Senaka Weeraratna, whose preferred title is “My short encounters with Peter Roebuck and Haroon Lorgat in Colombo (Sept. 18 -20, 2011)”
Roebuck & Lorgat
I wish to record my two short meetings with Mr. Peter Roebuck at the SSC Grounds (Sept. 18 -20, 2011) and my subsequent meeting with Mr. Haroon Lorgat on Sept. 20, 2011, at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
It happened in the last three days of the Third and Final Test match between Sri Lanka and Australia played at the SSC Grounds in Colombo (Sept. 18 – 20, 2011).
I was very keen to use this last opportunity before the Australian cricket team and the accompanying journalists left the country at the end of the match, to acquaint the visiting officials and journalists with sets of papers documenting my contribution to the making of the UDRS and in particular, the player referral component which is the lynchpin of the UDRS.
I made 15 spiral-bound Volumes with a nice blue cover containing my papers i.e. correspondence with ICC, Sri Lanka Cricket, and newspaper cuttings of my publications in chronological order from the day of first publication in the ‘Australian’ newspaper on March 25, 1997.
On Sunday, September 18, 2011, the third day of the Test match I visited the SSC grounds in the mid-afternoon hoping to meet some of the well-known Australian journalists. At the end of the day’s play, I was fortunate in meeting Peter Roebuck when he had come out of the building set aside for the Media and was crossing the road to catch a tri-wheeler. I signalled him to stop and asked him whether he was Peter Roebuck, as I was not certain whether he was a well-known cricket journalist. He said ‘yes. He was tall and slim and was wearing a light brown hat. He was in casual clothes.
I introduced myself by name and said that I was claiming authorship of the main components of the UDRS and that I had written evidence in terms of publications in key parts of the cricket world to substantiate my claim. I asked Peter Roebuck whether I could hand over a copy of one of the Volumes I had with me for his reading and reference. He said ‘yes’ and accepted one of the Volumes.
I made it a point to tell him that though much had been written on the UDRS (now called ‘ DRS’) there has been hardly anything written on the origins of the concept underlying the UDRS. He nodded his head in agreement.
In answer to my question, he said that he was staying at the Galle Face Hotel and added that he will certainly read the contents of the set of papers I had handed over to him and will get in touch with me. He then got inside a tri-wheeler and left.
That was my first encounter with Peter Roebuck.
I again met Peter Roebuck at the end of the match (end of the fifth day’s play) at the SSC grounds. The few visiting Journalists mostly from Australia usually wait close to the pavilion to talk to the players once the play concludes for the day. By this time I had distributed a fair few of the Volumes that I was carrying with me. I was pleased that I was able to hand over my sets of papers to the following persons in the last three days of the match:
1) Umpire Aleem Dar (Pakistan)
2) Peter Roebuck (Sydney Morning Herald)
3) Malcolm Conn (Morning Herald)
4) Chris Barret (Sydney Morning Herald)
5) Neville Turner (former Senior Law Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University, and cricket enthusiast)
6) Lawrence (President, Australian Cricket Association)
7) Charn Sharma (Indian commentator for Channel 10)
8) Kumar Sangakkara
9) Mahela Jayawardena
10) Saadi Thawfeek
11) Roshan Abeysinghe (cricket journalist)
12) Daniel Brettig (ESPN Cricinfo)
13) Tony Hill (cricket umpire – met him at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel)
When I met Peter Roebuck at the end of the match on the SSC grounds he was with Jim Maxwell (ABC Cricket Commentator – a relatively short person in height, blond-haired and older looking) and a few other Journalists. Jim Maxwell specifically told me that I should retain a patent attorney. I said that I had already retained lawyers. He appeared to know something of my claims for him to make that remark.
Tony Greig, a few days previously told me over the phone that the entire visiting Australian contingent, including both cricketers, officials, and journalists were all aware of my situation and my claims having read the recent article in the ‘ Daily Mirror’ on August 30, 2011, under the title ‘ Sri Lankan Lawyer to take on ICC’ written by the Indian Journalist, Bipin Dani. Tony Greig further said that there was almost practically no one in that Australian contingent who did not know this story given the recent publicity surrounding it.
Tom Moody told me that he had spent hours discussing my claims with Tony Greig in the past. Neither Tony Greig nor Tom Moody was interested in receiving a copy of my Volume after I had met them when they were about to leave the grounds at the end of the day’s play (3rd day’s play).
Coming back to the scene at the SSC grounds at the end of the match I found several Australian Journalists interviewing the Australian players i.e., Michael Clark, and Rickey Ponting. But I did not see Peter Roebuck speaking to any player, though he was in the vicinity.
