Sri Lanka News March 1, 2013

Upali Dharmadasa to contest SLC presidency

Incumbent Sri Lanka Cricket president Upali Dharmadasa will contest the post of president once again in the upcoming SLC elections, with Badureliya Sports Club president, Sumith Perera, also joining the race. MP Thilanga Sumathipala had announced his candidacy on Wednesday.

Incumbent secretary Nishantha Ranatunga is also running for his position again, as is vice-president Asanga Seneviratne. Ranatunga, who is running as an independent candidate, is believed to be running unopposed for the position. Seneviratne will have to defeat at least one of the two vice-presidential candidates from Sumathipala's group, Mohan de Silva or Shammi Silva, to regain his post.

Dharmadasa had initially not expressed interest in standing for re-election, as his brother Jayantha was rumoured to be contesting the presidency instead. Dharmadasa said he had only decided to stand for re-election in the hours before nominations were due.

"I decided to contest it after many clubs and people requested me to do so," he said. "I thought it was my duty to do that, because there are potential issues with another candidate, especially where the ICC is concerned."

Dharmadasa was referring to Sumathipala, whose possible links to the betting industry may provide obstacles for his running for the presidency. The ICC had given cricket boards two years to become free from government and political interference in 2011, in accordance with the Woolf Report's recommendations.

The people behind the report have since said it would review that particular stance, because some boards depended on government patronage. The ICC code of Ethics also forbids any person with business interests in the betting industry from sitting on its board of directors. Sumathipala is joint managing director of business conglomerate the Sumathi Group, which has a betting business called Sporting Star.

"If the ICC refrains from recognising the elected president, it will look bad for Sri Lanka," Dharmadasa said. "There has also been a lot of correspondence when Mr. Sumathipala was president in the past, back when the SLC and ICC were not on good terms."

Sumathipala was SLC president thrice between 1997 and 2004, while Dharmadasa was president in 1996, before being appointed the interim president in 2010. Dharmadasa and Sumathipala were also candidates in last year's SLC election, until Sumathipala withdrew from the race, allowing Dharmadasa to be elected unopposed, amid claims of political interference.

"During my last term [as president] I've overseen a reduction in SLC's debt, and settled the players' payments, which was an issue that cost almost 900 million rupees (USD $7 million). We've also brought in people like Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. So I think I have done well."

The elections are due to take place late in March, with the newly elected officials announced at the SLC annual general meeting on March 30.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here