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A long December

Dec 22, 2010 3:20:46 PM - thesundayleader.lk

By Gavin Van Hoff (islandcricket.lk/blogs/gavin)

It has been a hectic month so far and from the looks of things, it’s going to be a long December for our friends over at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). We’re only half way into the final month of 2010, 65 days from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, and already so much has transpired; much of it very embarrassing.

The month started off with nearly 450 overs washed out in the Test series against the West Indies, which left many wondering why the series was scheduled for this time of year. In the midst of all that, the players, supposedly, complained about the hotel they had been housed in. Then, we learned that the Tour Organising Committee (TOC) had been dissolved, as well.

SLC relied heavily on the series against the West Indies for Sri Lanka’s World Cup preparations and the Test series washout, along with the postponement of the ODI series, has dealt a severe blow to their plans. The weather has been blamed, but the administrators, too, should have known better than to schedule a series during the north-eastern monsoon season and known better than to leave their World Cup venues in a dire state that they have to bank heavily on the final days and weeks before the World Cup to complete them.

The heavy rains experienced in the first half of December and late November have hampered SLC’s efforts to meet the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) deadline to have Sri Lanka’s World Cup venues ready.

The weather conditions have proven to be even more disastrous for SLC officials who are in a race against time to complete construction at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, Pallekele Stadium in Kandy and the Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium in Hambantota. Rain continues to hamper the progress of construction of these World Cup venues just weeks ahead of the ICC deadline of December 31.

What came next was not only a blow to the current administration, but also a blow to future administrations and our cricket overall. The highly skilled coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, left Sri Lanka and migrated to Australia after a row with current SLC Chairman, Somachandra de Silva.

Now, this is a guy Kumar Sangakkara had written to SLC about asking them to give him another chance after Somachandra de Silva suspended him.

If that loss wasn’t bad enough, another cruel blow. The ill-timed series against the low ranked West Indies resulted in a washout, which resulted in a drawn series for the third ranked Sri Lanka, which then resulted in Sri Lanka sliding from number three to number five in the rankings.

That’s right. Sri Lanka are now ranked number five in the ICC Test rankings.

The only opportunity in the entire three Test series against the West Indies that Sri Lanka had to secure a win, the selectors helped bungle that one by assuming the West Indies were easy push-overs and rested experienced bowlers such as Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara. Chris Gayle went on to plunder over 300 runs against Dammika Prasad, Thilan Thushara and others on a flat wicket in Galle courtesy of curators, Jayananda Warnaweera and Anuruddha Polonowita.

I doubt the selectors knew our third place ranking was at stake in this series. Had they known, would they have rested Lasith Malinga?

When the ICC Test championships start in 2013, only the top four in the Test rankings will qualify to play. If you know anything about those rankings, you know how easy it is to slide down, but how hard it is to get back up to the top.

It was a sad end to Trevor Bayliss’ stint as coach of Sri Lanka’s Test team. The third Test against the West Indies was the last time Bayliss would have served as coach of Sri Lanka in a Test. His contract expires after the 2011 World Cup and Sri Lanka are unlikely to play a Test before that time.

“Ironically, behind the curtains, SLC had slammed the door on clubs citing wet weather when a request for a T20 tournament was put forward,” Callistus Davy wrote on December 6. Davy explained that a T20 tournament was not authorised but with so much at stake, SLC was willing to gamble on an international series during the same time.

What followed was the cancellation of the entire five match ODI series against the West Indies due to bad weather. Sri Lankan selectors relied on the series to finalise the World Cup squad; another blow. The incompetence of SLC and its employees took centre stage next as they completely bungled the announcement of the cancellation to the media and the public.

SLC first announced via its Facebook account that the series was postponed. A few hours later Media Manager, Brian Thomas, informed the Daily Mirror that the series is not cancelled and the Facebook account was a “bogus” account. The following day, hours before the start of the first ODI, SLC confirmed the series was indeed postponed. This is the manner in which this body operates. It breeds dishonesty, lies and cover-ups, not transparency and professionalism. Brian Thomas, along with the rest of SLC’s staff are incapable of admitting fault.

In the midst of all this, SLC officials had a court case against them to deal with challenging the legality of their very existence in SLC. The hearing has been pushed back – much to SLC’s relief – to Jan 16.

But what has been most embarrassing for SLC and threatens to tarnish the entire nation’s image is the current state of Sri Lanka’s World Cup venues.

It is no secret that Sri Lanka’s World Cup venues are not completed and they are well behind schedule.

It is believed the ICC are now starting to ask questions about the state of the three venues as rain continues to hamper construction. A planned promotion of Pallekele on Saturday has been delayed a week as the rain in the area has caused a major delay in finishing various sections of the stadium.

If having to deal with the pressure from the ICC and the Sri Lankan public over the embarrassing state of World Cup venues isn’t bad enough, the financially struggling SLC has to fork out nearly $500,000 to Ten Sports over the postponement of the ODI series.

December is only half over and already its begun to feel like a long one. Brace yourselves.

This article first appeared on Island Cricket on December 16, 2010. It is republished here with permission from the source.