Two Galle tests drubbing against England has shaken up Sri Lanka cricket! So much so that Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, with Former Sri Lanka players Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara sitting in his right and left respectively, had to take some bold actions to arrest the slide. It includes the reduction of first class team, performance based contracts and evaluation for contracted players and some more high profile appointments, like director and mentor for the national team!
The credit of all these attempts for the overhauling goes to Arjuna Ranatunga. The icon of Sri Lanka cricket, 1996 World Cup winning miraculous captain’s interview with Sirasa TV made an immediate impact and paved the way for these efforts!
As a visionary captain, Ranatunga changed Sri Lanka cricket forever with 1996 triumph! Even players like Mahela and Sangakkara, latest Messiah’s of Sri Lanka cricket, also graduated under Ranatunga’s wings!
In an exclusive chat with Cricket Age, Ranatunga highlighted many loopholes in Sri Lanka cricket, which needs to be repaired without any further delay! One such loophole allows players managers to manipulate Sri Lanka cricket!
In last one decade, Sri Lanka cricketers have completely been hijacked by these so called managers. Not only they controls players on field affairs, they guides them in their off field assignments as well!
Obviously, Charlie Austin is still a flag bearer of theses so called managers. And Ranatunga opines that over the years, the high profile manager of Mahela and Sangakkara has become among biggest curse of Sri Lanka cricket.
“He is the biggest curse of Sri Lanka cricket, without any doubt. He has been controlling everything in Sri Lanka cricket, to be honest. Even the SLC has struggled against him big time” the captain cool exclusively told Cricket Age.
Initially, Austin, associated with Mahela and Sangakkara during last decade, but has now established an empire in Sri Lanka with his ever growing list of players, whom he manages.
“Both Mahela and Sangakkara protect him, because he manages their businesses. As far as I knows, he doesn’t even pay tax to Sri Lanka government, eve though he has become a billionaire now. He needs to be chased out” Ranatunga added.
Namal Rajapaksa has taken some stern actions to bring Sri Lanka cricket back on track. Ranatunga thinks that the Minister needs to look after this manager mafia issue as well.
“These managers needs to be stopped. These managers are influencing the selection committee. They don’t allow other talented cricketers to play for Sri Lanka, who are not associated with them. On the other hand, with the manipulation, their players continue to play, even after multiple failures. This needs to be changed” he added.
Cricketer turned politician also made it loud and clear that he is not promoting same old, tried and tested people for interim committee. Instead, he himself is ready to come forward.
“I am ready to lead Interim committee, if it happens. I will have my own team, comprising of former players” Ranatunga added.
Namal was widely praised for his cricket revival plan. Ranatunga, however, opined that making strategies only is not going to help Sri Lanka Cricket.
“Making strategies only is not going to serve any purpose. It needs to be implemented. For this to happen, we need a proper system in place” Ranatunga advised.
Presently a manager of all rounder Angelo Mathews and Fast Bowler Lasith Malinga, Austin enjoys a cult status among the Sri Lanka players. He came to Sri Lanka as a technical officer, later married to a local woman and settled down there. In the beginning, Charlie had stayed at the home of an umpire who is no more, functioned as a journalist and got friendly with the national cricketers, and then became their manager. Then, around 2005, he agreed to managing a then Sri Lanka player on a part-time basis. Six months later another top player called too. With more agency work coming in (Lasith Malinga joined the stable in 2005) and one of his client became national team captain, Austin ceased writing in 2006 and established Austin Management. A decade and half on, he has become the go to man for majority of Sri Lanka players.
“We’re of similar age, we have all grown up and learnt together and have similar interests and all became good friends. The trust is there and we basically do everything for them, including their travel and all the logistics. Beyond contracts and negotiations, we have secured land, assisted with their businesses, run their charities. We become their PA” Austin had told in one of the Interview some years ago.
Insiders at Sri Lanka cricket claims that Austin earned big bucks during the first edition of cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), as each player had to pay his Management firm a certain percentage, for playing in the Indian extravaganza.
However, his bubble was burst by Ranatunga himself long time ago, when he was the chairman of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) interim committee. Later, Ranatunga raised question about growing interference of players managers in Sri Lanka cricket in the parliament as well, aiming Austin. Another former captain Tilakaratne Dilshan too made a revelation about Austin, without directly mentioning his name, during a television program. Dilshan said that after he personally negotiated an IPL contract, a certain manager had sent him a letter demanding a 10 per cent commission. Dilshan said he replied to him that it was a contract he had secured on his own.
At present, though Austin officially manages only Mathews and Malinga, Sri Lanka Cricket insiders says that due to the strong stance from the SLC, he has gone behind the scene. According to sources, under his control, one of his close friend Shyam Impett runs the show now. There also also accusations against Austin that he has floated an Inbound tour company named Red Dot Travels, which brings English fans during their team’s matches in Sri Lanka, using players complimentary tickets.
In last few years, many other agents have also emerged like Mushrooms in Sri Lanka cricket. Ravi De Silva, who has studied along with SLC CEO Ashley De Silva, is the manager of several top cricketers including test captain Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya De Silva. Meanwhile, Asanka Wijewardena, manager for Dhanushka Gunatilake, Kusal Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay, is said to be assisted in the task by a relative of former captain Mathews.