Randiv’s admission that his century-denying no-ball to Sehwag was intentional; a prompt apology to the visitors by Sri Lanka Cricket, followed by a ban and fines imposed on the miscreants, might have swiftly saved our cricket of further embarrassment– but the stigma won’t wash away easily.
For a team whose on field conduct earned it two successive ICC Spirit of Cricket awards, Monday night’s dishonesty is doubly regrettable and utterly inexcusable. Of course, some will argue Randiv didn’t break any rules and that the Indian opener makes a mountain of an anthill only because he couldn’t get his 100. But, no-balls are not meant to be bowled deliberately; Randiv did – discrediting himself, team and country, period.
If it’s possible that a deliberate no-ball can deny the opposing team victory, then, well, let’s just say that shame in exchange for success would’ve been a mitigating factor, as was the case when the youngest Chappell delivered underarm the final delivery of a match so as to ensure that Australia won an ODI against New Zealand in the 80s. Randiv no-balled for a puerile cause: to prevent a deserved century to a batsman and that smacks of envy, jealously, selfishness… all the abhorrent qualities of man that have no place on the playing field.
Were Randiv alone responsible, the episode might have been less despicable. The board’s inquiry sadly though, found team mate Dilshan also culpable: he prompted the rookie to commit the unethical. The senior was fined his match-fee of US$ 3,500, as was the rookie, on top of a one-match suspension.
Whether Randiv might of his own accord have infringed is a matter for conjecture, but in imposing a fine there’s little doubt that Dilshan, 11 years in international cricket, influenced the off-spinner, an international cricketer of only nine months. So it isn’t wrong to conclude that the senior player has been anything but the good influence he’s expected to be on the junior. If anything, the punishments dispensed to instigator and committer ought to have at least been equal, if not greater to the instigator.
For Dilshan’s part in this needless controversy, it is excusable to wonder if dirty tricks are a part of team strategy and is subject of dressing room discussions. It should not be forgotten that Dilshan is more than a senior player: he was the appointed ODI deputy leader until the current series and in fact led Sri Lanka in the recent triangular series in Zimbabwe, albeit in the absence of Sangakkara. He also led the country in T20 matches when the Indians last toured here. So it’s fair to assume that the opening batsman is a part of the team’s brains trust.
That this dashing bundle of talent is a tremendous asset to the team, is beyond questioning. Inventor of the Dilscoop, his rollicking style of batting, has laid waste many an attack; his fielding is just as panther-like as his batting and as part-time spinner, given conducive conditions, he can outperform and indeed has, the specialist bowlers. So it is difficult to resist the assumption that Dilshan prompting Randiv to deliver a no-ball might have been only a schoolboy prank and that he isn’t as bad an influence as we might imagine.
But then stripping him of his vice captaincy in the wake of his successful leadership in the tri-nation event in Zimbabwe, raises suspicion that what is imagined might be real. Why the team manager’s report on the Zimbabwe tour has remained a secret document only deepens the suspicion.
Against that background, the punishment, albeit mild, handed to Dilshan and, reportedly, a warning from the board that hereon his conduct will be under close scrutiny, are welcome. The board, though, would do better if it initiates a probe into the state of affairs in the national team/squad, overall, not just centering on Monday’s unsavory incident.
With the World Cup just six months away such a check is necessary. After all, a happy and united dressing room is the first prerequisite for any campaign, let alone one in quest of the World Cup. A happy and united dressing room, though, doesn’t just happen – it has to be built collectively by all players and management. It’s a long, delicate and thoughtful process, which can so easily be disrupted by one dissenting individual.
The no-ball episode might not reflect the mood of our dressing room, but some questions need to be asked. The board’s inquiry into the no-ball incident as good as admits Dilshan is the villain of the piece. In prompting Randiv to bowl the controversial no-ball, has he not undermined the authority of the captain? Could not Sangakkara have ordered Randiv to refrain from heeding Dilshan’s prompting? Or did it all happen behind Sangakkara’s back – a more plausible reason. So the big question is: does the undermining of leadership seen on the field, Monday, happen off the field? If it is, the team is sitting on bubbling volcano.
As well, a team in transition, which Sri Lanka is, can be a fertile breeding ground for discontent as experimentation with different players entails rejections and inclusions. So, disgruntlement and groupings within the squad is not impossible – and those disgruntlements invariably get public airing, courtesy scoop-hungry journalists. Dressing room camaraderie gives way to mistrust and suspicion.
This is not to infer the Sri Lanka team has fallen into disarray, but not all’s well either. The no-ball episode apart, the mystery over treating the Zimbabwe tour manager’s report as classified information doesn’t encourage belief that the team is in an ideal state. Not making public the tour report of Manager Anura Tennekoon, the last pre-test era captain and one with old fashioned ideas on discipline and conduct, the grapevine says, is because it contains incriminating remarks on the bad conduct of a senior player.
An elected Cricket Board of 1990s too had problems with the Ranatunga-led national team. Following an exceptionally poor 1994-95 tour to India, in which Sri Lanka lost all three test matches inside three days, the Tyronne Fernando-led board appointed a Commission of Inquiry, headed by S. Skandakumar. The commission concluded that the chief reasons for the successive poor performances in India were players’ indiscipline and an utter lack of fitness. The boards’ remedial measures brought about serious differences between players and authorities. Aravinda de Silva was excluded from the next series, in Dubai and skipper Ranatunga withdrew, protesting his deputy’s rejection. Roshan Mahanama and Asanka Gurusinha were appointed captain and deputy respectively.
A year after that troubled time, Sri Lanka went on to win the World Cup – all because the then board acted in the best interest of our cricket. If only the same can be said of the intentions of this government-appointed administration. e