Ashantha de Mel, the former Sri Lanka fast bowler, has been named the chairman of the country's new selection panel, which replaced the one headed by Duleep Mendis. The appointment, made by the sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, could be the first in a series of changes in Sri Lankan cricket, which could include the axeing of the coach Geoff Marsh and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan after the poor performance in South Africa.
Don Anurasiri, Amal Silva and Hemantha Wickramaratne are the other members of the new selection committee, which has a one-year term. Although the tenure of Mendis' panel was going to end in February, the appointment of the new panel will come into effect on January 20.
Anurasiri is the only member from the old committee, but de Mel and Silva have served as selectors before. Wickramaratne, a left-hand batsman who played in three ODIs in the early nineties, is new to the role.
Mahela Jayawardene is also likely to be asked to take over the captaincy from Dilshan after the South Africa tour. When asked in Kimberley, on the eve of the fourth ODI, whether he would accept the offer, Jayawardene said, "I will have to think about it. I will need some time."
The news about the selection committee came less than two hours after Aluthgamage denied a report in the Daily Mirror, a Sri Lanka newspaper, that changes to the committee, captain and national coach would be made. "No decision has been taken so far to replace or to change the selection committee and the management of Sri Lanka Cricket or the captaincy of the Sri Lankan cricket team," he had said in a statement.
Aluthgamage, however, said it was the "responsibility of the Sri Lankan government and the Sports Ministry" to take "stern and appropriate action" to ensure Sri Lanka becomes "the number one team in the world." Upali Dharmadasa, the president of Sri Lanka Cricket, has already been asked to submit a report to the ministry on the team's poor performances since the 2011 World Cup.
Sri Lanka struggled since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan in July 2010, winning just one Test over the last 18 months, though that was a historic maiden victory in South Africa. They have also lost one-day series against England, Australia, Pakistan and now South Africa after being runners-up in the World Cup.