Cricket needs to address discipline issues
by Rex Clementine
There’s a lot of respect for Virat Kohli’s batsmanship but still, lot of people don’t like his attitude. But if you ask the Indian press about his work ethic and diet routines, you will realize that what makes him the player he is, the discipline that he has brought into his lifestyle. India last played a Test series here in 2017. The team hotel’s gym opens at 6am apparently but when King Kohli is in town, the gym has to be opened at 5 in the morning. Butter chicken and naan roti are north Indian favourite menus but the Delhi born Kohli keeps them away when he’s involved in a series – home or away.
How much we Sri Lankans hope that we get a cricketer with that kind of work ethic. We did have one by the name of Kumar Sangakkara and that’s why he reached the peaks that no other Sri Lankan had ever reached. He was the only Sri Lankan batsman to be ranked number one in Tests for a record period of time.
Mind you this was at a time when the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting were going all guns blazing. But none could match Sanga’s consistency. Such a shame that some of his best years were spent at Surrey and not in Sri Lankan colours.
The Danushka Gunathilaka episode in Australia shamed an entire nation. As we tried to point out time and again the system was too soft on Danushka when he got into trouble in the past. We are not a nation that is capable of nipping things in the bud. As if what happened in Sydney weren’t bad, this week two other players are in the news for the wrong reasons. This time it’s the Royal boys.
Chamika Karunaratne was fined US$ 5000 (peanuts for someone with an IPL deal) and then handed a suspended sentence of one year. The incident that had got him into trouble wasn’t mentioned but he is said to have pleaded guilty to the charges. According to reports, he is supposed to have picked up a fight at a Brisbane casino. Let the young man be reminded that Australia is not the kind of place to pick up fights at casinos. If he wants to know why let him go and find out how David Hookes died.
Less than 48 hours after the announcement of Karunaratne being fined came the news that his Royal College colleague Bhanuka Rajapaksa was withdrawing from the three match ODI series. Rajapaksa said in a twitter message that he was withdrawing to recover and refresh both physically and mentally. He also added that he had been playing with a few niggles and went onto say that being away from home had been a strain mentally.
Surprisingly, the board gave him the cold shoulder. Ideally, it is they who make these announcements and not the player. So, there are lots of questions coming out of the episode. Here’s a player who has not cemented his place in ODI squad and he’s withdrawing putting his place in the World Cup squad in jeopardy.
His health conditions must be respected, of course yes. But could we have saved the trouble by doing all this before going to Kandy. The talk at Maitland Place though is something different. That is the board wasn’t too keen to give him an NOC to play league cricket in another part of the world. This may have been Bhanuka’s way of teaching the board a lesson.
Seriously, no individual is bigger than the game. The board must put their foot down and make sure that their players behave. Sometimes the board is helpless as Royal College boys run to uncle Sagala. Others of course have the blessings of Harin aiya and Namal aiya.
We have been at times too soft on players. We have got a lot to learn from people like Rienzie T. Wijetilleke, the former board chairman. He was a banker and not a cricketer, but he knew the value of discipline.
When Kaushal Lokuarrachi was involved in a hit and run, Wijetilleke put his foot down and taught him a good lesson. More than the punishment you admired his statement. When the press asked for a comment, he said that accidents can happen, but you cannot run away from it. You’ve got to own up your mistakes. All respect to ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga for proving to us that bankers also can run a sports body. All what you need is discipline, transparency and honesty. Wijetilleke had them in plenty. And he chose his running mates carefully; S. Skandakumar, Sidath Wettimuny and Kushil Gunasekara. There couldn’t have been a better team than that.
During the World Cup, Sri Lanka’s players were too relaxed. Partying and late-night outs are not new when players go to places like Australia, England or New Zealand. It has been happening for ages. As someone pointed out, the drinking culture in Sri Lankan cricket dates back to Sathasivam’s time.
The difference between Sri Lankan players who went on tours then and now is that they practiced the 11th commandment – do it but don’t get caught. Nowadays they are not only breaching contractual obligations but are proudly announcing them on social media too.
Jeffrey Vanderay, Kusal Mendis, Lahiru Kumara, Niroshan Dickwella are all serial offenders and sometimes watching them closely will tell you a lot about their conduct. How else would you explain Dickwella not having a Test match hundred after nearly 100 innings? Some of the ways he gets out while on 90s are ridiculous. And he has no remorse about it whatsoever. If Duleep Mendis had been the Manager, he would have not allowed the batsman to enter the dressing room. Had Abu Fuard been there, he would have told Dickwella to take the next train from Galle and go back all the way to Kandy and wouldn’t have played him again. Amal Silva is a case in point.