by Edward Gunawardene
The story of Lasith Malinga is the story of a poor rustic, who because of his rare talents in cricket, has shot to stardom. Another log cabin to White House or a Dick Whittinghton story. He is today one of the most sought after and one of the highest earners in international cricket.
In fact, today he enjoys celebrity status in the world cricket arena. It is, indeed, an achievement to be admired.
Several letters have appeared in the newspapers recently condemning him for relentlessly going after big money and not being one bit concerned about the country. Needless to emphasise, the playing lifetime of most professional cricketers is very short. Only a handful go on to play for 10 years or more. Apart from the ever present danger of getting injured even at practices, they are subject to the vagaries of form, intense competition and the whims of selectors. In Sri Lanka, there are powerful forces that make puppets out of selectors!
We need to understand that there are outstanding sportsmen who are not competent enough to manage their finances or plan out their careers. Only a few are in a position to take up to coaching, umpiring, commentating, refereeing, groundmanship, sports journalism or embark on the sports goods industry.
In my candid view, Malinga does not belong to any of the above. It is abundantly clear that the vast majority have to make the most during a brief period that will help sustain them for the rest of their lives. Making the most does not of course mean any by dishonest means such as ‘match fixing’ or tipping off bookmakers.
Writing to newspapers about 15 years ago on this subject, I remember ending the letter with apologies to the English Poet Herrick
“Gather ye greenbacks while ye may,
Old time is still a flying,
The same crowd that cheers today
Tomorrow will be booing”!
Self or country, or money or country are subjects that can be discussed till the cows come home. Nevertheless, why single out Malinga? Did not our present captain forsake an English tour to play in the IPL? Were not many young Sri Lankan cricketers deprived of the opportunity to play at Lords, a cricketer’s dream? Even on our last tour of England, did not many of our senior players join the team at the last moment, having completed their assignments in the IPL? A self confessed ‘free lancing’, Malinga is certainly a man of strong character.
What about SLC office bearers and the minister himself? Have not millions that have accrued to SLC, because of the players been wantonly squandered? The lucrative TV deals are spoken about everywhere. Did not officials without even O/Levels earn rupees half million a month or more?
Within a short time, these crooks too made enough for a lifetime ‘swindling the money that the players brought in. The rotten example set by the ‘nobodies’ at the helm of Sri Lanka Cricket can indeed be damaging and destructive. How many of our leaders professionals and bureaucrats sincerely put country before self?
So why malign Malinga?