Nearly more than four months after winning the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka is about to reconstruct its selection committee. Pramodya Wickramasinghe, the chief selector, is likely to be among the first names to get axed. The National Sports Selection Committee of the Sri Lankan government will convene on January 30 to arrive at a final decision on this matter.
Since April 2021, Wickramasinghe has served as the committee’s head, directing a youth-driven overhaul of Sri Lanka’s limited-overs squads. Senior players such as Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, and Dimuth Karunaratne have been dropped from the white-ball lineups as a result of this.
The national team has experienced varied degrees of success during this time, most notably the ODI series victories at home over South Africa and Australia, as well as being crowned as the Asia Cup T20 champions in 2022 under Mickey Arthur and Chris Silverwood, respectively, as head coach. Despite this, a disappointing performance at the 2022 T20 World Cup which was organized in Australia and two humiliating white-ball defeats to India at the beginning of 2023 has put the responsibility of the selectors in the limelight and under close scrutiny.
The framework of Sri Lanka’s cricket affairs: –
A slightly broader perspective on the issue is required to completely comprehend the current state of Sri Lankan cricket. Beginning with the appointment of Roshan Ranasinghe as the new sports minister in May 2022, who replaced Namal Rajapaksa, the nephew of the former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A severe economic crisis and widespread protests in the nation ultimately prompted Gotabaya to retire, which also sparked Namal Rajapaksa’s expulsion from the post of sports minister.
The appointment of former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, to lead a 15-member National Sports Council (NSC), entrusted with advising the sports minister on things pertaining to sports in the nation, was one of Ranasinghe’s first acts as the country’s minister of sports.
Ranatunga has always been a frank critic of the executive committee of Sri Lanka Cricket, led by President Shammi Silva. He wasted little time in demanding that the selectors be sacked in the wake of the team’s poor T20 World Cup performance.
In an interview earlier this month, Wickramasinghe justified himself by posing the following question: “In the ICC Test Championship points standings, we are currently placed third. We clinched the country’s first major title in eight years, the Asia Cup, and then earned direct qualifications to the T20 World Cup in 2024. We also won a series against Australia in ODIs. Don’t these accomplishments reflect our efforts over the last 18 months?”
Wickramasinghe’s views are shared by Sri Lanka Cricket, although they are not the ones looking to replace the selectors. The National Sports Selection Committee (NSSC), established by the Ministry of Sports, is responsible for that.
Procedure of electing selectors: –
According to the rules of Sri Lanka’s sports law, national team selectors must be appointed by the sports minister. Even the teams they pick must first receive the sanction of the ministry before being approved. In October 2022, the NSSC, a seven-member body headed by General Shavendra Silva, the Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka, was given the responsibility of approving the sports selection in the nation. The group also included legendary cricketer and former ‘Chairman of Selection Committee’ – Sanath Jayasuriya.
The SLC submitted the NSSC a list of ten names earlier this month, including Wickramasinghe’s, for choosing the next selection committee. However, the NSSC voiced dissatisfaction and asked for a new list to be given to them.
In Sri Lanka, political interference in cricket-related decisions is not uncommon. The country’s post-1996 World Cup history has been marked by a number of interim committees, modifications to the selectors and selection process, and shifts in captaincy.