Jayantha Dharmadasa interview May 23, 2006

'Moody has a tough job because the team is in transition'

Sri Lanka's latest Interim Committee, installed by the government in 2005 on the grounds of financial mismanagement by the previous board, remains in power after one full year in office. Cricinfo spoke exclusively to Jayantha Dharmadasa, the chairman, about the performance of his committee, the current state of the administration and current development projects.

'Tom's [Moody] remit is not just the national team; we wanted him to look at our whole coaching system' © AFP

Your committee has now been in office for just over a year. There has been lots of talk but what have been the concrete achievements thus far?

I think there has been good solid progress on a number of key areas crucial to our cricket. But one of the key characteristics of this committee has been the fact there has been no favouritism. This has been particularly evident with regard to development. We realised when we came in that a lot of attention needed to be paid to our cricket infrastructure. We have therefore invested heavily in the clubs. Unlike in the past, our investment has not been conditioned by votes. We have played with a straight bat and treated all clubs in an even-handed manner. We've had, for example, a problem down south because of a lack of proper training facilities, especially after the tsunami. But we've now got the indoor centre going again in Galle and a training facility has also been built in Ambalangoda.

How much money is now being spent on development?

At the moment we are spending about 30% of revenues directly on development and infrastructure projects. The Premier League clubs are also given grants of Rs.1.8 million (£10,000) per annum towards their equipment, development and player requirements.

What is happening to Galle International Stadium?

We have made a decision to go-ahead with the re-development and Jayananda Warnaweera will be co-ordinating this process. There was no need to re-locate and build a brand new stadium, as proposed by the last board. This would have been a waste of precious resources. Galle is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world and people are supporting us in its re-development. The approximate budget is $3 million and this will include extensive work, including a new pavilion with better facilities for spectators, players, match officials and the media. A modern drainage system is going to be installed and the outfield is to be completely dug up and re-sown with Australian grass. Work has started and we are aiming for the ground to be ready for international cricket by the middle of 2007 - definitely in time for the England tour in November-December.

Work appears to have stalled on the new stadium at Pallakelle just outside Kandy - what is happening here?

Nothing is happening at the moment as there are some legal issues that need to be resolved. We have appointed a committee to look into the various agreements and contracts so we can properly evaluate the proposals and costings. The problem is that when looking into the MOU signed between Zahara Sports (Pvt) Limited and the BCCSL back in October 2003 we found some irregularities. The board handed over a $1 million security to People's Bank in late 2004. But we need to investigate this contract because Sri Lanka Cricket are expected to take responsibilities for all bank liabilities of Zahara Sports. These liabilities are not defined and this is potentially very dangerous. We're keen to go ahead and I hope we can clarify issues and find a way to resume construction as soon as possible.

In June you made the first high-profile appointment of your term, signing up Tom Moody as head coach. His appointment - especially his salary - has drawn criticism from some quarters, including former players and some sections of the media. Are you happy with progress on the coaching front?

Yes, we are right behind Tom and his team, which includes some very talented professionals. Tom has a tough job because the team is in transition, but some of the youngsters are clearly learning fast and we are confident that the team is moving forward. But Tom's remit is not just the national team; we wanted him to look at our whole coaching system, from the school level up to the national team. He has already given us an excellent report on schools cricket and we are acting on that now, working very closely with the Sri Lanka Schools Association to standardise and improve coaching as well as adjusting the format of competitions. In short, Tom is helping us to introduce a system, something we did not have before. We are now introducing much better support for our coaches - their efforts are essential if Sri Lanka are to go forward. We want them to have access to the latest training and we want them to be paid proper salaries.

The Sport's Minister appointed your committee after allegations of financial mismanagement. One year on, we are no clearer to understanding whether the cricket board was wasting money and being mismanaged. Was there ever an investigation?

