The story so far: On November 10, the International Cricket Council (ICC), cricket’s world governing body, suspended Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) over government interference. In a statement, the ICC said that SLC was in “serious breach of its obligations as a Member, in particular, the requirement to manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government interference in the governance, regulation and/or administration of cricket in Sri Lanka.”
What was the ‘government interference’?
In the immediate aftermath of Sri Lanka’s disastrous ninth-place finish in the 2023 World Cup in India, as a result of which it missed out on qualifying for the 2025 Champions Trophy, Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe sacked the SLC board and chose former captain Arjuna Ranatunga to head an interim committee. However, on November 7, Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal issued a two-week stay order and reinstated the SLC regime helmed by president Shammi Silva. Two days after the breather from the court, the Sri Lankan parliament unanimously passed a resolution seeking the cricket board’s removal, perhaps the final straw in ICC’s eyes.
The SLC and the government have, in fact, been at loggerheads for a considerable time, with Mr. Ranasinghe accusing the cricket bosses of maladministration and corruption, and SLC, in turn, criticising the government of unnecessary meddling. The battle further escalated after the Sports Minister claimed that there was a threat to his life. On November 13, the SLC slapped a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Ranasinghe, seeking damages amounting to 2.4 billion rupees (LKR).
What are ICC rules on govt. interference?
According to article 2.4, clause D of the ICC Memorandum & Articles of Association, each member must at all times “manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government (or other public or quasi-public body) interference in its governance, regulation and/or administration of Cricket in its Cricket Playing Country (including in operational matters, in the selection and management of teams, and in the appointment of coaches or support personnel).” While there is no bar on politicians holding office, the ICC requires that all decision-making rests with an executive body whose office-holders are determined via free and democratic elections. On the day of the suspension, Espncricinfo reported that “Sri Lanka’s sports minister has had the role of ratifying all national teams, as per the nation’s sports law, which has been in place since 1973.”
Have there been past instances of ICC cracking the whip?
SLC is the second full ICC member to be suspended in recent times after Zimbabwe in 2019 for similar reasons. In 2014-15, SLC was demoted to observer status from that of a full member after an interim committee led by former Test player Sidath Wettimuny took the place of the then president Jayantha Dharmadasa and his team. Dharmadasa’s position had become null and void following the failure to hold timely elections according to the country’s sports law. It is to be noted that when the Supreme Court of India appointed the Justice Lodha Committee to oversee reforms in the constitution of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in the mid-2010s, the ICC had refused to get involved. This eventually led to the formation of a Committee of Administrators to run the affairs of the BCCI temporarily before an elected body took over.
How will the suspension affect Sri Lanka?
The ICC Memorandum & Articles of Association states that “any Member that has its membership suspended shall, unless the Board of Directors decides otherwise in its absolute discretion, and for the period of such suspension, be deprived of all of its rights as a Member (whether set out in these Articles of Association or otherwise), including its right to receive distributions of surplus ICC revenues, its right to participate in events sanctioned by the ICC and its right to attend and vote at meetings.”
When Zimbabwe was de-recognised, all cricketing activity in the country was shut down and funds frozen. When Sri Lanka was partially sanctioned in 2014-15, ICC had placed the funds due to the island nation in an escrow. The present conditions of Sri Lanka’s ouster and potential reinstatement will only be known after the ICC board meets in Ahmedabad on Tuesday after the conclusion of the Men’s Cricket World Cup. Currently, there are no cricket matches scheduled for Sri Lanka at least for a month, though it is slated to host the 2024 Under-19 Men’s World Cup in January and February.
What does the future hold?
Mr. Ranasinghe has said that the government will approach the ICC’s dispute resolution committee, an ICC body that reviews appeals from boards on membership matters. In case of a failure, the ministry would knock on the doors of the International Olympic Committee-authorised Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. The two-week stay order issued by the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal expires on Monday and it remains to be seen if the Ranatunga-led interim committee returns.
The World Cup-winning captain had recently blamed BCCI secretary and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, who is also the president of the Asian Cricket Council, for “running” and “ruining” Sri Lanka cricket. Following the comment, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed his regret to Mr. Jay Shah for Mr. Ranatunga’s views.