Winning the ’96 Cricket World Cup was a big mistake | Daily News

Winning the ’96 Cricket World Cup was a big mistake

It is not for the first time in its chequered history that Sri Lanka Cricket finds itself with a court injunction that has postponed the elections scheduled to have been held on May 31. Now that one party has been successful in bringing about a court injunction preventing the previous office bearers from re-contesting, the governing body for the sport in the country has now once again come under the Competent Authority of the Minister of Sport until a final verdict is given by the court to hold the election.

From a cricketing point of view winning the World Cup changed the entire country’s approach to cricket. It not only brought immense joy to millions of fans but also made every parent want their sons to become cricketers and make the sport a career.

It brought in a host of sponsors, opened up new avenues for coaching etc, etc and made the national cricket team one of the most sought after where countries were prepared to pay money and host them just to see the World Cup champions in action.

It is something similar to what India is today although it was not on such a large scale as it is today.

What the World Cup win did to Sri Lanka Cricket was it filled its coffers so much that it made it the richest sports body in the country and opened the doors to individuals with business and vested interests who wanted to get elected to office not only for prestige but also to boost their businesses making use of the high seat.

Over time the election has led to one of the bitterest contests in local sport to hold office and now become so ugly with politicians also trying to grab the limelight and making use of their political clout and money to attract votes.

In such a scenario there is no chance for a genuine lover of cricket to come forward and hold office because he will be easily defeated.

What once was a bastion where officials got elected to honestly serve the game has today turned into one where officials are looking at ways and means of taking something out of it by filling their pockets with the hard earned money brought by the sweat and toil of our cricketers.

The rot started barely two weeks after Sri Lanka had won the World Cup on March 17, 1996 when at the 48th annual general meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (as it was then known) on March 31 incumbent president Ana Punchihewa was defeated by Upali Dharmadasa in a stunning reversal of voting by a margin of five votes.

The Daily News report on the election penned by the author said: “Punchihewa was too stunned to realise that he had lost. ‘It was totally unexpected. I was seven to eight votes ahead on Saturday. But it is very sad that certain clubs voted against their mandate. I blame the current system,’ he said.

“Punchihewa lost largely through the affiliated clubs who have one vote each. He received only two votes to Dharmadasa’s 13. Otherwise, Punchihewa held a 56-50 lead through Cricket Association and Controlling Club votes, each of whom have two votes.

“It also gave the outside world a clear insight to the cricket administration in this country. Here is a country that has just won the most prestigious prize in cricket - the World Cup, and a fortnight later, the country’s Cricket Board head is defeated by election. What price gratitude?

“The actions of the voting clubs have made Sri Lanka the laughing stock of the entire cricket world.

“If this is how the voters treat a man like Punchihewa, who during his one year in office has done a lot for the game, then his successor (Dharmadasa) will be wearing an uneasy crown on his head.

“The clubs who voted for financial benefits have shown a lack of moral values. Gone are the days when a Cricket Board AGM was looked forward to as a honourable and clean election. Today, it has turned out be one of the dirtiest campaigns to wrest control of the most treasured post in Sri Lankan sports.”

At that time Punchihewa had the foresight to blame the system in existence for such a shocking turnaround.

The current system of electing office-bearers hasn’t changed much since then to have a greater bearing on the voting today. Unless there are constitutional changes brought within the framework the musical chairs will go on and Sri Lanka cricket will continue to be the great loser.


 

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