Sri Lanka will be stuck with administrators from roughly the same pool of men who have run cricket since the late nineties.
The election, to be held on May 31, will be contested by very familiar names: Thilanga Sumathipala (the incumbent president), Jayantha Dharmadasa (a past president), Nishantha Ranatunga (the central figure at SLC during the first few years of this decade), as well as a number of others who are either presently in office or have repeatedly held office, often as recently as 2015. Pre-election expectations are that the incumbents will keep their positions, which means that this time the carousel may barely spin at all.
The only mild surprise in the nominations list, which was released on Monday, is that Arjuna Ranatunga has not put himself forward as a candidate, as he had done in 2016. Arjuna has been a staunch critic of almost every board he has not been involved in, particularly the present one.
In addition to Sumathipala, Nishantha Ranatunga and Dharmadasa, present vice-president Mohan de Silva is also contesting the presidency. De Silva is a candidate for two other positions as well: vice-president and secretary. Other incumbents contesting positions include present treasurer Shammi Silva and current vice-president K Mathivanan.
Of the presidency candidates, Sumathipala and Nishantha Ranatunga perhaps have the most chequered histories. Since being ousted by a government interim committee in 2015, Nishantha has been questioned by Sri Lanka’s Financial Crimes and Investigation Division over his role as CEO of the Carlton Sports Network (CSN) television channel, which has been part of an investigation into financial crimes. While he was board secretary, SLC had also controversially awarded local broadcasting rights to this very channel, sparking conflict-of-interest concerns.
Sumathipala, meanwhile, has been head of a board that faced substantial public criticism last year, when the national team had performed poorly for several months. In the past, Sumathipala also faced uncomfortable questions about his family’s links to the betting industry, though the ICC is satisfied that he himself is not involved in that business. Sumathipala is also a member of parliament, having been appointed through the national list.
That the same names have been contesting elections for decades is largely a result of SLC’s constitution, which grants board votes to a vast array of cricket bodies around the country, many of which are effectively defunct. There have been many calls for this constitution to be overhauled – a process that probably requires government intervention. Although the new sports minister Faiszer Mustapha ostensibly appears amenable to the idea, even recently holding a meeting with Kumar Sangakkara (a longtime advocate of change), no action has been taken yet.