Former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga has blamed Sri Lanka’s string of humiliating defeats on the country’s cricket chief and demanded an investigation by the International Cricket Council. In what could be the opening shots of a new bid to head Sri Lanka Cricket, Ranatunga, 53, said that there was no “proper discipline” in the national team which has had a horror run of results.
The team lost by an innings and 53 runs in the second Test against India on Sunday, after being crushed in the first match by 304 runs. They are now fighting to avoid a whitewash in the three-Test series. Sri Lanka also suffered an early exit from the Champions Trophy, and lost a One-Day International series at home to bottom ranked Zimbabwe last month.
Ranatunga accused Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala, 52, of being involved in gambling – a claim the latter denies – and said he should not be allowed to hold office. “There is no proper discipline in the team... (but) no point in blaming the cricketers when they get involved in all these gambling things (sic). First they have to get the officials in order,” Ranatunga added.
There have been reports of attempts to approach Sri Lankan players for alleged match-fixing. Several officials, umpires and players have been suspended or fined for involvement in match-fixing or refusing to cooperate with investigations. Ranatunga said the International Cricket Council should investigate Sumathipala over alleged gambling links and the conduct of the Sri Lankan board.
“I want to know if the ICC has a backbone to check if these people (Sri Lanka Cricket management) are in compliance with ethics standards,” Ranatunga said. There was no immediate comment from the ICC. But Sumathipala denied the allegation and accused Ranatunga of a smear campaign in a bid to take over the board.
Sumathipala said Sri Lanka’s sports ministry and the ICC had both cleared him to hold office at SLC, as well as at the Asian Cricket Council and ICC. “I deny any involvement personally, directly or indirectly with gambling business,” Sumathipala said.
Ranatunga must resign, says Sumathipala
He also slammed Ranatunga, Sri Lanka’s minister of petroleum, for accusing President Maithripala Sirisena’s government of failing to protect the game. “If he wants to criticise the government, he must first resign,” Sumathipala, said adding that allegations are frequently made against the board when the national team performs badly.
“Every time the game is affected at the middle, Sri Lanka cricketers are not performing to the expectation, we hear this kind of noise coming from the same quarter,” Sumathipala said. He added that Ranatunga was hoping to oust him as Sri Lanka’s cricket chief, a position he tried and failed to secure in elections in January 2016.
“The same man (Ranatunga) is continuously making every effort undemocratically, unethically to hold office of Sri Lanka Cricket, even when he has been democratically defeated more than once,” Sumathipala said.
Ranatunga and his younger brother Nishantha stood against Sumathipala at last year’s board elections and lost. The next elections are due in five months. Since retiring from the game, Ranatunga has entered politics and he was an unelected cricket administrator in 2008. Authorities have not responded to his demand that an interim committee run Sri Lankan Cricket.
“I thought OK, if the government thinks this is right – and I am part of this government – I tried to take a step back and allowed them (the board) to run. They have messed up everything,” Ranatunga said.
Last month Ranatunga also demanded an investigation into the country’s 2011 World Cup final defeat by India, which was accompanied by allegations of match-fixing. Sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said he was willing to order a probe if there was a written complaint.