Published: 19 February 2013
One of our regular readers yesterday called us to find out more details on the curse called player agents. He had been away from the country and had read our reports only after arriving in Colombo early last morning. He wondered why Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had failed to tame those agents.
We informed him that when ‘political cronies’ run the affairs of the SLC it was easier for agents to bring the cricket establishment virtually to their feet by manipulating it. We also said that we had the feeling that during the last seven years or so, our cricket had been run not from Maitland Place, but Perera Gardens, where a prominent player agent operates from.
He asked for an example. We then told him that during Sri Lanka’s ICC World T-20 game against England at Pallekele, Maitland Place had been kept in the dark about the captaincy switch, but Perera Gardens was well informed. Howzat? Some top players act in such a way that one cannot be faulted for considering them Anglophiles.
Anyone who wanted to understand the deleterious effect player agents were having on cricket only has to look at the attacks on Chaminda Vaas and Tillekeratne Dilshan, two players who have been very faithful to Sri Lankan cricket. According to a player agent, Vaas sought political intervention for positions, while Dilshan was a match fixer! These were diabolical lies intended to tarnish their image as they were not manipulable.
The player agent vilified Vaas for seeking political assistance to be appointed vice-captain of the national side in 2005. Vaas was all qualified to lead the Sri Lankan side; he had seniority, having played Test cricket for 11 long years and more importantly was a World Cup winner.
The agent forgot that Vaas had been Sri Lanka’s leading fast bowler for over a decade. We then told our reader that we had been shocked to see Vaas in tears in the Sri Lankan team hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2006 when he informed the cricket hierarchy in Colombo that he was stepping down as vice-captain.
Vaas felt that his reputation had been damaged. Vaas had taken over the vice-captaincy from Mahela Jayawardene, who incidentally was the first Sri Lankan cricketer to solicit the services of a player agent, in 2002.
There were several attempts to paint Dilshan as a villain. Clever tactics were employed to paint a black picture of him as a match fixer. ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat has denied that Dilshan was guilty of any wrongdoing. Any person aspiring to lead Sri Lanka was targeted for a vilification campaign unless he was in the good books of this agent from hell. It’s a pity that SLC had not cared to investigate these incidents properly.
Our reader then asked why we had placed the blame squarely at the doorstep of the player agent for the cancellation of Sri Lanka’s tour of England in 2009, instead of the senior players. We told him that the greed of senior players was one reason for the cancellation of the tour of England in favour of the IPL, but the bigger share of blame had to be apportioned to the player agent. We also informed him that the biggest earners from the IPL were agents and not players, until a new rule was introduced by the BCCI that they would deal directly with cricket boards and not with agents.
Sanath Jayasuriya alone paid close to US$ 300,000 as commission to one particular player agent during IPL.
Our reader faulted us for criticizing agents for getting involved in charitable activities. He felt that the Murali Cup tournament played in the North was a step in the right direction where national reconciliation efforts were concerned. We then told our reader that although last year’s Murali Cup was played in the north, the year before it had been played in the south, where one player agent had brought in teams from abroad in a bid to maximise profits. He had even promoted the event in the UK, with a picture of a wide eyed young spinner in action and it read, ‘Play against the next Murali’.
One of that particular agent’s other businesses ventures was bringing in teams from overseas to play in Sri Lanka. That’s why, we said, we had remained skeptical about player agent’s intentions to get involved in charity.
Philanthropist Kushil Gunasekara, too, had been involved in that charity and while we had promoted all Kushil’s charitable activities in a big way, the moment we learned that a player agent with a questionable background was involved in the exercise, we refrained from supporting them.
We also told our reader that we had strongly felt that Lasith Malinga would still have been playing Test cricket if not for his agent who together with some senior Sri Lankan cricketers had tried to convince Aravinda de Silva that Malinga wasn’t fit enough to stand up to the rigours of five-day cricket. But the seasoned campaigner that he is, de Silva would have none of that nonsense. He told the fast bowler and his agent that he knew of no fast bowler who didn’t have niggles. Throughout, whether it was Ashantha de Mel, Rumesh Ratnayake or Chaminda Vaas, they had played through pain and taking pain killers. Malinga, de Silva said, should be no exception.
It is also a crime that Sri Lanka’s hard working coaches go in search of raw talent like Malinga and Dinesh Chandimal to places like Ratgama and Ambalangoda, but as soon as they made their mark in international cricket, player agents made a killing at the game’s expense.
Our reader was glad that finally the SLC had derecognized player agents. But we warned him. Only last year, they were seeking international recognition. There was this sinister move to get the International Cricket Council (ICC) to officially recognize them the world over. The stance the SLC has taken could change with time with changes at its helm. The SLC needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards player agents that does not change with the passage of time. Else, the wily player agents will make a comeback in a much bigger way much to the detriment to the ‘luvly game’. We don’t want any more cricketers to be in the same predicament as Dilshan or Vaas.
Courtesy - The Island
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