|Wholl head the Cricket Board?
Recent BCCSL elections have generated enormous interest and I tell you that this time round it will be more attention-gripping than ever before. Sumathipala and Ranatunga are bitter rivals and a lot of hot stuff will be said and done in the days to come. Some ardent cricket fans lost heart after the poor showing of our cricketers in Australia. But last weeks victory of Jayasuriya and the boys provided a shot of fresh adrenaline to lovers of the game here. Nevertheless, if we are going to be bottom of the pops at the World Cup, then the match to watch is the Sumathipala-Ranatunga battle.
Many of our readers dont know the root cause of the rivalry between the two combatants. Two years ago the Ranatunga family and Sumathipala were close buddies with Dhammika Ranatunga, Arjunas elder brother, being CEO of the Cricket Board during Sumathipalas reign. Younger brother, Prasanna, was Sumathipalas Vice President and they all worked closely together, protecting each other. Everything was tickety boo until late 2000.
Sumathipalas people have promoted the belief that Arjuna broke with Thilanga over the latters refusal to bring Ranatunga back as national captain. They claimed that as Ranatunga was sacked after Rienzie Wijetillekes interim committee came into office, he expected to be re-anointed as captain when Sumathipala returned to the BCCSL throne that year.
Thats not the story. The real bone of contention was money, oodles of it.
Something hit the fan when the time came to sell Sri Lanka crickets international television rights. Dhammika Ranatunga, during Sumathipalas absence from an executive committee meeting, batted strongly for Sony Television. But Sumathipala would have none of that and pushed the claims of WSG Nimbus. Thats where the clash started and with the stakes so high, both sides refused to budge.
Sumathipala was both shrewd and powerful enough to have his way and get rid of Dhammika. But he did not make his reasons public at that time. Although Dhammika Ranatunga threatened legal action, he did nothing because he knew his case was weak.
The Ranatungas are a close-knit family and although Arjuna was not directly involved in the dispute, the way Dhammika was treated hurt him. Thilanga probably knew better than anybody else what infuriating Arjuna could mean. But he was willing to take that risk. That says something about Sumathipala and what a strong personality he is. He was willing to brave all odds to have his own way.
However that may be, the forthcoming battle will be an interesting one. Ranatunga has quite a few backers including Upali Dharmadasa, the former Cricket Board chief and a sharp critic of the Sumathipala administration. Though an opposition MP, Ranatunga also commands the support of some government members as well as some members of the previous interim committee. While that will be his strength, Sumathipala is no easy meat.
Ranatunga boasts that he won more than 90,000 preference votes at the last general elections after campaigning only for a few months. So it wont be that difficult for him to win a Cricket Board election, he says. He is underestimating the opposition. Thilanga knows all the intricacies of Cricket Board politics and is well acquainted with what is necessary to win a cricket election. He can count on votes from quite a few clubs that had made him invincible at previous contests. Ranatunga must also contend with the fact that he (Arjuna) failed to maintain good rapport with quite few clubs during his playing days and that would cost him.
When the campaign gets into gear, several interesting propositions will be aired and there will be lot of mud slinging. Both contenders are tough cookies who wont easily give in. Sumathipala will loudly proclaim that Ranatunga knows nothing of cricket administration and should not chair the BCCSL while Ranatunga will ask how a businessman involved with the racing industry can head the Board.
Sumathipala is unlikely to keep silent about how Ranatungas name was dragged into the unpleasant match fixing controversy while Arjuna will surely talk about the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium built at a cost of Rs. 500 million. The battle is bound to rage fast and furious and there will be quite a few interesting off-field months for cricket lovers in Sri Lanka.
How it will all end will be anybodys guess and cricket fans will be hard pressed to decide whether to laugh or cry.
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