When Peter Roebuck saw me, he made it a point to speak to me and said that he had discussed my claims with Saadi Thawfeek (the well-known cricket journalist now working for the ‘Nation’ newspaper) and added that he needed more time to complete reading my papers. The general understanding was that he will write something on my claims in a manner similar to what Rob Steen had done on the ESPN Cricinfo website in an article on UDRS and its origins.
Saadi Thawfeek subsequently confirmed that Peter Roebuck had spoken to him during the match with respect to the claims that I was making and perhaps wanted some background information about me.
The article that I was expecting to read under the name of Peter Roebuck on the origin and true authorship of the UDRS did not appear. But I believe that Peter Roebuck was waiting for the right moment to do so. Given his keen sense of Justice and scholarly legal training at Cambridge University where he had obtained a First Class in law, I was confident that Peter Roebuck would give fair consideration to my claims and write accordingly, without being dismissive as several others have done.
At the end of the match (Third Test between Sri Lanka and Australia) on September 20, 2011, I visited the Cinnamon Grand Hotel after leaving the SSC Grounds hoping to hand over the last remaining Volume containing my writings to Chris Broad (English match referee). I did not meet him. However, I accidentally met Mr. Haroon Lorgat, the ICC CEO, in the foyer of the Hotel at about 6.45 p.m. I introduced myself and offered a copy of the Volume I had with me to Mr. Lorgat for his information and reference.
He refused to accept it on the ground that there was a claim against the ICC.
I pleaded with Mr. Lorgat to accept my papers, as this was precisely the purpose I was trying to hand over a fuller set of papers to the Chief Executive of the ICC, in furtherance of the pressing of my claims with the ICC. I said that I had not instituted legal proceedings nor sent a letter of demand via a lawyer to the ICC so far.
There was still time for the exchange of documents and the presentation of my views. His refusal to accept my documents however unworthy they may be from his point of view was nevertheless unethical and in flagrant breach of his duties as a CEO and a contravention of the protocol of a noted international institution that had Sri Lanka Cricket as an affiliated member. He was duty-bound to accept documents containing claims and give a fair hearing to a serious contender for recognition of his authorship of the UDRS. I had a legitimate expectation of being heard to the fullest by the ICC.
The Principles of Natural Justice and, more importantly, the Spirit of Cricket requires cricket administrators not only to act fairly, but also to be seen to be acting fairly. Mr. Lorgat fell short of this all-important test of administrative fairness.
COMMENTS from Michael Roberts, 28 July 2023
Senaka Weeraratna has been as assiduous as zealous in pressing his claims to be the first person to press for a DECISION REVIEW SYSTEM via the use of modern technology and a third umpire. The powers that be in the cricket world have not responded to his insistent claims. I am inclined to think that he has solid foundations for his claim; but I do not have the expertise to aid his cause.
This account by Senaka regarding a major effort he mounted in 2011 during the World Cup series in Sri Lanka intrigues me for several reasons.
One: Senaka spent a good sum of money in printing an illustrated booklet demonstrating the force of his claims.
Two: he demonstrated inventiveness and persistence in buttonholing cricket journalists and ICC personnel at the SSC grounds and/or their hotels to press his argument via an illustrated booklet.
Among those he buttonholed were two Englishmen, cricketers from the past who were now sports journalists: namely, Tony Greig and Peter Roebuck. It so happens that I was acquainted with both men and admired their commitment to the game of cricket. I had met them at assorted cricket matches during my occasional engagements as a cricket journalist. I admired (and still admire) the late Tony Greig for his forthright and helpful stance on the issue of Muralitharan’s alleged chucking (see Roberts: “Saving Murali: Action On-field and Off-field, 1995-2005,” in Roberta, Incursions & Excursions In and Around Sri Lankan Cricket, Colombo, Vijiha Yapa Publications, 2011, pp. 111-39). Roebuck also figured in my book Essaying Cricket: Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa, 2006: where I had poached essays published elsewhere with his assent, namely, “On Sachin Tendulkar’s Early Coaching,” and “Secret Filming Shows Extent of Bowlers Who Chuck.”
It was Roebuck rather than Grieg who appears to have taken Senaka’s claims seriously. But this moment was in mid-September 2011. We will never know what Roebuck may have done for Senaka’s cause: because Peter moved on the South Africa to report on the Saf-Australia series and was confronted with a serious charge of sexual assault by a young Black African man. He thereupon committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of the Southern Sun Hotel (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Roebuck).
Senaka, therefore, lost a potential ally. I lost a friend and a man whom I consider to be a truth-seeker.