With the blessings of the previous government, Nishantha Ranatunga ran a one man show. He controlled marketing, operations, recruitment and management, tasks that should have come under the purview of the CEO, with an iron fist. He even had a considerable say in composition of the selection panel. That’s why for the first time in the history, we had three ruling party politicians as national selectors! As a result, sleepwalkers became eligible to represent the national cricket team!
Given the political clout he enjoyed before January 8th, Ranatunga should have been more guarded after the change of the government. He didn’t. He attended the ICC CEO’s meeting as he had done in the last five years and the Sports Ministry had to intervene informing him that CEO’s meetings are meant for the CEO.
Ranatunga supporters informed the Sports Minister that the board needs to be represented by the best person. They were asserting that SLC CEO Ashley de Silva was incapable of carrying out his task. This isn’t an argument that has been brought up against Ashley. A former CEO was also labeled and stopped from attending the ICC meetings. Duleep Mendis is his name. Can there be a better person to represent Sri Lanka globally than country’s first cricket hero in the post Test era?
Mendis and Ashley aren’t the only individuals to suffer during the Ranatunga years. Charith Senanayake, K. Mathivanan, Brian Thomas and even Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara had a tough time. Sanga took Ranatunga head-on fearlessly calling him, ‘the appointed Secretary of SLC’. Two years ago, in an e-mail to Ranatunga, Sangakkara wrote, "I believe my commitment to the game and my contribution to it in Sri Lanka both as a player and my work off the field with Sri Lankans in every part of the country each year, more than equals the very noble obligations that you have undertaken and strive to fulfill after being appointed as Secretary of the Board," the e-mail stated.
Sanga had the personality to call a spade a spade. Many others suffered in silence.
The game and its reputation suffered heavily. The idea of an international cricket stadium at Hambantota was first put forward when Captain Cool was the President of Sri Lanka Cricket. Arjuna turned down the vanity project and paid a heavy price as he was removed from SLC. His brother embraced the project gladly and eventually SLC was bankrupt.
The sale of SLC’s television rights has come under investigation. A clear case of conflict of interest could be established as Ranatunga was the CEO of the television company and Secretary of the board at that time.
A few years ago, an unknown Indian company came forward to conduct Sri Lanka’s version of the IPL against public outcry. The tournament was a flop and is now defunct.
Several high profile Test series were cancelled while several others were turned into ODIs as the shorter format of the game brought in more money. The game’s intrinsic values were killed. For Nishantha Ranatunga cricket was no longer a sport, but a business.
Former Minister of Sports C.B. Ratnayake called SLC the third most corrupt institution in the country. He was replaced before he could clean up the mess.
Last year, SLC membership gave a mandate to vote against a move by the Board of Control for Cricket in India allowing them, England and Australia more clout in governance and larger share of finance of the global game. Ranatunga represented Sri Lanka, but instead of voting against the resolution voted for it. Why it was done needs to be probed!
It’s not all over for Nishantha Ranatunga. Observers of the game point out that he could run for the post of President at the next SLC elections. His running mates are believed to be cricket heavyweights like Upali Dharmadasa, Mohan de Silva and Hirantha Perera.
Nishantha is the President of Colts Cricket Club. The way he won that election is interesting. His rival at that election was K. Mathivanan, the long standing president of Colts. In the 11th hour, Mathivanan pulled out from the contest. Then Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe alleged that Mathivanan withdrew because was told to do so by a certain VVIP.
So according to Wickramasinghe, had Ranatunga won a club election through manipulation, will he be able to win a SLC election at a time when he doesn’t enjoy political backing? Interesting times are ahead and the Mighty are falling.