Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga is disappointed these days. The Member of Parliament resigned as a Junior Minister for Tourism last month after being promised that cricketers would be involved in administration. But no progress has been made since. The 42-year-old blasts the manner in which Sri Lanka Cricket is functioning and said that the Board could have handled the recent episode, where the South African team returned home, in a better manner.
In an exclusive interview to HT on Thursday, the World Cup winning captain found time to say that the current Board was interested in money, money and more money and not in the welfare of cricket. Excerpts:
What is your stance on the recent Oval Test between Pakistan and England?
I thought Darrell Hair once again did something against Asian countries. To accuse a team without evidence when everyone knows there were 26 cameras was very upsetting. At the same time, Inzamam made a big mistake by not protesting immediately. After the ball was changed, he should have walked out, gone to the match referee and lodged a protest.
Is it fair to say Hair is anti-Asia?
The ICC was wrong in having Hair in its panel. When teams had problems with him, he was kept out. By bringing him back in its panel, the ICC has rehabilitated him of sorts. It is very important for the ICC to get rid of people like Hair. By not doing that, not only teams but also countries get upset with each other.
What prompted you to resign from the Tourism Ministry?
The Sri Lankan President (Mahinda Rajapaksa) and the Sports Ministry invited some of the past cricketers to join the interim committee. With me, they had an issue as I was holding a Ministerial post. So, I decided that I would do anything for the welfare of the game and resigned from the ministry. But nothing happened. We all realised that money was the most important thing. People with money get in through contacts.
Why do we often see powers changing in SLC?
The interim committee appointed by the Minister is not bothered about having cricketers. We (cricketers) decided to keep way, allowing these people to do whatever they wanted. Ultimately, if something went wrong with cricket, the government had to take the blame. We prefer to wait.
Do you enjoy your stint in politics?
I enjoy my stint in politics. It is one way of giving something back to my country. With my name and cricket, I could promote tourism. I am glad I did that for two years. Tourism improved in Sri Lanka. Even with the problem in terrorism, we still convinced a lot of foreigners to come to the country.
With the recent tri-series and the India-Sri Lanka three-match ODIs being cancelled, what do they mean to the game in the country?
I personally feel that the government and the Board could have handled it better. They might have had, but it is the way you convey that’s important. I remember a similar incident when a New Zealand navy commander was killed in front of the Taj Samudra hotel. The whole of New Zealand team was planning to leave. The then President, the Sports Minister, the Board and the cricketers all got together to convince them to stay.
I was very sad to see the present set up not do that. I don’t know where it went wrong. If something similar had happened in England or Australia, would South Africa have gone back?
I thought SA should also have considered it differently. It was not the nicest of things to happen. About the India-Lanka series, it would have been an eye opener to see where we stand — India came with a very strong side.
Is it fair to say that Dambulla was not considered for the scheduled tri-series because of the Board politics?
The Dambulla ground was acquired by a former Board president, who invested Sri Lankan Rs 800 billion on a place that did not belong to the government or the Board. The country does not take any action against such people. What you saw was the repercussion of what went through.
It was a political agenda he was trying to capitalise on. The business-minded are not bothered about cricket. They are more considered about how they can earn money and how their friends can earn money.
Even after the India-Lanka series was cancelled due to weather, the current Board did not reveal the amount of money they were going to get through insurance. They were not talking how much they were losing. Only the cricketers will realise. The sad part is the Minister and the President do not realise these things.
How do you rate Mahela Jayawardene’s captaincy?
Mahela has done a great job without Marvan (Atapattu) in the side. He is a very good captain. Marvan has also done a good job. The important part is Sri Lanka are currently blessed with three people — Marvan, Mahela and Sangakkara — can captain the side now.