The current sports minister repeatedly states that there has never been any political interference within sports, not just cricket, during his tenure. He even goes on to say that if one single example of political interference within sports under his watch can be proven, he would resign. Yet, within cricket alone there have been many events that have raised significant doubt about the minister’s honesty.
Nishantha Ranatunga’s ability to repeatedly get elected UNCONTESTED to higher office, not only at SLC, but also at the club level, can only be described as an act of Miracle by God, if not politically influenced.
Several questionable lucrative financial dealings, such as the CSN deal made by SLC under Nishantha Ranatunga’s guidance have raised many eyebrows, but are found to be perfectly legit by Minister-appointed committees.
Sanath Jayasuriya’s quick rise to prominence within the administration of SLC, just a few years after his retirement from international cricket, has also drawn the attention of many observers. Sanath was made chief selector while many of his former teammates including a few who captained him and also contributed to his eventual axing, were still members of the team. Yet, SLC explained that they had to look outside of Marvan Attapattu for a coach when the former opener had made it through to the last two candidates by passing through SLC’s own process, simply because “there are seniors in the team with whom he played alongside”.
The Sanath-led selection team immediately selected Ramith Rambukwella, a ruling-party minister’s son, to represent Sri Lanka, with albeit a poor domestic record and when there were many other deserving players. An overwhelming majority of the cricket-loving public cannot make sense out of any of these actions, but they are all very logical, practical, reasonable and justifiable to the minister, who is responsible for approving all of these decisions.
How one could argue the non-existence of political interference within cricket, while appointing a politician to a position of significant power within SLC’s administration, is in itself an act of great comedy and an insult to the intelligence of the cricket loving public!
Perhaps the greatest act of comedy in all of this is the minister’s use of his power to grant special permission to Suraj Dandeniya’s candidacy for the top post within badminton. Mr. Dandeniya had a very questionable tenure as Sri Lanka’s 2011 Cricket World Cup tournament director. While SLC not only suffered heavy financial losses under his management, there were also many allegations of fraud and corruption. While Mr. Dandeniya was under investigation for unaccounted World Cup tickets, two hard drives containing crucial financial data related to World Cup ticket sales mysteriously went missing from his office. All investigations of these various allegations have since disappeared under the same mysterious circumstances as those hard drives, allowing Mr. Dandeniya to walk a free man without having to face an impartial inquiry.
The special provision that allows the minister to override qualification criteria in clearing one’s path to stand for higher office within a sporting body is intended for the purpose of “allowing an individual who might not meet the qualification criteria, but has a proven track record of exceptional administrative and leadership skills that allows him or her to make a significant positive impact to the sport, to be eligible to stand election”.
It can only be someone that finds Mr. Dandeniya’s questionable recent past as being an exceptional qualification worthy of a ministerial override to run for top office in a sport he never played, who perhaps can understand the argument that “There is no political interference within Cricket in Sri Lanka”