On The Front Foot: Board need state-owned Bank of Ceylon to pay players


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Last year the International Cricket Council issued a kind of final warning to the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, desperately worried about how the game was run. For years there had been an interim board. Actually, there had been various interim boards, all established at the whim of the government.

Proper elections were at last held late last year and a formal, autonomous board was put in place, free from government interference. So far, so good.

But that still left the small matter of virtual bankruptcy, created largely but perhaps not exclusively, by the squandering of money on new stadiums. International players went unpaid throughout most of last year.

Only the intervention of the ICC last December, who paid to the players £1.3million to cover some of their back wages, the money deducted from the board's World Cup fee payments, prevented certain strike action. Last week, the board paid the rest, but it was able to do so only with a government guarantee given by the sports minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, to the state-owned Bank Of Ceylon. That would seem to put the board in thrall to the government once again. The ICC is unbothered as long as it looks transparent.

Another meaningless review

It would not do to impugn the Sri Lankan administrators without also paying some regard to the England and Wales Cricket Board. Ignore for the moment the trousering of some £4.5m in cash handed over in the short-lived liaison with Sir Allen Stanford who has since been convicted of a massive fraud.

Consider instead the Morgan Review, which was set up last year and whose recommendations have recently been digested. When David Morgan, a former ECB chairman, was first invited to organise a review it was said to be into the finances of domestic cricket. What eventually transpired was a paper on its structure. Seemingly not distracted by this change, the ECB insisted on the report's publication that it would be accepted in whole or not at all.

This was in spite of some apparent anomalies, such as amendments to the Championship which would mean an inequitable number of matches and another increase in the Twenty20 schedule. What has now happened, however, is that the ECB has, in its words, approved the principles. As Giles Clarke, Morgan's successor as chairman, put it: "It is important that thorough consumer research and financial analysis is carried out on the detailed strategy to ensure that we have a balanced domestic playing programme which suits the lifestyles of the modern consumer and allows for the production of outstanding players with international potential participating in vibrant domestic competitions." Whatever that means, but it sounds suspiciously like the Morgan Review will join so many of its predecessors in gathering dust in the ECB vaults.

Tendulkar's century ton had resonance

When Sachin Tendulkar made his 100th international hundred at last there was some smart alec nonsense about it being an artificial stat. For instance, there had been no fuss when Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan took their 1000th international wickets. Actually, Warne took his in his last international match of all, and his 707th in Tests, that of Monty Panesar on 3 January, 2005. Murali sent back Khalid Mahsud in the second Test at Chittagong on 2 March, 2006. True they did not have quite the same resonance but there it is.

Why Knott make him an MBE?

Alan Knott, still unfeasibly gongless despite being England's best ever wicketkeeper batsman, has set up a website. He is also staging an evening of reminiscences at Canterbury on 3 May. Tickets are £55 each and it is to be hoped by then he will be a shoo-in for an MBE (at least) in the Birthday Honours List. Considering who else has these things, it really is about time.