Roshan Ranasinghe arrives at the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Colombo on Monday. AFP
Ranasinghe has been at loggerheads with Sri Lanka Cricket — the richest sports organisation on the financially-stricken island — for months over allegations of widespread corruption.
The country's 1996 World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, 59, has been appointed chairman of a new interim board, Ranasinghe's office said in a statement. The former captain was "the most suitable person to revive cricket", the minister told reporters in Colombo. "The priority is to get the team to perform better."
Three judges were included on the seven-member panel to help investigate corruption, he added.
Ranatunga said he had accepted the challenge of rebuilding cricket. "Sri Lanka Cricket had become known as the most corrupt institution in the country," he added. "I want to change that image."
The move came a day after the board's second-highest officer, secretary Mohan de Silva, quit.
Minister Ranasinghe publicly demanded the entire board's resignations after Sri Lanka's 302-run World Cup thrashing by hosts India last week.
Sri Lanka were at one point 14-6 and were all out for 55, the fourth-lowest World Cup total in history, while chasing India's 358 in Mumbai.
The defeat prompted a public outcry and police have been deployed outside the board office in Colombo since Saturday when there were angry protests.
Ranasinghe said that Sri Lanka Cricket officials had no moral or ethical right to remain in office. "They should voluntarily resign," he said, having previously accused the board of being "traitorous and corrupt".
The interim panel is the 10th appointed by a sports minister for various reasons since 1999 -- when the government intervened after the president's uncle lost the election to lead the board — despite International Cricket Council rules against political interference.
On Saturday Ranasinghe wrote to full members of the ICC asking for their understanding and support.
"Sri Lanka Cricket has been besieged with complaints of player disciplinary issues, management corruption, financial misconduct and match-fixing allegations," Ranasinghe said in the letters, released to Sri Lankan media.
"I would like to emphasise that interim measures will only be taken to establish good governance principles."
Arjuna Ranatunga watches the World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, on a television at the cricket board office in Colombo. AFP
The minister was last month forced by the ICC to withdraw a three-member panel he had appointed to investigate alleged corruption at the board after it was deemed to violate the interference rules.
There was no immediate reaction from the ICC to Ranasinghe's latest move and dismissed board president Shammi Silva, who was elected to a third consecutive term in May, also did not comment.
Sri Lanka have not won the World Cup since 1996, with Ranasinghe blaming the board for the "deterioration" of standards.
Another cabinet minister, Prasanna Ranatunga — brother of the newly appointed interim board chairman -- told parliament in August that the 1996 triumph had been "the biggest curse for our cricket".
"Money started flowing to the cricket board after 1996 and with that came those who wanted to steal," he said.
A former sports minister, Harin Fernando, introduced tough anti-corruption laws in 2019 after saying that the ICC considered Sri Lanka one of the world's most corrupt cricketing nations.
Sri Lanka were a dominant force in cricket during the late 1990s and early 2000. They had lifted the World Cup trophy under the captaincy of Ranatunga in 1996.
They were called invinclible with the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya , Arvind De Silva, Roshan Mahanama, Chaminda Vaas, Ranatunga and the great Muttiah Muralitharan. Jayasuriya was the discovery of 1996 World Cup.
He made his debut as an all-rounder but transformed himself into a hard-hitting batsman in the showpiece event o take the world by surprise. He had shattered most of the batting records at that time.
Muralitharan is still the highest wicket-taker in Test matches. With more than 800 scalps to his name in the Test cricket, Murali remains the one to beat. Jayasuriya still holds the record of scoring the second fastest fifty.
“Sri Lanka Cricket officials have no moral or ethical right to remain in office,” the minister said in a statement issued on Friday night. “They should voluntarily resign.
Mohammed Shami then took four wickets in three overs in his opening spell, as Sri Lanka was bowled out for 55 runs in 19.4 overs. It was the second biggest margin of victory in World Cup history.
Earlier this week, the ministry of sport sacked the national board — Sri Lanka Cricket — over the team’s poor performances at the 50-over World Cup in India. A court decision reversed the ministry’s verdict, but it was still grounds for the ICC to take action.
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