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Controversy bedevils Sri Lanka Cricket’s Selection Process

March 9, 2016

ari kumar plus -DN

ONE: “Kapila speaks Out,”  in Daily News, 9 March 2016

Former chairman of cricket selectors Kapila Wijegunawardene spoke to the Daily News and gave his version of the events that led to the removal of his selection committee which also included Brendon Kuruppu, Amal Silva and Hemantha Wickremaratne. Their bone of contention was that they were unceremoniously removed. “We feel humiliated about the fact that without adducing any tangible reasons the media was informed that we have been sacked,” said Wijegunawardene. He further stated he was informed by a telephone call at 11 pm on Monday by an official who identified himself as the director-general of sports and told that they ceased to serve as national selectors with immediate effect.

The caller stated that these were orders from the Minister of Sports and no reasons were adduced for such removal. Wijegunawardene further added that none of them have until now received any intimation whatsoever in writing from the Minister confirming the telephone conversation.

Wijegunawardene in addition stated: “It was very clear from the time we picked the squad they wanted certain players included and the players they had in mind were not in the 15 that we had selected. If you look at the changes that have been done it’s only two. We had to pick a team from merit.

We were given a deadline for February 15 to pick the team for the Asia Cup as well as the World T20. When we picked the team on February 14 it got delayed by four days to be released to the media. We had three rounds of discussion and there were various arguments with SLC hierarchy and we counted every one of them.

“What they wanted didn’t transpire and the team left for the Asia Cup. It was obvious in spite of all the agreements that we had in sending Lasith Malinga to accompany the squad that they had a different agenda in their minds in changing the captain and obviously getting the players they wanted in.”

Direct interference from Sports Minister: “First, he inquired from me about 2-3 players and then when Malinga got injured he told me to bring him back. I explained and told him that we cannot and why we have sent him and why he should stay there.

Yesterday (Monday) we were all surprised when Malinga opted to step down from captaincy and sent a letter to that effect. When we inquired from Malinga what prompted him to do step down, in the presence of the assistance secretary and the four selectors he said that when he was in Dhaka, the Sports Minister, SLC president and Aravinda de Silva in his presence were discussing T20 World Cup team with a senior player for which discussion he was not invited.

He mentioned that he was very upset by this episode and that is what made him send in letter to step down from captaincy. This is blatant interference by the authorities.

Not following SLC guidelines: “The guidelines given to us by SLC was that Mathews should captain in the absence of Malinga. We had a discussion with coach Graham Ford and he told us very clearly that one of the biggest issues he had was there being three captains in four games. And it clearly impeded the performance of the team.

Now we are facing a situation where Malinga is injured and there is no firm guarantee that he is going to get fit. When Malinga went to Dhaka the SLC president along with the coach and the selectors agreed that in the event that he is unable to play a replacement would be sent. When the request for a replacement came from Dhaka the president objected on the grounds that Malinga should return for the replacement to be sent. Then Graham at that time indicated that he was one bowler short in the squad with Malinga’s injury. We didn’t want the same scenario with the current squad and it was for this reason that we replaced Malinga with another player so that the squad will be 15 fit players. We take decisions for the team’s requirements and in the best interest of the country. We don’t base our decisions on individuals.

“In his letter Malinga has clearly indicated that he cannot travel to India till March 15, then again we would have the same situation of one bowler short. The coach was also very clear between the lines that some of the captaincy decisions taken also had an impact on our performances. The fact that Angelo has been carrying a calf injury for a long while and that he has bowled only five overs in the T20 format during the last 12 months and he didn’t play in the last game. As there was an injury cloud over Mathews and to avoid these constant changes in the captaincy we opted that for Chandimal who in our view was undisputedly the best choice under these circumstances. He was the fittest out of the lot and also a past T20 captain. We also took into consideration Ford’s opinion on this matter.

“We wrote to the Sports Minister explaining the rational in keeping Malinga back and the poor performance of the team was not due to wrong composition of players but the fact that the teams that was being picked was imbalanced and the batting orders were incorrect and for that we cannot take responsibility. We also told the SLC president and secretary the only way we can consider changing the team is if we get a written directive from the Sports Minister because this is the team that has been approved by him and we cannot override such decisions. However this was not forthcoming and we stuck to the team we originally selected apart from changing the captain and replacing Malinga (due to injury concerns) with paceman Kasun Rajith.

“We have done no wrong and this is amply demonstrated by the fact that only two changes had been made by the new set of selectors apart from the change in captaincy.”

