Sports Minister to initiate disciplinary action on official responsible

Attempt to send nine cricketers to India without approval.

The Minister of Sports who is looking to initiate disciplinary action against the official responsible for sending nine Sri Lankan cricketers to India without prior approval from him, has called for a report and investigation into the incident.

Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said the official responsible would also have to personally bear the costs accrued due to the delay in flights.

Addressing the weekly cabinet briefing yesterday, he explained that all sportsmen and women have to receive approval from the Sports Minister prior to applying for visas to go abroad to participate in sporting tournaments. Procedure decrees that the relevant documents be sent to the Minister 21 days before departure.

Sri Lanka Cricket however, had only sent the names for approval on Monday evening whilst they were scheduled to leave on Tuesday. “I am not prepared to break the law for a match,” said the Minister. He added that even the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) president Thilanga Sumathipala was not aware of the nine players who were to leave for India.

As confusion reigned within SLC, the minister has appointed a Cricket Advisory Committee to prepare a five year plan to turn things around for cricket in the country. “The first step would be a focus on improving the state of domestic cricket,” said Jayasekara.

He stressed that in the eight years during which various interim committees oversaw cricket, the administrative structure and sport was crumbling from within, even though on the surface the team was winning a few games.

“We called for elections and we had Arjuna Ranatunga and Thilanga Sumathipala run for elections. The former having lost has now got together with some former interim committee members and started to criticize everything that is done,” he added.

Commenting on the team he noted that players like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara occupied the top batting positions for many years with no steps taken to groom younger players.

“There was a time when players like Roshan Mahanama would opt to occupy spots lower in the batting order to allow younger players a chance to bat at the top. I am not criticizing anyone, but today we don’t have many strong batsmen in the team,” the Minister said.

“Discussions with the Advisory Committee has led to cricket being decentralized into four provinces. Each province will be given the facilities to develop local conditions to build a team of 20 players each. Thus, there will be a pool of 80 players at any given time to pick from for the national team thus developing competitiveness in the domestic cricket sphere,” he said.

The Minister has also asked that the selectors at national level to explain to the media why certain players are dropped in order to minimize speculation over the selection process. The Minister who is also determined to change the SLC constitution and reduce the number of votes awarded to the clubs said he would persevere regardless of the opposition, “Certain captains of the team are scared of the clubs, they are scared of their voting power as they look to join the SLC in future. I am not ready to listen to club owners and I have told the SLC to take all necessary decisions without fear. If they do not let things work, I will not hesitate to dissolve the SLC and call for fresh elections,” he added.

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