Sri Lanka’s sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe sacked the national cricket board on Monday and the government appointed a panel to address “outstanding issues”, days after a humiliating defeat by India at the World Cup.
Ranasinghe has been at loggerheads with Sri Lanka Cricket – the richest sports organisation on the financially stricken island – for months over allegations of widespread corruption.
The country’s 1996 World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, 59, has been appointed chairman of a new interim board, Ranasinghe’s office said in a statement.
The former captain was “the most suitable person to revive cricket”, the minister told reporters in Colombo. “The priority is to get the team to perform better.”
Interim chairman Ranatunga told reporters that he had accepted the challenge of rebuilding cricket.
“Sri Lanka Cricket had become known as the most corrupt institution in the country,” he added. “I want to change that image.”
Within hours, the government appointed a cabinet committee headed by foreign minister Ali Sabry to “recommend immediate, viable measures to resolve the outstanding issues in Sri Lanka Cricket”, President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said in a statement.
The moves came a day after the board’s second-highest officer, secretary Mohan de Silva, quit.
Minister Ranasinghe publicly demanded the entire board’s resignations after Sri Lanka’s 302-run World Cup thrashing by hosts India last week.
Sri Lanka were at one point 14-6 and were all out for 55, the fourth-lowest World Cup total in history, while chasing India’s 358 in Mumbai.
The defeat prompted a public outcry and police have been deployed outside the board office in Colombo since Saturday when there were angry protests.
Ranasinghe said that Sri Lanka Cricket officials had no moral or ethical right to remain in office.
“They should voluntarily resign,” he said, having previously accused the board of being “traitorous and corrupt”.
Sri Lanka lost to Bangladesh later on Monday, confirming their exit from the tournament without reaching the semi-finals.
The interim panel is the 10th appointed by a sports minister for various reasons since 1999 – when the government intervened after the president’s uncle lost the election to lead the board – despite International Cricket Council rules against political interference.
On Saturday, Ranasinghe wrote to full members of the ICC asking for their understanding and support.
“Sri Lanka Cricket has been besieged with complaints of player disciplinary issues, management corruption, financial misconduct and match-fixing allegations,” Ranasinghe said in the letters, released to Sri Lankan media.
“I would like to emphasise that interim measures will only be taken to establish good governance principles.”
The minister was last month forced by the ICC to withdraw a three-member panel he had appointed to investigate alleged corruption at the board after it was deemed to violate the interference rules.
There was no immediate reaction from the ICC to Ranasinghe’s latest move and dismissed board president Shammi Silva, who was elected to a third consecutive term in May, also did not comment.
Sri Lanka have not won the World Cup since 1996, with Ranasinghe blaming the board for the “deterioration” of standards.
Another cabinet minister, Prasanna Ranatunga – brother of the newly appointed interim board chairman – told parliament in August that the 1996 triumph had been “the biggest curse for our cricket”.
“Money started flowing to the cricket board after 1996 and with that came those who wanted to steal,” he said.
A former sports minister, Harin Fernando, introduced tough anti-corruption laws in 2019 after saying that the ICC considered Sri Lanka one of the world’s most corrupt cricketing nations.