Colombo: Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga was set for a humiliating defeat at June 6 elections for president of the country’s cricket board with his own club abandoning him Monday.
Ranatunga, 39, filed his nomination papers for the post of president of Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) against top-league local businessman and former chief Thilanga Sumathipala.
The election could be a matter of formality as Sumathipala’s candidature is seconded by nearly two thirds of clubs and associations entitled to elect board office-bearers for a period of one year.
Sumathipala cleared a major hurdle with his entire list of other office-bearers being elected uncontested. Among them was Aravinda de Silva who was elected vice-president.
Sumathipala, however, offered an olive branch to Ranatunga. “The best thing he can do is quit at this stage, avoid a defeat and come and join me to improve the game of cricket,” Sumathipala told reporters after filing his nomination papers. He said Ranatunga could be useful in a proposed cricket technical advisory committee to improve standards of new players.
There was no immediate reaction from Ranatunga. He had earlier this year won a court battle against government plans to keep away politicians from holding office in the cricket board.
Despite that early success, Ranatunga, who is also an opposition member of Parliament, failed to secure the support of his own club, the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), which announced its support to Sumathipala.
Sumathipala said one of its top priorities would be to find a coach for the Sri Lankan team, introduce better financial management and invest in nurturing young talents from the school level.
Sumathipala led the last elected board that was sacked a year later in 2001 after it lost a legal battle over plans to elect new officials. It was subsequently investigated for fraud. The board has been run by a series of interim committees appointed by the sports ministry for much of the past four years because of the scandals.
He pledged “transparency of the highest order” if elected after corruption allegations, botched elections and a series of legal wrangles turned Sri Lankan cricket into the island’s favourite soap opera.
“I’m happy the current ministry has taken the right decision to have an election. It is up to the membership to pick the right people to run the board,” Sumathipala told a news conference.