‘Ranatunga had issues with one and all’
Sri Lanka Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge spoke exclusively to Hindustan Times at his Kattawa Road residence and justified the decision to sack the World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and dissolve the cricket body. Excerpts...Updated: Feb 02, 2009 01:20 IST
Sri Lanka sports minister Gamini Lokuge, who was in the news recently when he dissolved the Interim Cricket Committee headed by former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, is known to be an avid follower of the sport. He spoke exclusively to Hindustan Times at his Kattawa Road residence and justified the decision to sack the World Cup-winning skipper and dissolve the cricket body.
Have you zeroed in on a sponsor for the team?
Dialog Telekom have sponsored the series against Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. They will sponsor one more series after which the team will be without a sponsor. But a lot of companies are showing interest in the Lankan cricket despite the meltdown. We are in discussion with them and will get the best bid for the national team.
How has this series
helped SLC financially?
We sold the TV rights to Nimbus for $6 million. Actually, we did not have enough time to negotiate because the tour was fixed in haste. If we had, say, a couple of more months, maybe, we would have got around 10-12 million.
What was going wrong SLC that you had to intervene?
The SLC Interim Committee chairman, Arjuna Ranatunga, was having problems with the players, his fellow workers, the sponsors (Dilmah Tea spent $ two million during a three-year period and did not renew the contract) and even the media. We cannot run an association like that. So, I was forced to sack Ranatunga and dissolve the committee.
Was the release of players for the IPL an issue?
We will release players for the IPL and ensure the dates do not clash with our international tours. On the Indian Cricket League (ICL) we will go with the BCCI. We are not going to recognise it. The Interim Committee wanted to recognise them and I had to intervene.
What is the status at the moment?
Now, I have given Duleep Mendis complete authority. Next month, we are planning to hold elections. We will set up a new Interim Committee. At the same time, I want to get the cabinet's approval to set up a trust that would take care of the financial activities.
All money for the development of cricket will be released by the trust.
Our legal department will prepare the constitution over the next few days. I will place it in the Parliament for approval and implement it.
Will the terror attacks in Mumbai or the war against LTTE have an effect on the World Cup?
The Mumbai attack was an isolated incident and I don't think it will affect the World Cup. Back in Sri Lanka, we are at the fag end of the war. We hope to sort that out before the National Day on February 4.
How has the war affected sport in Sri Lanka?
During the war, players from the south were doing well. Now we are trying to develop sports in the east and north. On Thursday, I went down south to Matara to inaugurate a football ground.
A lot of teams from the eastern regions like Batticaloa and Trincomalee were there for the inaugural tournament.
We are using sport as a diversion from violence. We are using sport as a platform to hold dialogues with the Tamilians, Singhalese, Muslims and Buddhists. There are quite a few talented junior athletes here. Sprinter Shehan Ambepitiya (19) won four gold medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune. There are others coming up as well.
How have you been affected by violence?
My car was bombed last year and my driver died. We have to face the situation. We cannot sit in our houses. Without mingling with the public we cannot run the show.
First Published: Feb 02, 2009 01:16 IST