The writ application filed by a group of former international cricketers and eminent personalities was mentioned yesterday at the Court of Appeal President Justice Arjuna Obeysekera and Justice Mayadunne Corea for notice returnable, and the matter was fixed for the respondents’ objections for 8 June.
Led by businessman turned philanthropist turned Interim Committees flag bearer turned players manager Kushil Gunaskera, petitioners Court to direct the Sports Minister to restructure Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) governance and voting structure which they claim is behind all ills plaguing the country’s favourite sport.
The 12 petitioners in the case are former cricketers Michael Tissera, Sidath Wettimuny, Muttiah Muralitharan, Justice (Retd.) Saleem Marsoof PC, Dinal Phillips PC, Kushil Prasanna Gunasekera, Dr. Palitha Kohona, Rienzie Wijetilleke, Vijaya Malalasekera, Ananda Gamini Gardiya Punchihewa, Somasundaram Skandakumar and Thilan Wijesinghe. The respondents include Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Shammi Silva and 17 other office bearers of the cricket board.
“The root cause of the decline of Sri Lankan cricket is its poor governance driven through the flawed constitution of SLC (Sri Lanka Cricket),” the petitioners opines. “The said constitution has installed a board which is not independent from its playing clubs.
“It is severely conflicted between club and country. This system encourages the office bearers to take decisions mostly to satisfy its voter base, causing the playing standards of Sri Lankan cricket to deteriorate.”
“International cricket is a small pond and cricket gains nothing to see one of its most storied full members, Sri Lanka, wither into oblivion,” the petitioners said, while asking the International Cricket Council to provide time, space, expertise and guidance for the creation of a new governance system.
The petitioners state that having such a large number of votes has resulted in candidates for SLC elections being compelled to keep their vote base happy by way of widespread ‘buying’ of votes from these substandard cricketing clubs, who unfortunately do not have the best interests of SLC in mind when casting their votes. They charge that, in order to obtain votes, the incumbent administrators provide voters with various hand-outs and incentives, including foreign tours and funding in the guise of cricket development with no rational justification at times.
Sri Lanka, with a population of 22 million, has 24 first-class cricket clubs with 147 votes electing the administrators while India, with more than a billion people, has a voter base of only 38.
The petition also draws attention to several acts of financial and administrative mismanagement of SLC highlighted in a Special Audit Report conducted by the National Audit Office in 2018 which points to a lack of transparency in SLC governance. The matter is being currently investigated by the Parliamentary Watchdog Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE). Among those glaring irregularities highlighted in the Audit and reproduced in the petition is SLC’s decision to establish a cricket university in Kandy, irregularities with regard to the collection of income through the sale of international broadcast and sponsorships rights, the appointment and sacking of head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, irregularities in local radio broadcast rights and the establishment of Cricket Aid, SLC’s charity arm.
Since 2016, Sri Lanka has lost 119 out of 200 international games.