Why Sri Lankan cricket’s shocking decline is a worry for international cricket

India, the No 1 ranked side in Test cricket, completed the formalities on the fourth day of the second Test at SSC, Colombo and defeated Sri Lanka by innings and 53 runs. This was India’s first innings win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and their fourth consecutive win in the island nation. The men in blue completely dominated the match and registered their eighth consecutive series win since the last time India visited SL in 2015. India have ticked all the boxes and are set for a whitewash of the hapless and inept Lankan lions, who are languishing at the bottom of the ICC rankings.

Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda De Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Chaminda Vass, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara are some of the names that have represented SL with class and distinction and always took pride while playing for the team. What has changed in the last five years that SL can’t even compete at home? SL used to build a fortress at home and were invincible in their own backyard over the years. They recently lost to Zimbabwe in the ODI series at home and they came very close to losing the solitary Test as well. The standard of cricket has deteriorated very badly and the island nation is struggling for its relevance.

Sri Lanka, which made its Test debut in 1982, always relied on natural talent and succeeded at international level despite its shambolic system and not because of it. Since the turn of the century, SL cricket has been very bad when it comes to administration and governing of the game in the region. The board works autocratically and interferes in team matters from choosing players to selecting a coach, everything happens behind closed doors and without any accountability. When legends retire, it takes certain amount of time for the transition and every team goes through it, but the problem with Sri Lankan cricket is they are stuck in this cycle forever and don’t know what to do. Kumar Sangakkara, who was one of the finest players that SL had ever produced, retired in his prime after the 2015 World Cup. The same Sangakkara continues to play around the globe and is still churning out runs for fun. For the record, Sangakkara scored 65 international hundreds and this is not an isolated incident and many great players have turned their back on Sri Lankan cricket due to apathy and misgovernance.

International cricket is going through a difficult phase, with mushrooming of T20 leagues around the world; players are not dependent on their boards and are becoming freelancers to extend their career. We have all seen what has happened to West Indies, Zimbabwe, South Africa in recent past, and SL can ill afford to lose their way. The crux of the problem with Sri Lankan cricket is that there is no structure, no planning, no infrastructure and the board is hoping that they will return to their past glory by just waiting and hoping for the best, but it will not happen and if SL continues to lose then cricket will lose its popularity and SL will become irrelevant and no major country would like to play against them.

The remedy for this mess is that SLC first recognises the mistake it has made and does an honest soul searching. When Lanka won the 1996 World Cup, it united the nation and marked their arrival in the international cricket and if likes of Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews stand up, then cricket in Sri Lanka will again prosper and the transition could finally end.

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