Pallekele, Oct 2: You can call it a brilliant move by Sri Lanka. But for some it was not in the Spirit of Cricket. Whatever it is, Sri Lanka have created a model which surely will be followed by other teams. They have found a loophole in the ICC system to eschew a ban on your captain for slow over-rate offences.
When your captain is on notice for slow over-rate offence, just change the skipper and let the regular leader play as an ordinary cricketer. That is what the Islanders did in their Super Eight game in ICC World Twenty20 2012 on Monday night.
To everyone's surprise, Kumar Sangakkara walked out for the toss against England. Many thought captain Mahela Jayawardene was rested for the game as the hosts had almost sealed a place in the semi-final of World T20. But after the toss, when TV commentator Nasser Hussain asked Sangakkara about the move, his reply was that Jayawardene had lost three tosses and he was trying his luck with the spin of the coin. But that was not the true story which was later revealed by Sangakkara himself.
"Well I was the official captain today. Both Mahela (Jayawardene) and (Angelo) Mathews were on warning and that is valid for six months. So we did not want to take the risk," Sangakkara said after their 19-run victory.
But during the match, one could clearly see who was in-charge on the field. Jayawardene was setting the fields and also once consulted the umpire on change of ball. Sangakkara was the playing non-captain!
During the last game against West Indies, Jayawardene and Sri Lanka team were fined for slow over-rate. So they did not want to take a risk of losing their captain for a crucial game like semi-final or final. And they found a clever way to duck that.
According to ICC rules, captain receives warnings during a 12-month period and repeated offences result in a ban.
"The intention was not wrong. I had a warning for an over-rate issue, and if it happened again I could have missed the next match. It's a tough system and it's tough to bowl 20 overs in one hour and 20 minutes in a tournament like this," said Jayawardene, who came for the post-match press conference which is usually attended by the team captain.
"We try our best, but the penalties are harsh. We don't want to miss the big games, so we did it with the right intentions. Angelo Mathews was on the same offence, so if he got nailed he would have missed the game as well. We had to find someone who didn't have a rap sheet and Kumar (Sangakkara) fitted the bill," Jayawardene added.
The right-handed batsman felt ICC might change the rules after what they did in this game.
"I am sure they will change the rules after this, but hopefully not in this tournament," Jayawardene felt.
He also revealed that it was team manager Charith Senanayake who came out with this plan.
Shrewd Sri Lanka have shown the way for other teams. Will others follow?