Issues: Machinations in Selecting Cricket Teams in Ceylon & Lanka

“A Cricket Lover from an Old School”

My dear Michael, This refers to your mail of 6th January regarding machinations in the selection of Sri Lankan cricket teams in the past. This dimension of cricket/lifeways has always been there in varied forms. In the old days [namely, the 1940s and 1950s], such wheeler-dealer operations were the imprint of the big clubs like the SSC, NCC, and possibly BRC. So, members of these clubs probably had an edge on others. Outstation cricketers hardly had a look in.

 

DD Jayasinghe

 Chandra Schaffter

KMT Perera as Manager of a subssequent touring team, 1975

Things changed I think in the mid-60s, when D.D. Jayasinghe, K.M.T. Perera, Bobby Schoorman and Chandra Schaffter became selectors. That selection team did unorthodox things such as dropping CI from the captaincy and appointing Michael Tissera who was probably half his age. The results have proved the wisdom of what they did. That Selection Committee also made Michael captain over H.I.K. Fernando because the trial match pitting two teams against each other revealed that H.I.K. did not have a clue on captaincy.

This had its repercussions later on in 1968 because H.I.K. made himself a catspaw for Abu Fuard, D.H. de Silva and his gang, who wanted their boys in the team. This is the perennial problem, one which no one should support.

Schaffter walked out of the selection committee meeting when H.I.K. Fernando made himself captain and Dhanasiri Weerasinghe made himself a player [in the team selected to tour England]. Sam Abeysekera [the Chairman of the Selection Committee] was a willing accomplice. All this was manipulated by Abu Fuard. That was far back as 1968, and his machinations continued, probably until 1998, in various forms. Cricket previously had been run by about 10-15 clubs. Abu Fuard now brought in about 100, by changing the Board of Control constitution and so clubs that did not have a ground, did not have a team, just a couple of players, district cricket associations which existed only on paper, all had membership in the Board and a vote. So voting was easy because one was beholden to the guys who put one in.

 

 

Having said this, no one should be so naive as to think that some form of patronage is not prevalent in most countries. Certainly, I think in India and Australia. I cannot speak so much for others and England probably has a fairly strict system. There, in England in the old days, Yorkshire probably had a big say and many of their cricketers played for England. Nowadays in Sri Lanka the President and the Sports Minister both have a say – Sanath Jayasuriya was brought back from nowhere, at the request of the President and when he says something, it has to be done. So, there is no choice for the selectors or for the team management.

My view on the place and duties of selectors is a very conservative one. You are in a position of trust and your word is law. You do not have to explain your actions.  If the powers-that-be in the local cricket world do not like you, they can put you out at the end of the year, but while you are there, you are fiercely independent.  There is a story about Duggie Jayasinghe, who was a clerk in government service.  He was Chairman of Selectors. Robert Senanayake was a powerful President of the Board. His brother Dudley was the Prime Minister. Robert was a fine gentleman but sometimes his heart ruled his head.  CI had been deposed as captain and he was probably on his way out anyway as a cricketer. One day during a match, while sitting in the one of the club pavilions, Robert told Duggie “see if you can do something for C.I.”. Duggie, as a government clerk, told the Prime Minister’s brother: Robert you do your job and I will do my job”. That was it. Robert was a gentleman and there were no repercussions. If Duggie did this today, he would have found himself in Hambantota the next day.

Selectors owe no excuse to anybody except to themselves. What they say at the meeting is absolutely confidential. It is counter-productive to give the press or anybody else explanations for their actions. If they begin that, then they open themselves to criticism.

Michael, I do not know how much you agree with me on these issues. Perhaps I have lived beyond my time………….. Sincerely…..

   ************

ALSO NOTE

  • Death of Bobby Schoorman in Melbourne in May 2008**

Bobby Schoorman, a seamer who represented Sri Lanka in the mid-fifties, has died in Melbourne, aged 89. He played four first-class matches, taking eight wickets at 16.62.

He made his first-class debut in the Gopalan Trophy match in 1955-56 and took 4 for 12 in the first innings to help Ceylon post an innings victory. He also impressed in his next match against Hyderabad, nabbing another four-wicket haul, including that of former Indian Test batsman ML Jaisimha.

He was less successful in his only other first-class matches when India toured Sri Lanka the following year. He also played for Burgher Recreation Club, one of Sri Lanka’s most famous clubs, in the Daily News Trophy and the Donovan Andree Trophy.  ………………………………………………………….. ………https://africa.espn.com/cricket/story/_/id/22872096/former-sri-lankan-cricketer-schoorman-dies

 

 

A FURTHER NOTE from Michael Roberts:

D. D. Jayasinghe was a product of Mahinda College in Galle and his younger brother Marcus served as coach for St. Aloysius when I was in the Aloysian team from 1955-57. Later on, when pitted against DD in a cricket match at Thurstan Rd  about the year 1960 when an University of Ceylon B Team faced the Education Department squad, I recall a friendly chat with DD and another player, one Charles. Both were gentlemen of the old no-nonsense school. It is interesting that personnel from the outstations had to tell ‘gentlemen’ from leading Colombo schools that partisan manipulations were simply not kosher.

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