Sidath Wettimuny says both domestic cricket and Sri Lanka Cricket need reworking
Sidath Wettimuny blames Sri Lanka Cricket’s top brass and whimsical selection for their decline whilst urging revamp of the domestic cricket structure and the board constitution to end the current “chaos”.india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Sep 06, 2017 11:08 IST
Former Sri Lanka batsman Sidath Wettimuny had scored two brilliant Test centuries, in Pakistan and England, in the country’s formative years at international level. Two years ago, he headed the interim committee of Sri Lanka Cricket.
However, the national team is on the verge of suffering a full series whitewash against India after timid performances in the Test and ODI series.
Sidath Wettimuny, in an interview to Hindustan Times, blames Sri Lanka Cricket’s top brass and whimsical selection, and urges urgent revamp of the domestic cricket structure and the board constitution to end the current “chaos”.
How worried are you about the current state of Sri Lankan cricket?
Very, because the way I see it, this is just something that has built up over time. Our first class cricket structure has been so bad for quite a while and nothing has been done about it and we’re paying the price.
Two, it’s a reflection of the turbulence in our cricket administration, guys coming and going, coaches coming and going all the time. The selection process has also been inconsistent.
(Interim chief coach) Nic Pothas called it ‘too many cooks’ and then retracted his statement?
Certainly one issue is that. There is lot of instability and it shows in the players as well. So many things that are happening have brought about negativity, a lack of confidence in our cricket.
How can you recover from this low phase?
I don’t know whether there can be a quick fix. I am sure we can bounce back, We’ve talent, we just need to bring in a lot more discipline with positive thinking. I’m sure we can do a lot better even with the current crop of players given the right environment and right conditions, except that there is so much instability, interference.
We must sort out our first-class structure. Some of us have been shouting about it for a long time. We have been sitting on our laurels thinking we won a World Cup in 1996. We think club cricket can do what it takes.
But if you look at cricket all over the world, they have progressed while we have done absolutely nothing. We have in fact diluted our club cricket, expanding it from 14 clubs to 24 clubs.
Our club cricket is played over three days. Some of these matches don’t even last that long. How could you expect our cricketers to get the kind of exposure and experience they need to play international cricket?
Who do you blame for this?
I blame the club cricket administrators a lot. They have always had this belief there is nothing bigger than club cricket and there should be nothing more than club cricket.
I was the chairman of the interim committee. We wanted to bring in state cricket, Mahela Jayawardene had spoken about it, to bring in the necessary infrastructure, people that needs to be in place, etc. But as soon as we left (Jan 2016) it was thrown out of the window. This keeps repeatedly happening.
I have been saying for the last five years, before long Bangladesh will overtake us. We are in a bad situation and we need to reverse this fast. But I don’t think any of that will happen until we change the constitution and end the politics.
But we have 147 votes. There are 46 votes in India and your Supreme Court has told (BCCI) to bring it down to 30. That tells you the story. We have clubs that have two votes, and they don’t even play cricket.
Arjuna Ranatunga has heavily criticised SLC. Has it helped?
The need to change has been there for a long time. But sadly we are bogged down in the same system. Ultimately, we come under the ministry of sports and the sports minister, it’s for the government to make a decision.
The Sri Lankan team doesn’t seem to have any leadership either?
We have had four captains in this series (five in all). That should tell you the story. It’s crazy. It’s just a state of chaos. In this scenario, nobody is able to perform.
How do you bring about a change?
Sport is a funny thing, you can bounce back if the right conditions and environment are in place. Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of talent. We have so many school cricketers coming out all the time.
Per capita we have more players than anywhere else in the world. It’s just that the right environment, the right ladder to come up and perform at international level is missing.
We’ve very good school cricket, but the gap between school cricket and international cricket, we have only club cricket.
That bridge is just not good enough. We need another structure, four-day cricket, but that is never allowed to blossom.
What about the anger Sri Lankan fans have shown in this series?
This is one sport which has given us status. We have been in the forefront of cricket for many years. This is the one sport that unites people in Sri Lanka. And for it to be ruined is an absolute shame.
The government needs to look at it very, very seriously and decide what it wants to do. We need to act fast. Like every other cricketer, I can only hope.