Committee report bares cricket bigwigs | Sunday Observer

Committee report bares cricket bigwigs

15 January, 2023

The saying that cricket is a gentleman’s game is one that now belongs to history. In recent times corruption has emerged in the sport thereby compromising the standards of the sport and its players have dropped in recent times. It has now become cancerous affecting international cricket and even Sri Lanka.

This has now been proven by the report of the committee appointed to look into the various issues within Sri Lanka cricket. It was handed over to the Minister of Sport Roshan Ranasinghe recently by the head of the committee, retired High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena. The contents released to the media the day after have now shocked Sri Lanka cricket fans the world over as it has confirmed many unofficial reports on the various factors that have led to Sri Lanka cricket’s decline.

It is a historical report that has confirmed the irregularities committed by the officials but also other facts that have now led to the sport’s deterioration.

The committee was appointed by Ranasinghe to look into the wrongs committed by cricketers during the recent T20 cricket world cup in Australia and the financial irregularities within Sri Lanka cricket based on the various allegations featured in the media following the tournament. The need for an inquiry was bolstered by the fact that player Dhanushka Gunathilake was arrested on allegations of sexual assault in Australia.

The Minister made the decision to appoint the committee following a discussion held with Sri Lanka Cricket officials including former secretary Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva and National Sports Council Chairman Arjuna Ranatunge with the intention of arriving at a decision on Sri Lanka cricket’s future course of action on Gunathilaka and how to prevent such issues from cropping up in the future as well as how to develop the player’s talents to face the world cup of 2023. It was also decided to look into allegations of the ‘Born Again’ cult and its effects on the game due to widespread reports and rumours of the fact.

The committee had taken steps to call before it Ranatunge, Government officials aware of the matters pertaining to the T20 world cup, officials of Sri Lanka cricket, players of the national team and Jerome Fernando who calls himself the pastor of the born again king’s revival church.

The report revealed that more than half of the executive committee members of Sri Lanka cricket had obtained US$ 7000 each for ten days, along with business class tickets to attend the matches in Australia despite having received instructions from the Ministry of Sports to keep expenditure at a minimum for the tour. The report reveals that many of these executive committee officials had failed to appear before it despite being issued notice to do so and they even failed to give an acceptable excuse for their absence.

The committee had also spoken to Gunathilake via Zoom. He is still in Australia after being banned from leaving the country till the end of the legal case on the sexual assault allegations levelled against him. As for Jerome Fernando, he had told the committee he is a ‘Prophet’ and helps people heal both mentally and psychically through the power given to him by Jesus Christ.

He had claimed he had not met with any officials of the Sri Lanka cricket’s executive committee and was unaware if any of them had attended his sermons. He had added that no one connected to cricket in Sri Lanka had approached him seeking his support. Fernando had however admitted there were around seven members of his church connected to cricket. The pastor had said Kumar Sangakkara was once among them but has left the church since.

The committee found his statement contradictory and an attempt to conceal the truth perhaps to shield the members connected to cricket and continue to have them in his fold. The committee in its report noted that considering the information presented before it, it was clear that witnesses did not give true evidence regarding the Born Again members and followers within Sri Lanka Cricket and the cricket team.

Important recommendations made by the inquiry committee

Conduct an immediate independent audit of the income and expenses of the tour related to the Twenty20 World Cup.

Taking steps to prevent the alteration or concealment of relevant documents, before such an audit is carried out.

Considering the following facts, all those who have misused the funds of the institution and helped in these illegal acts, should be prosecuted according to the provisions of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka for embezzlement, criminal breach of trust, misappropriation, etc.

In the further utilisation of the money owned by the Sri Lanka Cricket Institute in order to establish credibility and transparency, to prevent misuse and corruption, and in entering into agreements with other institutions, in sales and purchases, it was recommended that these must happen under the supervision of the Ministry of Sports, in accordance with the provisions of the Government Procurement Guidelines Code.

Banning players from going to casinos as there is information that the Sri Lankan cricket team often visits casinos claiming they were going to the location for dinner. It was found they would gamble on these occasions and also get entangled in unnecessary conflicts.

Taking measures to ensure that the selection committee does not have any external influence while selecting the players.

Paying special attention to the Born Again religious sect as it is likely that cricketers will be influenced in the future.

Allowing players to take wives at their own expense, not only to provide mental relief to players during foreign tours but also to refrain from night travel.

Matters observed by the committee in relation to the allegation of misuse of funds by officials of Sri Lanka Cricket

The person named Malik Zavir, known as an agent for Sri Lanka cricket who sold tickets at the dinner organised for the official event held during the Twenty20 World Cup has not yet provided information regarding the income received from it.

Mahela Jayawardena, who had gone to Australia at the expense of the cricket organisation as a training consultant for the players, opened a restaurant called Ministry of Crabs while there. It appears that the letters given to the Ministry of Sports regarding the expenses of the executives of Sri Lanka Cricket who visited Australia during the Twenty20 World Cup were a document prepared to cover up the misuse of the institute’s funds.

It is clear that the Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket has submitted a report containing false facts to the committee. The funds of the Sri Lanka Cricket Institute have been used for their personal pleasure, not to promote and encourage the game of cricket, but as a reward for their service.