Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister, Roshan Ranasinghe, took the decisive action of dismissing the national cricket board on Monday, a move that followed a devastating World Cup loss to India, one that had left the nation reeling.
Ranasinghe, who had been embroiled in a long-standing dispute with Sri Lanka Cricket – the nation’s most financially prosperous sports organization – over allegations of extensive corruption, has appointed Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain who led Sri Lanka to victory in the 1996 World Cup, as the chairman of a new interim board, according to an official statement.
“Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe has established an interim committee for Sri Lanka Cricket,” the statement declared.
This new seven-member panel includes a retired Supreme Court judge and a former board president.
Notably, this decision came on the heels of the board’s secretary, Mohan de Silva, stepping down the day before.
Ranasinghe had publicly demanded the entire board’s resignation following the dismal World Cup performance, in which Sri Lanka was dismissed for just 55 runs while chasing India’s imposing total of 358 in Mumbai.
The crushing defeat sparked public outrage, and security forces were deployed outside the board’s office in Colombo after heated protests erupted.
Ranasinghe vehemently asserted that the officials of Sri Lanka Cricket had lost their moral and ethical standing and should voluntarily step down. He had previously accused the board of being both “traitorous and corrupt.”
Sri Lanka, currently in dire straits in the World Cup, played against Bangladesh, and they would require a highly improbable turn of events to advance to the tournament’s final four.
On Saturday, Ranasinghe appealed to the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has regulations against political interference in the sport, seeking understanding and support.
In his letters to ICC full members, Ranasinghe highlighted the litany of issues besieging Sri Lanka Cricket, including player disciplinary problems, management corruption, financial irregularities, and match-fixing allegations.
The ICC had previously compelled Ranasinghe to withdraw a three-member panel he had appointed in the prior month to investigate allegations of corruption within the board, deeming it as political interference.
The ICC has not yet responded to Ranasinghe’s latest action, which involved dissolving a board elected in May, where President Shammi Silva was in his third consecutive term.
Sri Lanka’s last World Cup victory was in 1996, and Ranasinghe has laid blame on the board for the perceived decline in standards. Another cabinet minister, Prasanna Ranatunga, brother of the newly-appointed interim board chairman, asserted in parliament in August that the 1996 triumph had inadvertently given rise to the scourge of corruption in Sri Lankan cricket.
He contended that financial gains had led to individuals with nefarious intentions infiltrating the sport. In 2019, Harin Fernando, a former Sports Minister, had implemented stringent anti-corruption laws, citing the ICC’s concerns about Sri Lanka’s cricketing integrity.