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February 19, 2012
Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka's former captain, has said that political interference is ruining cricket in Sri Lanka and that the country lacks a long term vision for the sport.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) held elections for the first time in seven years in January, ending a series of politically appointed interim-committees that had been administering the sport. But the elections were not without controversy. One of two groups that were contesting decided to withdraw the night before the election in a "symbolic gesture of protest" against what they saw as political interference in the process.
"The key issue is that political interference is bringing the downfall of Sri Lanka cricket," Ranatunga told ESPNcricinfo. "You take [former minister] Gamini Dissanayake. He was a very strong minister at that time but he never interfered. He was only a key figure. The cricket part was run by a lot of past cricketers like Abu Fuard, Neil Perera and Nisal Senaratne, who were top class gentlemen and who were very concerned about the game."
The Sri Lankan board currently faces problems on and off the field. The team has struggled since reaching the final of the 2011 World Cup, losing Test and one-day series to England, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa. In addition, there have been three coaching changes and two captaincy changes since the World Cup ended. SLC is also in the midst of a financial crisis after running up debts of close to $70 million to finance the building of two international stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, and to renovate the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, for the 2011 World Cup.
"I don't know whether the SLC has a vision," Ranatunga said. "We don't plan for the future at all. It's like they just want to show the country that we are winning and that we are not doing badly. What we should understand is that we are not playing good cricket at all."
Sri Lanka has a centralised cricket system that is concentrated in Colombo, but more and more players have started to come through from other parts of the island. The problem, Ranatunga, said is that the country had misplaced priorities and was concentrating on building big stadiums while ignoring facilities for outstation cricketers.
"You have to provide proper facilities to outstation cricketers," Ranatunga said. "We are looking at building stadiums and spending billions and billions of dollars on unwanted areas and creating bankruptcy at Sri Lanka Cricket. I still feel we are losing a lot of young talent from the outstation because if you don't give them enough facilities and enough money they will do something else. That is my biggest worry.
"You go to a village you can still find a really talented cricketer. We are blessed with talent to keep us going but the way we have invested is not good enough. We are a country without a proper indoor net and a swimming pool for SLC. When I was at SLC we built a new gym. That's the only thing we are left with. How are you going to compete with countries like Australia, England, India or Pakistan who have the infrastructure for their players?"
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?