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Problems mount for Sri Lankan cricket

AFP

Last Updated: July 08, 2011, 16:32 IST

Problems mount for Sri Lankan cricket

SLC has been hit by resignations, match-fixing claims, doping scandal and financial woes.

Colombo: Only three months ago, Sri Lanka were battling it out with India in the World Cup final but they have since gone from controversy to scandal to full-blown crisis in an astounding fall from grace.

After losing the Mumbai showpiece, Sri Lanka have unravelled in spectacular fashion, hit by resignations, match-fixing claims and a doping scandal, plus financial woes and a rocky start for their new Twenty20 league.

Trademark political turmoil, an undermining factor for years, has also come to a head after the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned governments from meddling in the sport, a stance strongly backed by ex-captain Kumar Sangakkara.

This week Sangakkara, who led Sri Lanka to the World Cup final before resigning, dropped a bombshell when he described the country's administrators as corrupt and politicised in a landmark speech at Lord's.

Sangakkara, 33, said players were sucked into the petty power struggles of politically appointed board members that led to "rift, ill-feeling and distrust" among team members.

Successive boards have been accused of corruption since Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup and drew a huge inflow of cash into the game but Sangakkara's remarks for the first time acknowledged debilitating divisions within the team.

"The instability of our administration is a huge stumbling block to the rapid face-change that we need (in the national team)," said Sangakkara, whose speech received a standing ovation at the home of cricket.

Sri Lanka's sports authorities responded by ordering an investigation into Sangakkara's comments but many fans and newspapers in the country have come to his defence.

"The nation salutes Sangakkara for coming out with the truth about the cricket administration, knowing fully well the (bad) consequences that could befall him," the Sinhalese-language Divaina said.

The paper said that it was well known that some players were "greedy" for money and may have thrown games in exchange for large sums of cash. It applauded Sangakkara's courage in speaking out.

"What is needed is not to probe his remarks but to investigate the allegations he has made," said cricket fan Nilantha Perera, a manager of a private company.

A senior sports journalist, who declined to be named, said Sangakkara's remarks underscored a deep crisis.

"It is not easy for anyone to salvage Sri Lanka Cricket in the short term," the reporter said. "Corruption and mismanagement are so deep-seated, it will take years to put it right."

Sports commentator Russell Palipane has long seen trouble brewing and took the unusual step of saying that winning this year's World Cup would have been bad for Sri Lankan cricket.

"Call me a traitor, a quisling - anything. I don't want Sri Lanka to be the champions of cricket World Cup 2011," Palipane said before the finals.

He argued that euphoria from a World Cup win would mask deep problems of mismanagement and corruption and allow politicians to unfairly bask in reflected glory.

After the loss to India, Sangakkara and his deputy Mahela Jayawardena both quit their roles, while the selectors also resigned after heavy criticism over their choice of players for the final.

In May, former skipper Hashan Tillakaratne said he had personally witnessed match-fixing by fellow players since 1992, sending shockwaves through the sport after last year's spot-fixing controversy involving Pakistan.

And early last month, Sri Lanka revealed opening batsman Upal Tharanga had failed a random dope test during the World Cup, an incident which earned him a three-month ban.

Then Sanath Jayasuriya, 42, now a politician with the ruling party - which is under fire over alleged atrocities during the island's civil war - came out of retirement for a brief and baffling farewell during the tour of England.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Cricket admitted it had badly overspent during its co-hosting of the World Cup, leading to claims of financial mismanagement and ensuring a difficult debut for the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL).

The body said it had been forced to scale down the SLPL, which was intended as a copy of the brash Indian Premier League (IPL) but will now go ahead with hardly any international stars due to funding constraints.

The SLPL had already been badly damaged after India withdrew its players - drastically reducing the potential TV audience in the giant country - in protest at the event's alleged links to Lalit Modi, the IPL's disgraced former boss.

As if all this were not enough, things have not been going well on the pitch either, after Sri Lanka lost the Test series in England, partly because of a jaw-dropping collapse on the last day of the first match in Cardiff.
first published:July 08, 2011, 16:32 IST
last updated:July 08, 2011, 16:32 IST