By Saroj Pathirana | April 30, 2012
Cricket authorities in India had no hand in the sacking of Arjuna Ranatunga from Sri Lanka’s cricket board, the country’s former sports minister Gamini Lokuge said.
The Island newspaper on Saturday said it had obtained documentary evidence that suggested Ranatunga paid the price for being a strong critic of the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), which is organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
However, the then minister of sports categorically denied any Indian involvement in his decisions.
"We dealt with many cricket boards all over the world but there was no pressure at all from the Indian board to sack him," Lokuge, currently Sri Lanka’s labour minister, told BBC Sinhala.
When he was the sports minister in 2008, Lokuge appointed and later sacked Ranatunga as the chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).
"There was no link whatsoever between the IPL and the sacking of Ranatunga,” the minister added.
During his one-year tenure as the head of SLC, Ranatunga, a strong critic of the shortest from of the game, tried to persuade the national cricket team to play a Test series in England but the tour dates clashed with the 2009 edition of the IPL.
The Island newspaper claimed it was Ranatunga’s hostility towards the IPL that ultimately led to the sacking of Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain from the SLC top post.
But Lokuge said he had requested Ranatunga to prepare a time table for the tour of England so that it would not clash with the IPL. According to Lokuge, SLC had "already approved Sri Lanka players taking part in the IPL.”
“When Ranatunga did not listen and players complained to me and the president, we had to order him to allow the players to take part in the IPL,” Lokuge said.
“If the sacking was related to the IPL, I could have sack him at that moment but I did not do so,” the minister added.
He, however, admitted that the sports ministry secretary held a meeting with IPL officials, together with the representatives of the players, in Bangkok in October 2009.
This article first appeared on the BBC Sinhala service under the headline ‘No Indian pressure to sack Arjuna – Lokuge’. It is republished here with permission from the author.
© Saroj Pathirana/BBC Sinhala service