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Cricket Needs to Clean Up Its Act

9th July 2011.

Sangakkara is made of sterner stuff

Kumar Sangakkara has blown the bugle on cricket’s version of the Arab uprising. Nor can he be allowed to stand alone. It’s time for all good men to demand the highest standards from the game’s governors. And that requires due diligence, independent Board members, abolishing conflict of interest, and outlawing political interference. Easier said than done? When has that deterred a true sportsman?

Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara
Photo ©: Dave Morton, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cricket needs to find strong-minded leaders capable of concentrating on the game’s interests, not their own or their countries. And let us not confuse rulers and leaders. Anyone can become a ruler. Indeed many have ruled, by accidents of birth or being in the right place at the right time. Anyone surveying cricket’s head table could confirm the point.

In his Cowdrey address, Sangakkara described the inept and often dubious dealings that have held back cricket in his country. He described squabbles, fights, money-grabbing, dodgy elections and other ghastly aspects. He pointed out that Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996 had heralded an influx of money with dogs hot on its scent.


It took courage for a 33-year-old to speak out against his own administrators. Sangakkara could easily have kept his thoughts to himself, taken the money and the IPL contract and the advertising deals and the adoration that accompanies cricketing greatness in the region. Evidently he is made of sterner stuff. Along the way he did outstanding service to his country, his cricket community and the game.

Along the way he did outstanding service to his country, his cricket community and the game.

Cheats thrive when honest men hold their tongues. In that regard Sangakkara has joined Malcolm Speed on the battle field. Speed’s book remains essential reading for anyone whose interest in cricket reaches beyond hero worship, razzmatazz and the latest opinions about the LBW rule.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to play our parts. Only optimists will believe that the abuses outlined by the eloquent Lankan apply in his country alone. Lalit Modi, Allen Stanford and Thilanga Samathipala did not plant in stony ground. Giles Clarke, Ijaz Butt, Ray Mali and the others could not have prospered in capable company.

To be fair the ICC took steps in the right direction at its recent meeting. Condemning political interference in selection and so forth was belated but essential. Putting principle into practise will require resolve. Insisting on proper financial oversight was another admirable recommendation. Actions will speak louder than words. Hitherto the Board had shown little sincere interest in governance.


Likewise the willingness to review the decision to limit the next World Cup to the 10 Test teams was laudable. Better to correct a mistake than to reinforce it. Now it’s up to the Associates to prove their point. Of course they are outraged by the reduction in the teams for the T20 competitions. It might be wise to focus on cricket’s vainglorious refusal to push the case for T20’s inclusion in the Olympics.

Sangakkara did not go so far as to name anyone. As far as the wider game is concerned that can be corrected. Givemore Makoni, Jamie Cox, Ashley Giles and so many others cannot work for provinces and select national teams.

But it’s not just about officials. Radio and TV commentators cannot take money from Boards. Reporters and columnists cannot work as agents. Cricket needs to clean up its act, and it is not only in Sri Lanka. Make no mistake we will get the game we deserve.

This article was written for The Hindu.
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