Sri Lanka sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe on Monday sacked the entire national cricket board and formed a new interim board, a statement from his office confirmed. This comes just days after the island nation’s second consecutive humiliation at the hands of neighbours India.
According to reports, Ranasinghe has been at loggerheads with Sri Lanka Cricket, the richest sports organization in the otherwise financially stricken country, for months over alleged widespread corruption.
Following the sudden decision, Ranasinghe also placed an interim board led by the country’s 1996 World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga. “Sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe has formed an interim committee for Sri Lanka Cricket,” the statement from his office said.
The new seven-member panel also includes a retired supreme court judge and a former board president. The move came a day after the board’s second-highest officer, secretary Mohan de Silva quit.
In the wake of Sri Lanka’s damning 302-run defeat against India last week in the World Cup, Ranasinghe publicly demanded the resignations of the entire board. At one point, Sri Lanka were reduced to 14 for the loss of six wickets and were all out for 55, the fourth-lowest World Cup total in the history, while chasing a target of 358 in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the defeat had prompted a public outcry and police had to be deployed outside the board office in Colombo following angry protests on Saturday. Ranasinghe said that Sri Lanka Cricket officials had no moral or ethical right to remain in office.
“They should voluntarily resign,” he had said. Ranasinghe had previously accused the board of being “traitorous and corrupt”.
Ranasinghe wrote to the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday, something which is against the rules as it is deemed as political interference in the sport, asking for their understanding and support. In the letters released to Sri Lankan media since, Ranasinghe wrote, “Sri Lanka Cricket has been besieged with complaints of player disciplinary issues, management corruption, financial misconduct and match-fixing allegations.”
He was earlier forced to withdraw a three-member panel constituted to prove the alleged corruption at the board as it was deemed to be political interference. There has been no official comment from the ICC regarding Ranasinghe’s letter or his move to dismiss a board elected in May with president Shammi Silva on his third consecutive term.
Ranasinghe blamed the board for the “deterioration” of standards saying that Sri Lanka have not won the World Cup since 1996. Another cabinet minister Prasanna Ranatunga, the brother of the newly appointed interim board chairman, told the parliament in August that the 1996 triumph had been “the biggest curse for our cricket”.
He said, “Money started flowing to the cricket board after 1996 and with that came those who wanted to steal.”
Former sports minister Harin Fernando had introduced tough anti-corruption laws in 2019 after saying that the ICC considered Sri Lanka as one of the world’s most corrupt cricketing nations.