Sri Lanka news January 3, 2012

Nishantha Ranatunga plays down SLC cash crunch

Nishantha Ranatunga, the Sri Lanka Cricket [SLC] secretary, has described the financial situation the board is in as a "short-term liquidity problem," and said it was nothing more serious than that. Ranatunga, who was uncontested for the secretary's post during the SLC elections, defended the decision of the interim committee headed by DS de Silva to build stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, which left SLC heavily in debt. Ranatunga was the secretary at the time as well.

"This is totally a false statement," Ranatunga said, when asked if SLC's financial trouble was a result of a misappropriation of its funds. "At the time we were appointed to the interim committee SLC was in debt to the amount of Rs 600 million Sri Lankan rupees [$5.3 million], which included bank loans and unpaid ICC annual subscription fees. This brought about an element of uncertainty to the member status of SLC within the ICC.

"To evade a future financial crunch, the ICC World Twenty20 was earmarked as an ideal event to be played in Sri Lanka in September 2009, but unfortunately it did not materialise." Ranatunga said the primary reason for Sri Lanka not hosting the 2009 World T20 was the lack of international standard cricket infrastructure in the country.

"The interim committee at that time understood that Sri Lanka as a Test nation had the lowest quality Test venues in the world [with the exception of R Premadasa Stadium]. The media and spectator capacity and facilities, including other state-of-the-art infrastructure within the stadiums, were far below par to host an ICC event."

This led to the decisions to build new stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, Ranatunga said. "At present SLC owns assets worth Rs 7 billion Sri Lankan rupees [$61.6 million] in the form of new grounds, where as the liabilities amount to Rs 1.5 billion Sri Lankan rupees [$13.2 million]. How can you call it a bankrupt situation then?

"With ICC's commitment to offer Sri Lanka three events, namely the 2011 World Cup, the 2012 World T20 and the Champions Trophy in 2015, it was of utmost priority to make sure the stadia infrastructure was up to the standards required by the ICC."

Ranatunga also denied that the SLC had been under pressure from the government to build a new cricket stadium in Hambantota. "Originally, we were to host only eight matches in the World Cup. We were [then] allotted four extra matches, bringing the number of matches to 12. Therefore, in addition to the two stadia, we had to find a new ground.

"We had already started upgrading the R Premadasa Stadium and considered developing Dambulla because it was the only other ground where night matches could be played. Preparing Dambulla for the World Cup matches would have meant that all the matches scheduled to be played there for the next one-and-a-half years would have to be abandoned resulting in a huge loss to SLC. Galle was out of the question because of its world heritage. SSC and P Sara Oval could not be considered as they do not belong to SLC. We picked Hambantota for a number of reasons."