Former Test batsman Hashan Tillakaratne has replaced Hemantha Wickramaratne in Sri Lanka's new selection panel, after Wickramaratne stepped down due to work commitments, new chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya said.
Tillakaratne had been among the nominees sent to the sports minister by Sri Lanka Cricket, but had not been appointed in the five-member panel on Monday. Tillakaratne is a member of provincial council for the United National Party, which is in opposition to the United People's Freedom Alliance of which Jayasuriya and the sports minister are members.
Wickramaratne had resigned because he was called upon to become one of the two full-time selectors on the panel, but was unable to relinquish his other commitments. "He can't be a full time selector with us because of his work," Jayasuriya said. "Because of that we've got Hashan Tillakaratne in our panel, who has played a lot of international cricket and brings that experience."
Tillakaratne will be a full time selector alongside former fast-bowling team-mate Pramodya Wickramasinghe, while Jayasuriya, Eric Upashantha and Chaminda Mendis will be employed part-time. Tillakaratne had been a critic of the current administration, and had even alleged political interference in the last SLC elections. He said he would continue to hold his post as a member of provincial council, while he worked as a full-time selector.
"I took this job because I see it as a duty," Tillakaratne said. "I played for a long time and benefited from the game, and I think if I can help take Sri Lanka cricket forward in any way, I have a duty to do that.
"I do have the time to be both a member of provincial council and a full time selector, and it is after considering all that that I decided to accept this position. Sanath was one of the best cricketers in the world and I'm enthusiastic about working with him and the rest of the panel. I think we will be able to do something good."
SLC had said it would endeavour to cut its ties with politics after Haroon Lorgat issued his report recommending less political influence in the board, but with two politicians now on the selection panel and the with no moves having been taken to cut the sports minister out of the selection process, superficially, politics has become even more embedded in cricket administration.
Jayasuriya was adamant however, that his panel's sole focus would be on cricket, and that the selectors' political affiliation would not affect their work for SLC. "We're not concerned with the politics of either party on this panel. What we are concerned with is Sri Lanka's cricket and that will be our top priority. We should thank the sports minister for choosing someone like Hashan, who has played for Sri Lanka and also been a good captain.
"The sports minister has given us the freedom to act independently of political affiliations and it was encouraging to hear that. We will stay focused on improving Sri Lanka's cricket."
Tillakaratne was a stylish left-handed batsman who played 83 Tests and 200 ODIs for Sri Lanka. He captained the side in 11 Tests between 1999 and 2004, and was a member of the World Cup winning side alongside Jayasuriya and Wickramasinghe in 1996.