Yes, when we were appointed the minister asked us to find out what had been happening within the board. It took us a while because, as you know, we were not granted proper access to the board headquarters and all the documentation for a while. But after four months we submitted a report to the minister. To be honest, we were shocked by what we found. The board lost Rs.321 million (£1.8 million) in 2004. This loss would have been much less if it had not been for excessive expenditure on both travel for board officials and friends and on unnecessary legal fees. Sri Lanka Cricket has spent Rs.83 million (£460,000) on legal fees. This is a terrible waste of resources. In 2004, we even paid a sum of £20,000 to British lawyers handling Thilanga Sumathipala's Code of Ethics inquiry with the International Cricket Council. The travel expenditure of the board increased by 100% in 2004 from Rs.6.8 million to Rs.12.9 million - note this is board officials and not the players. For example, three officials - secretary Ravin Wickramaratne, B.S. Perera and Lorence Amarasena - were sent to New Zealand in April as board representatives. The total cost of their travel was Rs.2 million (£12,000). Sending three people was a waste.

Jayantha Dharmadasa: 'Arjuna's [Ranatunga] criticism was unfair, I believe. We have actually reached a situation now where the Cricket Committee is making all the important cricket decisions' © Getty Images

Aside from excessive spending, were there other examples of mismanagement?

Yes, we discovered several irregularities. We feel that suppliers have been frequently over-quoting the board and being paid over the odds because there are no open, controlled tender processes. For example, we looked into one Rs.2.13 million payment for tents and chairs at Rangiri Dambull International Stadium and discovered the board had been given an inflated quote. We discovered that 10,000 cricket balls were purchased with proper procurement procedure. We found out that a staff car of a senior employee was sold at Rs.250,000 below its market value. All of these add up and cost Sri Lanka Cricket valuable resources. The rising costs forced the board to increase its borrowings in 2004 and interest payments on loans increased from Rs.0.87 million in 2003 to Rs.9.8 million in 2004.

What has your board done about this and has the financial position of the board stabilised?

Yes, we have drastically cut expenditure on travel. For example, for the ICC executive meetings I travel alone and not with a group of officials as in the old days. Our administration charges in 2005 were reduced by 20%. Our income increased and we secured a Rs.356 million profit in 2005, helping us reduce our borrowing and securing the cricket board. We are now in a far healthier position.

What happened to the tsunami charity Cricket Aid - your committee has been accused of closing it down?

Well, when we looked into it we realised that there were basically no funds in the account and nothing was happening. The 75-day review of the finances showed an income of Rs.12.2 million and an expenditure of Rs.10.2 million. An analysis of the expenses revealed that Rs.5.5 million was spent on items that had no direct benefits to the victims, including advertising and launch expenses. In addition, people were getting paid for charity work, which I don't feel is right. Basically, Cricket Aid was doing very little to actually help tsunami victims.

Arjuna Ranatunga resigned last year after being appointed chairman of the board's Cricket Committee claiming that the Interim Committee was not listening to his committee. He was particularly critical of your decision to expand the Premier League tournament to 18 teams. Why were you not listening to his committee?

Arjuna's criticism was unfair, I believe. We have actually reached a situation now where the Cricket Committee is making all the important cricket decisions. We have successfully separated the administration and the cricket operations. In the case of the Premier League we felt compelled to intervene due to the principles of natural justice and fairness. We looked into the complaints of two clubs and discovered that for no fault of their own, their opportunity to secure promotion had been denied by the inability to schedule in their matches. We felt we needed to be fair and give them an opportunity in 2005/06. However, we also agree with the Cricket Committee that the Premier Leagues needs fewer teams to raise the standard of our domestic cricket. Thus, the number of teams will be reduced to 16 in 2006/07 and then 12 or 14 in 2007/08. Unfortunately, this year, due to the unavailability of the national players, were not able to play the Provincial Tournament. However, we remain committed to this and will play next year.

If the Sports Minister calls for board elections, will you stand?

I am not sure. That is something I'd have to decide at the time. If the clubs wanted us to continue then I'd consider doing so.

If you did stand, under the present constitution, would you not face certain defeat against Thilanga Sumithapala, if he chose to stand?

Well, Sumathipala can't stand for election any more. A bill was passed in our parliament in 2005 that prevents any sports administrator from holding office if he has a connection with the gaming industry. In addition, Sumathipala can no longer represent Sri Lanka Cricket in the International Cricket Council until he gets the approval of a Code of Ethics Committee which has been investigating his bookmaking links during the past few years. Even if he did stand, I'd hope that people are now starting to understand the difference between our committee and the executive committees of the recent past. We have treated people fairly. The old favouritism has gone. We have cut out wasteful expenditure and we have been building trust with our commercial partners. Things are now, finally, changing for the better and I believe that the clubs will recognise this.

Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent