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What lies ahead for Sri Lanka Cricket?

Last updated on 16 Nov 2023 | 01:59 PM
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What lies ahead for Sri Lanka Cricket?

What started as a matter of government interference has now escalated into a full-blown ego battle in the court, which doesn't seem to end anytime soon

In August 2023, when Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) were preparing to host the Asia Cup, some of the members were discontent. It was apparent that the board had fallen out of favour with the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Roshan Ranasinghe, and a severe blow was not too far away. 

Ranasinghe saw the current SLC dispensation as a “corrupt” organization, but as many SLC officials have claimed since, the minister wanted to have “full control” of the board. However, with the Asia Cup bringing substantial tourism revenue and a pie of forex reserves to the Island nation, no one was ready to take the battle to the public domain. 

A month after the conclusion of the Asia Cup in Colombo, things were in action once again. With the national team competing in the ICC Cricket World Cup in India, Ranasinghe made several calls to various officials, which led to SLC President Shammi Silva and vice-president Ravin Wickramaratne informing the International Cricket Council (ICC) about the interference that the government was creating. 

That, however, didn’t stop Sri Lanka's sports minister, who went on to sack the Sri Lanka Cricket board, replacing officials with an "interim committee" headed by Arjuna Ranatunga. Then, the ICC, at the insistence of Silva and Wickramaratne, banned Sri Lanka Cricket with immediate effect. 

The decision by the ICC apparently had the blessings of the BCCI, which had a very cordial relationship with Silva but didn’t share the same equation with Ranatunga, who has always been critical of the Indian board’s ethics. With relative back and forth, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court reinstated the previous board with a 14-day stay order. Was it the end? Not really.

Roshan Ranasinghe decided to challenge the decision of the court and immediately conducted a press conference, bashing SLC officials and the “corrupt practices" in the board. Sri Lanka Cricket then initiated a defamation lawsuit against him. 

The fate of U19 World Cup 2024

For all the administrative malaise in the Island nation, this has been the most severe one in the 21st century - effectively bringing the viability of the 2024 U19 World Cup, which was to be held in Colombo in January, into question.

While a decision about the fate of the tournament may be taken at the next board meeting on November 21, it is the least of anyone’s concerns, with the tournament still a couple of months to go. Even if it has to be shifted out of Sri Lanka, immediate arrangements wouldn’t be a concern for the ICC. Hence, there is unlikely to be any worry.

Sri Lanka Cricket's future

Unlike other battles in the past, this doesn’t seem to end quickly. What started as a matter of government interference has now escalated into a full-blown ego battle in the court. The ultimate loser here is Sri Lanka Cricket, who right now can’t schedule a series with anyone till the ban is lifted. The next assignment Sri Lanka have is the tour of England in mid-2024 and how things will sustain till then is the biggest cause of concern.

According to the ICC Future Tours Programme, Sri Lanka were supposed to host Zimbabwe for three ODIs and as many T20Is in January before hosting Afghanistan for a Test and three ODIs. They are also slated to travel to Bangladesh for a multi-format series comprising two Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is. All of those assignments now run into doubt. 

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