In a shameful, unsporting act, Sri Lanka’s grand old Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) has now poached national team’s young batting sensation Avishka Fernando, apart from putting another young batting prodigy Ashen Bandara under tremendous pressure to stay with the club, Cricket Age reliably learns.
In September, Cricket Age, in a series of stories, had exposed how SSC has been involved in unethical practices of poaching players from other clubs, in order to regain the lost glory in domestic cricket! In July, former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene was appointed as the chairman of the SSC cricket committee. However, the high profile appointment couldn’t bring any change in SSC fortunes, as Dimuth Karunaratne led side were knocked out before Super 8 in the domestic cricket tournament and were forced to play in plate division. In plate also, the team performed poorly. After an unforgettable season, it seems that the grand old club has focused on poaching players from the other clubs.
In the latest development, it has learned that Avishka Fernando, who has already established himself as Sri Lanka’s most preferred opener in shorter formats while representing prestigious Colts Cricket Club, has also moved to SSC.
Cricket Age understands that SSC under performing head coach Thilina Kandamby, who appeared in 39 ODIs and 5 T20Is for Sri Lanka, played a pivotal role in poaching Avishka Fernando.
“Kandamby lured Avishka through his close friend Asanga, who is the manager of the young batsman along with many other Sri Lanka players. He (Avishka) has already moved to SSC, as Kandamby desperately wanted him” an insider at SSC, who had opposed club’s continues persistent with Kandamby as head coach, told Cricket Age.
It has learned that Kandamby is doing these unethical practices of poaching players, in order to save his job at SSC! A Club with unmatched, incredible domestic record, has completely collapsed under Kandamby watch, with two under performing seasons.
“After two below par seasons, it was written on the wall that the club management wouldn’t continue with Kandamby. The Club had even talked to Ruwan Kalpage, to replace Kandamby. However, arrival of Mahela as club’s cricket committee chairman, along with Covid-19 crisis, saved Kandamby. That’s why, now he is desperately trying to poach all the top cricketers from other clubs” the SSC inside added.
Cricket Age understands that SSC, on the suggestions of a former Sri Lanka player who is now associated with the club, is working on a master plan to make a ‘Super Squad‘.
“It’s the most unfortunate. The SSC has had a rich history of picking players straight from the schools or junior level (like Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Danushka Gunathilike) and nurtured them as world beaters. Eventually, all they became World class players. Sadly, now the club is not believing in scouting new talent and nurturing them. Instead, the management has opted for safe option of poaching top players from other clubs. In this scenario, you don’t need a coach. You just need a good manager. And it seems Kandamby is performing that role with perfection” the SSC insider added.
While Avishka Fernando, being the established national player, has somehow managed to moved to SSC without mental trauma, another young batting prodigy Ashen Bandara is going through sleepless nights, due to the pressure applied by the SSC. Bandara, a sensational middle-order batsman, is considered as one of the brightest batting talent in Sri Lanka domestic circuit.
Another former Sri Lanka player Dhammika Prasad, who still plays for SSC, has emerged as main culprit in Ashen Bandara saga, along with Kandamby. Prasad, who has long passed his prime, but still wants to play for Sri Lanka. In his quest, he recently played in the ongoing Army tournament, but ended up giving 34 runs in a over.
Cricket Age had published in September itself that Bandara has moved to SSC. However, It has learned that Bandara, who already played for SSC in U23 tournament recently, now wants to return to his old club Saracens, after realizing that it’s difficult for him to get a permanent place in SSC playing XI, in the presence of young players like Charith Asalanka, Shammu Ashan, Nipun Dhananjaya and newly poached Avishka Fernando.
That’s where, Bandara’s nightmare started! Cricket Age understands that Bandara has messed up everything, as he has ended up signing the contract with both the clubs – SSC and Saracens.
“With our manager Chandrika Rodrigo, he has signed the fresh contract, insisting that he wants to return” a top official at Saracens told Cricket Age.
However, as Bandara has signed the contract with SSC also, Now Kandamby has been instructed by an ‘influential ring Master‘ of the club to not allow Bandara to make an U-turn!
“Kandamby was scolded by that influential ring master for letting go Bandara after signing the contract. Both Kandamby and Dhammika Prasad were clearly instructed to stop Bandara at any cost” the SSC insider told Cricket Age.
Now, it has become a prestige point for both SSC and Saracens. While Saracens, after signing fresh contract with Bandara, is adamant to not release him, SSC is determined to use every possible trick to retain the young batting star.
With this ongoing tussle, Bandara, one of Sri Lanka’s future star, has become a punching bag, as he is, at such young age, is feeling the heat!
On September 1 itself, Cricket Age had published that SSC has been accused of poaching rival clubs players by using unethical methods.
The sensational allegation was made by Chilaw Marians secretary Godfrey Dabrera, who is also the manager of international venues and stadiums at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).
“We wish to bring to your kind attention that we have reliable information that two of our players have been approached by current/former SSC players/third parties.
There is an understanding between first-class clubs that we will not try to poach players from each other Club’s by unethical methods. If a club really needs a certain player, then this request should come through official communication between club officials/management.
Therefore, we kindly request you to look into this matter and take necessary action” Godfrey, in his letter to SSC secretary Vasantha Wijesekera, dated August 31, has written.