London: Former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara launched scathing attack against the cricket establishment in the country for indulging in corrupt practices which he feels needs to be eradicated at the earliest. (Agencies)
In an hour-long speech that earned him a standing ovation, Sangakkara charted the unique history of cricket in his country, and called on Sri Lanka Cricket to root out its corrupt practices, and recognise the huge role that the sport now needs to play in promoting reconciliation at the end of a 30-year civil war.
Terming the 1996 World Cup victory as something that unified the country Sangakkara feels the historic event changed the dynamics of the SLC.
He said that change happened as it turned "from a volunteer-led organisation run by well-meaning men of integrity into a multimillion-dollar organisation that has been in turmoil ever since."
Although he didn't take Sanath Jayasuriya's name, but he did express his displeasure at how Jayasuriya who is a sitting MP was recalled into the team for a one-off T20 and the first ODI.
Without naming names, Sangakkara voiced his concern at the direction the sport in his country is now heading.
"Players from within the team itself became involved in power games within the board," he said. "Officials elected to power in this way in turn manipulated player loyalty to achieve their own ends. At times, board politics would spill over into the team causing rift, ill feeling and distrust," he was quoted as saying.
"Presidents and elected executive committees would come and go; government-picked interim committees would be appointed and dissolved," he said.
The Lankan sports minister announced that the entire national cricket board committee would be forced to step down, following allegations of financial mismanagement that left the co-hosts of the recent World Cup with a $69 million bill.
That announcement followed the ICC meeting in Hong Kong, at which a directive was issued, stating that cricket boards had to be free of political interference by June 2013, or face the prospect of sanctions.
"After 1996 the cricket board has been controlled and administered by a handful of well-meaning individuals either personally or by proxy rotated in and out depending on appointment or election," said Sangakkara.
"Unfortunately to consolidate and perpetuate their power they opened the door of the administration to partisan cronies that would lead to corruption and wanton waste of cricket board finances and resources."
The stylish southpaw feels that the confusion still remains.
"It was and still is confusing. Accusations of vote buying and rigging, player interference due to lobbying from each side and even violence at the AGMs, including the brandishing of weapons and ugly fist fights, have characterised cricket board elections for as long as I can remember," he rued.
The only way to move forward is a professional set-up.
"We have to aspire to better administration. The administration needs to adopt the same values enshrined by the team over the years: integrity, transparency, commitment and discipline.
"Unless the administration is capable of becoming more professional, forward-thinking and transparent then we risk alienating the common man. Indeed, this is already happening. Loyal fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned," he had a note of caution in his voice.
The eloquent former captain brought on the reference of civil war and the role of cricket during the darker days of Lankan democracy.
"Cricket played a crucial role during the dark days of Sri Lanka's civil war, a period of enormous suffering for all communities," said Sangakkara.
"But the conduct and performance of the team will have even greater importance as we enter a crucial period of reconciliation and recovery, an exciting period where all Sri Lankans aspire to peace and unity."
London: Former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara launched scathing attack against the cricket establishment in the country for indulging in corrupt practices which he feels needs to be eradicated at the earliest.