Cricket crisis leads to the sacking of Sri Lanka’s sports minister

Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe sacked Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe over the latter's intervention in Sri Lanka Cricket board affairs during the cabinet meeting in Colombo.

Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe sacked the country's Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs and Minister of Irrigation Roshan Ranasinghe during a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday. In a bizarre turn of events, Ranasinghe had accused the president of trying to assassinate him over his attempts to erase corruption from the country’s cricket board.

In fact, he had even told parliament that Wickremesinghe should be held responsible if he was killed.

“I fear I could be killed over my work to clean up the cricket board,” Ranasinghe told parliament, escalating a confrontation with Wickremesinghe who had been at loggerheads with the minister over the running of Sri Lanka Cricket.

“If I am assassinated on the road, the president and his chief of staff will be responsible,” Ranasinghe said.

There was no immediate reaction from Wickremesinghe following this accusation except the official confirmation from his office that Ranasinghe had been removed from his position.

Roshan Ranasinghe had sacked the entire Sri Lanka Cricket board after the men’s cricket team’s dismal performance at the Cricket World Cup 2023 in India. He ended up appointing a new committee with the former captain Arjuna  Ranatunga handling all cricket operations in the island nation.

This interference from Ranasinghe in cricket affairs caused a dispute with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and it led them to suspend the board's membership effective immediately citing government interference in its affairs, violating the world body’s rules. As a result, the U19 World Cup 2024, which Sri Lanka was supposed to host, has been moved to South Africa and has even stopped funding the board until further updates.

Despite this, Sri Lanka are allowed to take part in international cricket matches, including bilateral series after the cricket organisation’s plea to ICC. Although it’s still too early to tell, but the sacking of Ranasinghe could lead to the ICC rethinking the ban on Sri Lankan cricket.

Ranasinghe has repeatedly accused the former office-bearers of SLC of gross corruption, a charge that they have denied and are challenging in court. The Sri Lanka Cricket board is the richest sporting organisation in a country where the state of the economy has been extremely poor for a long time.

The president’s calls to revoke the sacking of the board were also ignored and refused by Ranasinghe and the parliament backed the sports minister by passing a non-binding resolution three weeks ago asking the cricket board to resign pending a forensic audit of its accounts.

Wickremesinghe has also appointed a committee to investigate the ICC suspension.