The International Cricket Council (ICC) has categorically refused to meet a three-member Sports Coordination Committee in Cricket appointed by Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe.
The Minister’s latest move is seen as yet another attempt to creep into cricket administration via the committee that has been set up to handle the international affairs of the country’s richest sports body.
The team includes respected former Sri Lanka cricketer Sidath Wettimuny, former Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Upali Dharmadasa and Rakitha Rajapakshe, son of Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.
They expected to “monitor, communicate and coordinate with international and national cricket councils, federations and institutes to safeguard the development, independence and transparency of cricket in Sri Lanka and also to advice the Hon. Minister”.
After setting up the body on Tuesday, the Minister notified the ICC of the latest development and requested a meeting for them with ICC Chair Greg Barclay. The ICC has, however, shot down the request and reiterated the need for SLC to govern its affairs autonomously, without any Government interference.
“The ICC’s point of contact for all issues relating to cricket in Sri Lanka will be Sri Lanka Cricket,” said the letter signed by Geoff Allardice, ICC Chief Executive, addressed to Minister Ranasinghe on Friday.
“So the ICC Chair and/or CEO will not be meeting with your International Sports Coordination Committee in Cricket without the endorsement of Sri Lanka Cricket, and no such endorsement has been given,” he maintained.
“As I stated in my letter to you of 11 April, the ICC expects Sri Lanka Cricket to manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no Government (or other public or quasi-public body) interference in its governance, regulation and/or administration of cricket,” he continues.
Under the ICC’s rules, member boards are required to operate independently of Government interference, with the ultimate goal of protecting the integrity of the game. Like most international sports bodies, ICC demands complete independence of its member associations whilst respecting domestic laws.
The Sports Minister and SLC have been at loggerheads ever since Sri Lanka shifted the Asia Cup to Dubai (whilst retaining hosting rights) last year. He has openly criticised SLC over its handling of funds and the lack of transparency in its administration. SLC has, however, withstood the pressure.
Sri Lanka’s current Sports Law allows the Sports Minister dissolve all registered national sports bodies and put them under interim administration.
Following repeated complaints from SLC over political interference, the ICC appointed a three-member committee headed by Jay Shah, the Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Others on the committee are Usman Khwaja, the Deputy Chair of the ICC, and Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) President Nazmul Hassan.
In May, Khwaja held talks with top Government officials, including President Ranil Wickremasinghe and Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe during his two-day fact-finding mission on alleged political interference in cricket administration. He also met with SLC officials and some of former administrators.
In April, the Minister set up a five-member Technical Consultative Committee headed by Sanath Jayasuriya to advise the Minister of Sports, Ministry officials, and the National Sports Council on all matters relating to cricket in Sri Lanka.
After Sri Lanka made a first-round exit at the World Cup a few months after lifting the Asia Cup, the Sports Minister appointed a committee to inquire into alleged incidents that occurred during the ICC T20 World Cup 2022. The committee made a number of recommendations including the suspension of SLC’s registration and a complete audit. The audit, which was recently presented to the Parliament, has highlighted various financial and procedural irregularities and had recommended to institute legal action against those responsible.
Last year, Minister Ranasinghe also introduced several new regulations placing term limits and age limits, compromising the autonomy and independence of national sports bodies, including SLC.