Former Pakistan opening batsman Rameez Raja believes that Sri Lanka's slide in international cricket of late has a lot to do with their players being unpaid for more than a year.
Raja, now a television commentator, said "international cricket management hit a new low" due to the actions of cricket officials in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan cricketers were unpaid for 15 months and the board currently still owes months of back pay after the government-appointed interim committee in charge of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), headed by Somachandra de Silva and Nishantha Ranatunga, exhausted cricket board finances by going over budget during last year's ICC Cricket World Cup.
While the other two hosts India and Bangladesh made good use of the opportunity to co-host the World Cup, making it a profitable event for their boards, the de Silva-Ranatunga interim committee chose to oblige the politicians who placed them at the cricket board by constructing two new venues for the tournament, one named after the Sri Lankan president in his hometown.
Poor decision-making and project management by inept officials then saw the once richest sporting body on the island fall into colossal debt to the tune of US$ 70 million.
The board was forced to turn to a state-owned bank earlier this year for a loan to pay the players. However, Sri Lanka's players are still owed several months of pay which has now forced SLC to delay signing new contracts, as wages from the previous contract period are yet to be honoured. Six months into 2012, SLC is yet to sign contracts for this year.
"The international cricket management hit a new low when the Sri Lankan players were forced to play on an empty stomach for almost eight months while being on national duty," Raja wrote on the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
"Naturally, their performance and morale took a beating! Just look at the results of the team during the period they were not paid: Sri Lanka lost to Australia at home, were beaten by Pakistan in Tests, ODIs and T20 and taken down by South Africa.
The entire critical run was witnessed by the managers of the game who didn’t care to fix the situation. The Lankans were allowed to slither downhill quite happily!"The entire critical run was witnessed by the managers of the game who didn’t care to fix the situation. The Lankans were allowed to slither downhill quite happily!"
Raja said today's players are treated better and are exposed to more lucrative opportunities in leagues such as the IPL, which has hurt their motivation to play for their nations and hurt international cricket as well.
"The lack of expression from the players when it comes to international cricket is understandable. It stems from flawed governance and skewed distribution of resources. The selection inconsistencies and low income sharing of the produce with the players, who have significantly contributed towards it, makes it a fractious environment," he wrote.
"The cricket boards all over have to come up with a healthy plan that breeds nationalism and takes care of the material needs of the players to offset the lure and charm of the ‘League bling’," he added.
"I think they are already late in this exercise since the players, after being exposed to good management and opportunities, are charged up to retaliate against what they believe has been a dictatorial set-up, where they have been engaged in a master-slave relationship."
Sri Lanka's cricket board officials and the sports minister meanwhile are firm supporters of an authoritarian rule, as is evident by their recent moves to control Sri Lankan players' interaction with the media and ban players for refusing to sign contracts.
While the government's lackeys at SLC continue to enjoy benefits such as a fuel-paid vehicle, bonuses, allowances and a salary; nearly 100 contracted cricketers were unable to pay their bills throughout last year. To date, none of SLC's top officials have been willing to forgo their wages and serve in an honorary capacity despite the destitute state the board now finds itself in.
In 2010 Sri Lanka lost six of the 22 ODIs they played, while in 2011 they suffered 12 losses in 28 matches. A similar decline is evident in their Test performances; they were defeated once in the six Test they played in 2010, while 2011 saw them lose four of the eleven Tests played. It is understood that many arguments can be raised against these stats and many factors contribute to losses. But what is most evident to fans and pundits alike is that the losses are mounting and the incompetent cricket officials in charge of SLC are very much responsible.
The entire critical run was witnessed by the managers of the game who didn’t care to fix the situation. The Lankans were allowed to slither downhill quite happily!