***  ***

TWO: THE OFFICIAL FACE = “Former cricketers rally around for a national cause” by Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Former cricketing icons Aravinda de Silva and Kumar Sangakkara along with former cricketers Lalith Kaluperuma, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Ranjith Madurapperuma rallied to the clarion call from Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala to resolve a crisis that had developed on Monday night over the composition of the team for the ICC World T20 in India and the fitness issue surrounding champion fast bowler Lasith Malinga.

These five ex-players were appointed as the new national selectors by the Sports Minister late Monday night replacing the five-member panel headed by Kapila Wijegunawardene after the SLC hierarchy had been with loggerheads with them on the inclusion of certain players and Malinga. Sumathipala after reading extracts from the SLC constitution where it says the selection committee shall comply with any instructions and directives given to it by the ExCo told a media gathering at the Ministry of Sports yesterday that they were compelled to request the Minister of Sport to replace the selection committee because they were not complying to their requests for certain changes which they thought was in the best interest of the team.

“We requested the selection committee to retain Malinga in the 15 and allow him to recover from his injury. They spoke to Malinga and then took a decision to drop him from the squad. We wanted him to recover quickly and join the team,” explained Sumathipala. “Secondly the decision the selection committee took was the suitable captain for the world T20 was Dinesh Chandimal and not Angelo Mathews. We announced earlier that there was a succession for the captaincy when appointing Malinga as the captain and Mathews as his vice captain and Chandimal as the third choice captain. If Malinga was unavailable the captaincy should have gone to Mathews.

“We told the selection committee to appoint the captain before they made the selection and before they appointed the captain to talk to coach Graham Ford and then with the captain and coach pick the team. What they did was they appointed Chandimal as the captain and dropped Malinga from the team and concluded the meeting saying they have nothing else to change,” he said.

“What do we do in such circumstances? We had an emergency meeting and then spoke to the Sports Minister and told him our directions and instructions were not being followed by the selection committee and that we no longer had any confidence in them.

“We had only three hours before midnight to submit the team to the ICC. We were in a tight corner. The Minister instructed us to pick a new set of selectors and send it to him for approval. This was done and the selection committee headed by Aravinda de Silva picked the team late last night.”

Sumathipala said that Aravinda had made a request for Kumar Sangakkara to be included in the selection panel. The Sports Minister had spoken to Sangakkara and despite his commitments and as this was a national crisis he had agreed to come and help only till the end of the month.

“The new selection committee was appointed and they with coach Ford appointed Mathews as captain. After discussion with the captain, vice-captain and coach we made two changes to the original squad,” said Sumathipala. “They were all of the view that Malinga should be in the squad and we have selected a team suitable to defend the World T20 in India. We have got assurance from a team of medical doctors attending to Malinga’s injury that he can be fit to play in the first mach on March 17. He will undergo a fitness test on March 15. He is too good a player to keep out,” he said.

Malinga will not be travelling with the team that left for India last night but will receive treatment in Sri Lanka and if he recovers from the injury join the team in time for the first match on March 17.

New selection committee chairman Aravinda de Silva said that when he met the Sri Lanka team members in Bangladesh they were crestfallen and their heads were low.

“We as a selection committee need to give them the backing as a nation and as past cricketers. I have been a great admirer of Sanga and Mahela and it is their duty to come forward and help the team at a time when the morale is low,” said De Silva. “We tried to involve Mahela also but he is already committed.”

De Silva a former chairman of selectors said that Sri Lanka is in this position today because they had not taken sufficient steps to replace players like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara after they retired.

“We had identified that Thirimanne and Chandimal for the two roles and we made big investments on them. But at a crucial time in their careers for about one and half years they were shifted up and down the batting order and not given the confidence to play in one position,” he said.

The new selection committee appointed till April 30 comprised Aravinda de Silva (chairman), Kumar Sangakkara, Lalith Kaluperuma, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Ranjith Madurasinghe.

The Sports Minister speaking on behalf of SLC said that the elected body hardly had any breathing space as they had been confronted with several issues and hoped that everything will be resolved with time.

SRI LANKA TEAM FOR WORLD T20

Two changes were made to the Sri Lanka team with batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and fast bowler Suranga Lakmal replacing Niroshan Dickwella and Jeffrey Vandersay.

The team:

Angelo Mathews (Captain), Dinesh Chandimal (Vice Captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Shehan Jayasuriya, Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekera, Dushmantha Chameera, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga.

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