Resilient Ranatunga unmoved despite setbacks


by Rex Clementine

Former heavyweight of Sri Lanka Cricket Nishantha Ranatunga has suffered several setbacks in the run up to next year’s Cricket Board elections, but the 49-year-old is not prepared to throw in the towel just yet as he pursues ambitions of heading the country’s most powerful and influential sports body.

When amendments were introduced to the Sports Law two years back, Ranatunga looked to be their architect and the main advisor to then Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage. The amendments looked tailor-made for Ranatunga to take over Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) when his time was due, but time ironically has changed the equation.

Ranatunga no longer enjoys the fullest backing of the government. A smart operator, as the Secretary of SLC he had unbridled control over finance, policy, coaching, administration and even selection under the Rajapaksa government.

India’s N. Srinivasan, the head of the International Cricket Council until last month was also cricket’s most powerful man. Ranatunga had a close relationship with Srinivasan and the pressure the ICC imposed on SLC by holding back money due to the local board and demanding to go for early elections, wouldn’t have come without the knowledge of Ranatunga.

Srinivasan losing the top seat of the ICC to the moderate Shashank Manohar was a double blow for Ranatunga, who had already lost the support of the government.

The latest setback for Ranatunga was the u-turn that his once right-hand man Mohan de Silva made just a few days before handing over the nominations. De Silva, last year in a television talk show said that he has enormous respect for Ranatunga due to his influence in world cricket and was expected to stand as Ranatunga’s Secretary at the AGM. However, at the eleventh hour he pledged allegiance to the Thilanga Sumathipala camp leaving Ranatunga high and dry.

The biggest plus point for Nishantha Ranatunga is the support of his brother Arjuna, who will contest as one of the Vice-Presidents. The other Vice-Presidential candidate is another loyalist of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Asanga Seneviratna

Bloomfield’s Hirantha Perera is contesting for the post of Secretary and the less known Nilantha Ratnayake is vying for the post of Assistant Secretary.

Former Chairman of Seylan Bank Eastman Narangoda has come forward as Treasurer from Ranatunga’s side while former President of SLC Upali Dharmadasa is their main advisor.

"We have a nice blend of former cricketers and professionals in our team," Nishantha Ranatunga told Sunday Island.

Ranatunga said that of the 147 votes at the SLC AGM, his camp was assured of 95. He added that his team was working to get more votes.

"My opinion is that it’s good to have competition. We have some good people from both sides and the stakeholders will decide who should run cricket," Ranatunga said.

During his previous tenure, Ranatunga strongly objected to how SLC funds were distributed. He was an ardent critic of elite cricketers pocketing the lion’s share of revenue generated by SLC and felt that enough money wasn’t diverted to the clubs, schools and retired cricketers.

"My belief is that money should be properly distributed. The national cricketers should get a percentage, but others shouldn’t be neglected. School cricket, provincial cricket, club cricket and retired cricketers should all be looked after," he added.

One of the main areas that Arjuna Ranatunga will be entrusted is school cricket.


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