Sangakkara slams SLC 'cronies'
Former Sri Lanka captain pulls no punches in Lord's speech
Last Updated: 05/07/11 1:16pm
Sangakkara: delivered MCC Spirit of Cricket lecture at Lord's
Kumar Sangakkara launched a remarkable attack on his country's cricket administration, speaking honestly and passionately about the political meddling which threatens to ruin Sri Lankan cricket.
The former captain - who retired in April after just two years as skipper - was given a standing ovation in the Long Room at Lord's after his hour-long address at the MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture on Monday, held in honour of former England captain Colin Cowdrey.
Sangakkara's eloquently delivered speech tore into the present state of the country's cricket management, saying that the administration has been run by "partisan cronies" who have led to the "corruption and wanton waste of cricket board finances and resources."
The 33-year-old argued that Sri Lanka's momentous 1996 World Cup success was hugely significant for national unity, but that the victory over Australia marked the turning point when Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) took a turn for the worst.
"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," he said.
"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.
"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."
"Players from within the team itself became involved in power games within the board. 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."
Kumar Sangakkara Quotes of the week
Sri Lanka's present tour of England was embroiled in controversy when Sanath Jayasuriya was recalled to the side for the limited overs leg, only to announce his retirement after the opening ODI at The Oval.
The 41-year-old - now an MP with the ruling UPFA party - was reinstated in the team despite being out of international cricket for more than two years.
"Players from within the team itself became involved in power games within the board," said Sangakkara, without naming any names.
"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."
"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."
After the 2011 World Cup, co-hosts Sri Lanka were left with $69 million worth of debt, believed to be the result of mismanagement by the board.The country's sports minister stepped in, threatening to force the present members of the board to step down before appointing his own interim committee
That announcement came shortly after the ICCs directive - made at their meeting in Hong Kong last week - that action would be taken against any political meddling in cricket administration from June 2013 onwards.
"Unless the administration is capable of becoming more professional, forward-thinking and transparent then we risk alienating the common man," Sangakkara continued.
"Indeed, this is already happening. Loyal fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned. This is very dangerous because it is not the administrators or players that sustain the game - it is the cricket-loving public.
"It is their passion that powers cricket and if they turn their backs on cricket then the whole system will come crashing down."
"This will negate the ability to field representative teams or receive funding and other accompanying benefits from the ICC.
"But as a Sri Lankan I hope we have the strength to find the answers ourselves."
Sangakkara concluded by stating that cricket had a powerful role to play in a country torn apart by 30-years of civil war.
"Cricket played a crucial role during the dark days of Sri Lanka's civil war, a period of enormous suffering for all communities," he said.
"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.
"It is also an exciting period for cricket where the reintegration of isolated communities in the north and east opens up new talent pools.
"The Spirit of Cricket can and should remain a guiding force for good within society, providing entertain and fun, but also a shining example to all of how we all should approach our lives."