Aravinda de Silva, Roshan Mahanama, Brendon Kuruppu, Graeme Labrooy, perhaps even Mahela Jayawardene – these are the names Sri Lanka Cricket is attempting to align itself with as the board looks to arrest the decline of the national team.
Even more crucially for SLC, getting former players with good reputations on board may also help turn around its ailing public reputation. The board is now not only widely believed to be detrimental to the development of cricket, it is also seen as one of the most toxic governing bodies in the country.
Whether these former players are willing to become associated with SLC given its present state remains to be seen. But as far as some board officials are concerned, they have several vacancies to fill, and would like for these men to be installed in those positions. De Silva, for example, would return to his role as cricket advisor, some board officials hope. They would also like Mahanama, Kuruppu and Labrooy to become selectors, to replace the Sanath Jayasuriya-led committee that resigned earlier in the month. Ideally Jayawardene might also come in as a consultant. And the only reason officials have not set their sights on Kumar Sangakkara is because he is still playing cricket overseas.
Of these ex-players, Labrooy and Kuruppu have confirmed that SLC has approached them, while Mahanama has said he has not been approached so far. Labrooy is currently an ICC match referee.
There is some irony in the board gunning for the aid of these former players at this juncture, because some of them are the same men it has spent the last 18 months alienating. Kuruppu was part of the selection committee that was sacked by Thilanga Sumathipala and the board just 48 hours from the team’s scheduled departure from the 2016 World T20, for example. Jayawardene’s plan to take cricket into the provinces was scrapped and criticised, and he was ousted from his position in the SLC cricket committee. De Silva had held the cricket advisor post for about 12 months, but then quit earlier this year, due to strong differences with SLC.
Two developments have precipitated this drastic change of approach. In the wake of the 0-9 drubbing by India, and indeed the unprecedented losses to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe earlier this year, members of SLC’s executive committee have become convinced that the board’s existing trajectory was untenable. Those defeats have also substantially weakened Thilanga Sumathipala’s political grip within the organisation, with pressure now having been placed on him from higher political offices in the country.
Sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara has repeatedly said that he would not dissolve an elected board to appoint an interim committee, so the Sumathipala presidency is safe for now – at least until the board elections early next year (they could be brought forward to December).
However, other board officials have now taken strong issue with the manner in which Sumathipala has conducted business at SLC, particularly his alleged meddling with team selection and direct influence over cricket matters. These agitating officials claim that should any of the former players they are trying to woo take up positions at the board, those new appointments should “have a free hand”, in contrast to what had previously been the case. It is perhaps relevant that Graham Ford resigned in June exactly because he felt his role was repeatedly encroached upon.
The sports minister is also hoping to get many of these former players together for a brainstorming session on how SLC might turn cricket around, over the next week or so.
Essentially, amid a significant decline in influence for Sumathipala, there is now substantial will within SLC to change tack. Early indications from the former players they are chasing, however, is that they would rather await fundamental change in SLC – either the election or the appointment of a fresh board – before they become involved. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)