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 ‘I have come here to serve the sport for the last time in my life’

‘I have come here to serve the sport for the last time in my life’

07 Nov 2023 | By Ranjika Perera

  • New Sri Lanka Cricket Interim Committee Chairman Arjuna Ranatunga speaks to the media 

The Sri Lanka cricketing fraternity was taken by storm in the early hours of yesterday (6) when the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs sent a media release appointing an interim committee for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) headed by former World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunge. 

The move was on the cards after a huge public outcry against the current board, coaching staff, selectors, and players took place after a disappointing defeat at the hands of the mighty Indians. 

Below is an excerpt from the media conference headed by Ranatunge which took place at the cricket board yesterday.

What was discussed today at the meeting with the minister?

We have two parts to this interim committee. One is the cricket administration and the other with the three retired judges is separate. My main focus will be on cricket. Others will look into other matters. We have spoken to all stakeholders and have asked them to continue their work, but we have advised them to minimise the expenditure because the money that we receive for cricket must be spent at the grassroots levels in schools and rural areas. As a brand, Sri Lanka Cricket has fallen into a bad place in recent times. I want to build this brand into one of the best and corruption-free institutions in the country. 

With regard to the sport, we know there are some shortcomings when it comes to commitment and discipline, but we all believe that there is no lack of talent in the group of players that we currently have. While looking into these aspects, we will not disrupt any ongoing projects. We will make sure to carry out all operations with minimum cost, including the upcoming U19 World Cup. 

There were reports stating that Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe wasn’t informed regarding the appointment of the interim committee. What are your thoughts in this regard?

So far, the minister has appointed three interim committees for three different sports. I don’t think the President would be against removing a group of people who have been found guilty of financial mismanagement through an Auditor General’s report. There are some parties who have depended on the previous board who are creating these rumours and spreading them. 

The team of people who have come on board with me will work with full transparency. We will always accept criticism, unlike the previous board that filed lawsuits against media personnel who spoke against their actions. We are accountable to all Sri Lankans, not only to the members of SLC. Whenever I take up a post, I always come with a plan in hand. 

You speak of fixing cricket; who are you willing to bring on board for this mission?

I was really surprised when six former players living in Australia called me and offered their help on this mission. There are more than 80 former players who have left the country and are living abroad. We haven’t used our former players in the coaching set-up. I am not against getting foreigners in the coaching set-up but they must do a proper job. 

I have a plan in place and I urge past players and captains to join with us to bring Sri Lanka cricket back to its former glory. I hope to appoint an advisory committee with former players to get advice on cricket. Since I have taken up this task, I will make sure to stay true to it until the end. 

Will there be any rejection from the International Cricket Council (ICC)?

This is not relevant to the ICC. Pakistan cricket is run by an interim committee and there has been political interference. Our minister followed the correct protocol by going to court with the Auditor General’s report and the report clearly states that action needs to be taken. If he doesn’t take any action, the minister will be questioned. We didn’t want to change anything during the World Cup but there was a public outcry from fans to make a change and save cricket. Cricket will not be disrupted because we have talented cricketers; it is simply outside factors that have caused problems. 

The Lanka Premier League (LPL) wasn’t played at the correct time. The major club tournament is being played during the rainy season. Therefore, many of our cricketers go to England during the off-season to play and earn some extra cash, but now that has also been stopped. Not all players will get a chance to play national cricket so they should be allowed to play abroad and earn money. 

Concerning the names mentioned with regard to financial mismanagement in the report – will there be any action against them?

The minister has already informed the relevant authorities to look into those matters. The retired judges will be given the task of working as a committee and looking into the mismanagement. I’ve not come here to catch thieves; we have come here to rebuild cricket. We are here to make sure no money will be wasted and all actions taken will be transparent to the public. 

Were there any concerns raised over the appointment of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s son?

We believe he has the right to be on the committee. It doesn’t matter who his father is if he is qualified to take up the post. There are many lawsuits currently going on and so much money is spent on lawyers, but if we can have someone on the committee to look into those matters, that itself saves money. Also, he is young and the public likes to include young blood in the system. 

I requested a clean sheet – people with a clean profile. We will divide responsibilities among the group and fulfil our tasks accordingly. If we need to bring in former players who are coaching abroad, we will bring them. It doesn’t mean we will sack the current lot, but they need to show me results. Coaches can’t stay inside AC rooms; they should be in the field. 

In 2008, I appointed Jerome Jayaratne and implemented a plan, but he was sacked and they brought in an international coach and ruined the progress. This is not my business; this is almost like a religion, which all of us in Sri Lanka follow with all our hearts. 

People came out in public and asked the minister to hand over the board to Arjuna. I was peacefully minding my own business but I feel that I owe it to my country to find a solution for the current situation. I have conducted more than 50 meetings in the National Sports Council – even when I was in America. I always give my fullest commitment towards what I have been appointed to do. 

You pointed fingers at one of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s closest colleagues. Did the President say anything with regard to it?

I don’t think the President would tell me anything because I have worked with him and he knows who I am. He said in front of the international public that he has zero tolerance for corruption. This Auditor General report is only based on one tour but there is so much more corruption in this system and we are simply scratching the surface. We never told the minister to appoint an interim committee. If the board was running smoothly, we would not have had any issues. We will never allow people to spend $ 700 per day. If anyone needs to attend meetings, we will discuss it with the minister and decide. 

There are always corrupt people around. If I am asked to leave tomorrow, we will leave. I have nothing to gain from this. I don’t earn by coming here in an honorary capacity. I have enough and more to live comfortably on my own. I have come here to serve the sport for the last time in my life. 

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