Colombo, Jan 16 (IANS) Former Sri Lankan cricket captain-turned-politician Arjuna Ranatunga says the current national cricket selection panel should be sacked following the national team's poor performance in the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
Ranatunga also accused the government of interfering with Sri Lankan cricket, resulting in some senior players also making political comments instead of just focusing on the game.
Sri Lanka have had a poor run over the past few months, suffering a Test and One-Day International series loss in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan and later losing the Test series in South Africa.
The most humiliating loss for Sri Lanka was recorded in the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series against South Africa.
Chasing Proteas' 302 runs for victory in the second ODI, the Sri Lankans were bowled out for just 43 runs, their lowest total in limited overs cricket.
Ranatunga told Xinhua in an interview Monday that he suspected the current selection process for the national team was based on political considerations and not the performance of players.
He also said that the national selectors made a huge blunder when they failed to pick in-form batsman Thilan Samaraweera for the Test series in South Africa.
"Samaraweera was not picked in the original squad but was later included as a replacement for an injured player. He then went on to score two centuries and was the most consistent batsman in the series. The national selectors should admit that they made a blunder in the selection or they should either resign or be sacked," Ranatunga said.
Ranatunga led Sri Lanka to their only World Cup win in 1996 and he attributed the success to the fact that back then the players did not face pressure from politicians or the board.
Recently the Sri Lankan cricket board had its first election after several years and Upali Dharmadasa was elected unopposed president of the board.
Ranatunga is not happy with the election saying a few others who had initially come forward to contest for the presidency had later stepped down as the members elected had political backing.
Among those elected to the current board is Ranatunga's brother Nisthantha Ranatunga, who was appointed as secretary.
"I am glad that I am not in this government because if I was then people will blame even me for not doing enough to resurrect the game," Ranatunga said.
The Sri Lankan cricketers had not been paid their salaries for several months by the cricket board and only recently was part of it paid from money obtained from both the International Cricket Council and the government treasury.
Ranatunga accused former sports minister Gamini Lokuge of "opening the doors" for politicians to get involved in the game.
He said that another former sports minister C.B. Ratnayake attempted to rectify things but was subsequently removed from his post and replaced by current minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage.
"It is good at times when ministers get involved in rural cricket to help cricket clubs and budding players come up. But they should not get involved with a national team. They should also not comment on national cricketers. Today we see not just the sports minister but even other politicians making comments about the national players and such comments can affect the performance of those players," Ranatunga said.
Ranatunga feels a television deal expected to be signed in April this year to promote Sri Lankan cricket will further add to the existing mess.
He says a major overhaul of the Sri Lankan cricket board is required to get the team back on track and to prepare them for the next cricket World Cup.