Sri Lanka cricket November 30, 2008

'Sri Lankan cricket going through dark ages'

Hashan Tillakaratne: "Today the cricket committees are corrupt" © Hong Kong Cricket Association

Hashan Tillakaratne, the former captain, has said that Sri Lankan cricket is currently going through "the dark ages" and that an elected body is the way forward.

"Under Arjuna Ranatunga the interim committee is divided," Tillakaratne said. "The most popular sport in this country is cricket. Arjuna is not allowed to do the work he wants to do by other interim committee members. Normally when an interim committee is appointed the previous members are dissolved and a new committee is appointed. The decisions taken by Arjuna are not approved by the Sports Minister [and] as a result of this the development of cricket is not taking place. Because of their differences all cricket development has come to a standstill. After so many years I see Sri Lanka cricket at present going through the dark ages."

Tillakaratne, 41, felt cricket in Sri Lanka was not progressing because interim committees were allowed to run for longer periods than elected bodies. "Since 1999 it has become a habit that whenever there is a TV deal around the corner the elected body is dissolved and an interim committee is appointed. Even in the past and even today this has been the practice," he said. "Don't be surprised if elections are held the moment a new TV deal is struck by the present interim committee.

"If someone comes up with an action plan for SLC he is not allowed to implement it because someone else comes and puts a spoke in the wheel. Elected bodies run for only six months but interim bodies carry on for more than three years."

Tillakaratne also said politics played a role in stemming the chances of players from villages and smaller localities. Constant political interference, he believed, led to a breakdown in development.

"The meaning of interim is for a short time," he said. "For so many years cricket administration has been run by interim committees where development cannot take place. You can make money and waste money and you are not answerable to anyone. Appointing interim committees should be for a short time maybe to clear a problem that has come up. But elections should be held immediately and elected bodies should run cricket."

As a result of a breakdown in the development of cricket in the outstations, Tillakaratne said clubs do not receive funds, thereby leading to the stagnation of provincial cricket. "Our cricket is going backwards. Look at India and how they have developed youngsters. [Sachin] Tendulkar, [Rahul] Dravid, [VVS] Laxman and [Sourav] Ganguly are under constant pressure from the youngsters because of their development. Where is Sri Lanka today in comparison? Our international calendar is empty. We are trying to win the 2011 World Cup but how can we develop new cricketers playing against weak teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh? The only way to solve this problem is to go for elections."

Tillakaratne, who also works with Cricket Aid, the SLC's tsunami-relief programmes, said cricket committees were "corrupt". "I am a member of the present cricket committee. The appointment of former captains to the committee makes it difficult for me to do any work inside it. There are a lot of problems with cricket. For these problems we don't get a proper answer. I don't think my services are required. Arjuna is saying one thing and Gamini Lokuge [Sri Lanka's sports minister] is saying another. This problem has to be solved first before we can take any decisions with regard to cricket."

In July, Tillakarante was removed as Sri Lanka's team manager for the India series after just two days into the job.