaushalya Weeraratne, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Malinga Bandara, Chamara Silva, Jeewantha Kulathunga, Indika de Saram, Nuwan Zoysa, Jehan Mubarak, Michael Vandort etc. The list can go on and on and the blunders of some of the then selectors were immense.

Again I must reiterate that this accusation is not directed at every selector, but some of them who served either in a committee or in an individual capacity with influence during the first ten years of the new millennium. To most the impact was not seen as the pillars of the team such as Jayawardane, Sangakkara, Dilshan, Muralidaran, Vaas were very much in the thick of things and almost all the time carried the burden of the team.

This brings me to my next observation about the phasing out and the retirement of the greats. This is where then selectors erred greatly, either due to misguided policies as they are seen now or intentionally. It is moot to know in hindsight how some of the selectors who, in my opinion, caused this situation which is in discussion, would approach the question about the said players. Shockingly they would say that 'A' teams and emerging teams are for the younger players to develop and insisted on selecting the said batch of players only.

When questioned about some of the seniors mentioned here, again the answer was, "experienced seniors had nothing to prove and didn't need to play at the lower level," which was totally wrong and the repercussions are clearly visible.

I honestly had no issues in blooding youngsters then, but said seniors also should have been given a decent chance. Eventually these senior players had no cricket to play and when not selected in preference of a younger player the common excuse was the selected youngster had a good record to show at 'A' team and emerging, which was a laughable reason. This is especially similar to an expert verdict with the other person not having a chance to stake his case.

The end result was most of them turning away from Sri Lanka cricket for greener pastures such as Australia to earn their living.
I am writing this as a new set of selectors headed by former fast bowler Graham Labrooy has been appointed and they do have the unenviable task of picking teams for the future. Hence, my hope is they would, when forming policies, consider all factors and everyone concerned to create a win-win environment with equality based on performance than anything else. This would at least inspire confidence in the Sri Lankan player to endure a bit more with the ultimate hope of playing for the country. Good luck to the new set of selectors.

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