Apropos your editorial of 29th March titled ‘Captain Cool and Flannelled Fools’, I wish to relate a few incidents relating to Arjuna which confirms his strength of character.
You say the following, inter alia, in the said editorial. Quote: "Sri Lanka would have lost a world class cricketer - Murali, who suffered persecution at the hands of white supremacists who went all out to ruin the spin wizard’s career at an early stage. When Arjuna speaks, Sri Lanka listens. Lashing out at cricket administrators for having permitted national players to skip the Tamil Nadu leg of the IPL in view of Jayalalithas" ban and play other matches elsewhere, he has called upon them to boycott the IPL if they have an iota of dignity and love for the country.
"However, we think Arjuna’s criticism of Sri Lankan cricketers is like water being poured on a duck’s back. They have sold their souls to the IPL organisers and there is nothing they wouldn’t do to have dollars jingling in their pockets. The less said about Sri Lankan Cricket administrators, the better!
They are not there to promote the game, but to look after their own interests." Unquote.
I cannot agree with you more. I would like to quote a few extracts of an article I wrote to your paper over five years ago to add more zip to your article. This was an article that appeared soon after Arjuna was appointed Chairman of the Interim Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket in
2008. Quote: "As a person who was involved in the administration of Sri Lanka
Cricket for a long period, I was very happy that at long last, the man who is most eminently suited to be at the helm of Sri Lanka Cricket has been appointed to guide the destinies of this great game. Hopefully, this appointment will open a new chapter in the history of Sri Lanka Cricket.
The honour that Arjuna Ranatunga has brought to this country by winning the World Cup in 1996 is without doubt the greatest honour that any sportsman or any other individual has brought to this country. But unfortunately, neither he nor his team that helped him to bring this honour have been adequately recognised or rewarded. The glory and prominence the country received by this single achievement is unparalled in the history of sport in this country. After this victory, people all over the world, especially in the Commonwealth countries, discovered that there is a small country called Sri Lanka in the world map.
A few incidents relating to Arjuna of which I am aware of is related hereunder to reveal a few facets of his character. Our team toured New Zealand in 1995.
Arjuna was captain, I was Manager and T. B. Kehelgamuwa was the Coach. The first Test against New Zealand was played in Napier. Arjuna won the toss and decided to bat first. Four wickets were down for 54 runs when Arjuna walked into the crease. He did not find any terrors in the bowling. And in one over, he scored a couple of boundaries off Walmsley (the New Zealand fast bowler, a giant of a man). He drove the next ball past the bowler and an evidently agitated Walmsley deliberately elbowed Arjuna while completing his delivery stride. Arjuna went sprawling, but managed to recover his balance. I knew that this was not the end of the story and we were wondering how Arjuna would react; and he reacted true to form. During the next over from Walmsley, Arjuna drove him again and as Walmsley was finishing his run-up, Arjuna, while taking a run, elbowed him with enough force to force Walmsley to lose his balance. Soon after, I received a note from the Referee, Barry Jarman, to the effect that Arjuna had committed an offence and that there would be an inquiry after the day’s play. I immediately requested the referee to have a video recording of the previous over bowled by Walmsley available at the inquiry, as this would reveal who the real offender was. At the inquiry, it was proven that Walmsley was the first offender and evidently Barry Jarman (a former Australian wicket keeper) did not want to punish Walmsley and it all ended after the offenders shook hands. Incidentally, the tour was a memorable one in that it was here that we won our first Test abroad after playing Test cricket for 13 long years. This was a moment which all Sri Lankans interested in cricket had been waiting for, and it was indeed a most memorable and historic victory. Inside the dressing room, six bottles of champagne had appeared from nowhere, smuggled in by Sri Lankan expatriates.
It was here that I saw the other side of Arjuna’s character. When there was a rush for the champagne, he quietly came over to me and whispered, "Sir, we must first have five minutes of religious observance."
This was done after sending out everyone, other than the team. Then he whispered to me, "we must now sing the National Anthem." We then recalled all the Sri Lankan expatriates and together with them sang the National Anthem. For the first time in my life, I felt a deep patriotic fervour running through my bones. An exuberant Sri Lankan team joined the expatriates in a sing song and the champagne disappeared in no time. My tour report in reference to Arjuna stated as follows: "Arjuna proved on this tour that he was one of the finest captains in the international circuit from day one of the tour and he brought to bear his knowledge of the game and his experience, on the other players in such a convincing manner, that the entire team rallied round him at every turn. In my opinion, Arjuna should take a large measure of credit for the success of this tour. His guidance of the younger players and his ability to get the best out of all the players was remarkable. He was responsible for building the self confidence in every one of the players and keeping the morale of the team very high, at all times.
This man is a leader par excellence, and Sri Lanka Cricket should make use of his vast experience, which no cricketer past or present has, for the betterment of cricket in Sri Lanka. After he decides to ‘hang up his boots’, Sri Lanka Cricket should retain his services to guide the future of cricket in this country.
I was very lucky that Arjuna captained the team that I managed. I had an excellent relationship with him and he cooperated with me at all times. In fact, he helped me with some of my managerial duties and made my task as Manager much easier. I am certain that a new era has dawned for Sri Lanka Cricket and my best wishes go to Arjuna and his team for the continued success in their future endeavours."
Alas! This was not to be. Sri Lanka Cricket at present is in absolute chaos.
The Minster of Sports has hijacked Sri Lanka Cricket and is acting like a bull in a china shop. The Minister of Sports should understand that Sri Lanka Cricket belongs to the cricket clubs and cricket associations, since its formation in 1926 as the Ceylon Cricket Association.
Today, the legitimate owners of Sri Lanka have absolutely no voice in the affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket. For over six years, there have been no audited statements of accounts and the legitimate owners do not know the financial situation of their institution. We only hear through the media that SLC is in debt to the tune of several billion rupees.
The owners of SLC i.e. the member clubs and associations, must institute action against the Sports Ministry and the Interim Committees for mismanaging the finances of SLC.
The deafening silence of these clubs and associations intrigues me. Shame on them!
In the evening of my life, I would like to see an institution we nurtured with loving care back to its glory of old and men of the calibre of Arjuna guiding its destinies.
(Neil Perera is a former, Hony. Secretary of the BCCSL and Manager of Sri Lanka cricket teams).