Sri Lanka’s captain Kusal Perera (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images)
By Chandrashekar Bhat
SRI LANKA cricketers are returning home on Tuesday (6) after their disastrous tour of England, with former great Arjuna Ranatunga leading the island nation in expressing anger at the team’s underperformance.
“We must stop watching matches even on TV,” Ranatunga said, blaming “mismanagement, corruption and indiscipline” of the cricket board for the team’s poor showing in recent years.
“What we saw during the England tour is the culmination of accumulated mismanagement, corruption and indiscipline,” said Ranatunga during whose captaincy Sri Lanka dominated limited-overs cricket and won the 1996 World Cup.
“The board is responsible for this sorry state of affairs.”
A fifth straight Twenty20 series defeat in England was followed by two one-day international losses, with rain in the final match on Sunday (4) saving the Kusal Perera-led team from a probable complete tour whitewash.
Off the field, things were just as bad with three players – vice-captain Kusal Mendis, opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka and wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella – sent home for breaching the team’s coronavirus bubble.
They were dubbed the “terrible trio” by Sri Lankan media after videos surfaced on social media showing them on a night out in Durham on the eve of a one-day game.
Before that, thousands of fans had already launched a campaign to boycott players on social media after they were swept 3-0 in the Twenty20s.
“The board spent 69 million rupees (£250,173) to fly them in a chartered aircraft to keep them within a protected bio-secure bubble,” said former Sri Lanka Cricket president Arjun Silva.
“I am sad and angry at the same time.”
Silva, a professor of medicine, said the trio had risked the health of the entire team by breaching the bubble.
The team have never been far from scandal and controversy in recent years.
Mendis, 26, fatally ran over a 64-year-old cyclist in July last year. He paid million Sri Lankan rupees (£3,625) to the victim’s family and was let of only with a reprimand.
Gunathilaka, 30, faced match bans in 2018 for violating team curfews on tour. In April, he was ordered to take anger management counselling after a drunken brawl.
Former sports minister Harin Fernando disclosed in November 2019 that the International Cricket Council considered Sri Lanka “the most corrupt cricketing nation”.
Players and officials have been banned for up to eight years for match-fixing and failure to cooperate with corruption investigations.
Former team performance analyst Sanath Jayasundara was banned for seven years by the ICC on Monday (5) for trying to bribe Fernando.
Little has gone right for Sri Lanka during the past eight years which has seen them go through five coaches.
“I have been watching cricket matches since 1993 but I have never seen such a weak Sri Lankan cricket team,” sports reporter Manjula Basnayake said.
Sri Lanka are languishing at eighth in the Test team rankings and ninth in both white-ball formats with morale believed to have plummeted since the introduction of controversial performance-linked pay contracts which the players rejected.
Initiated by Sri Lanka’s director of cricket Tom Moody, the new contracts saw sharp pay cuts with the board insisting that they were designed to improve rankings.
The salary battle is still not resolved and the team will have to prepare for three ODIs and three Twenty20s against India starting on July 13.
India have sent a weakened team but with the current state of Sri Lankan cricket, the tourists may still fancy their chances.