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Uphill task for Ranatunga

Colombo: Former Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) president Thilanga Sumathipala is favourite to return to the post after the first elections in three years on Friday.

The BCCSL has been managed by government appointed interim committees for 26 months after the decision to dissolve the last elected board, led by Sumathipala, on March 2001.

Sports minister Johnston Fernando announced elections last month following widespread criticism of the interim administration and calls for the return to an elected body.

During the annual general meeting, registered cricket clubs and associations will select an executive committee through an open ballot system.

Captain of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team, Arjuna Ranatunga, is standing against Sumathipala for the presidency.

Sumathipala is the chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and an experienced cricket administrator whose stated long-term personal ambition is to head the game’s world governing body the ICC.

He was elected president on two previous occasions but both terms were cut short by the government following legal wrangles after a particularly ugly election in 1999 and in 2001 for allegedly violating the sports law.

Ranatunga, who is also an MP, has struggled to win the support of key clubs during a low-key campaign that has focused on the need to wipe out corruption.

Sumathipala has threatened Ranatunga with a $5 million lawsuit, accusing him of making defamatory comments to the media.

Previous elections have been marred by violence, intimidation and allegations of vote buying, prompting the government to beef up security this time around.

The director general for sports, Milton Amarasinghe, who is responsible for conducting the election, has said that 20 police officials will be on hand to ensure security.

The first priority for the new executive committee will be to secure a permanent replacement for coach Dav Whatmore.

The BCCSL is also facing financial problems having announced a $940,000 loss in 2002.

The board’s finances have been further hit by a recent Singapore tribunal decision that it is liable to pay substantial damages after the cancellation of a multi-million dollar television deal in 2001. (Reuters)

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