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Seeing hope in adversity

Special Correspondent

— Photo: K. Pichumani

Chandra Schafter.

CHENNAI: To Chandra Schafter — who has selected Sri Lankan cricket squads, taken teams from the island to India and England as manager, and been involved in the administration, particularly with the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club in Colombo — the mix of sport and violence is all too familiar.

“Sport, as it is now, is so important that if you want to create chaos it’s ideal,” he told The Hindu when he was in the city recently.

“Terrorists want an audience as well, and sport unfortunately is caught in the trap. It’s very difficult for international cricketers to willingly play in such times. But in many ways, cricket has done us in Sri Lanka a lot of good in troubled times — it’s one thing that has brought the country together.”

Developing naturally

A beacon of hope in the strife-torn island nation, the sport has developed in curious circumstances. The administration is often criticised for being deeply politicised, but nowhere is a cricketer allowed as much space to develop naturally.

“Cricket has become such a high-profile game that everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, and very often the administration is politicised,” said Schafter, explaining why the game’s development hasn’t been hurt by the system.

“Political authority must not be misused, but sadly that is so. Cricket in Sri Lanka has developed despite the system — the lower levels of the game have managed to insulate themselves from the politics. Only international cricket is glamorous you see, and so that’s what draws people who want power.”

How is it that freak talents breaking through aren’t forced to conform? “It’s funny, we do have a lot of coaches but they probably are sensible enough not to interfere unnecessarily,” said Schafter.

“The other thing is a lot of these cricketers, who come from the outstations as we call them Sri Lanka, are too far gone to coach and alter. Malinga came through when he was 20, Mendis when 23 — so they’re left alone.”

Good men at the top

Schafter said Sri Lanka is fortunate to have men such as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara at the helm —men he described as fair, balanced, and intelligent.

“I think Sri Lankan cricket is going forward slowly,” he said.

“With Mendis to partner Murali, and the youngsters coming into their own, the future appears good. As the long as the administration stays steady.”

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