Sri Lanka Cricket suspended by ICC board

A view of a Sri Lanka player's kit bag ICC via Getty Images

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has been suspended by the ICC with immediate effect because of extensive government interference in the board's administration.

Though the ICC has termed the sanction a "suspension", it is in reality a warning as the ICC seeks to prevent further government interference in the running of SLC. In fact, it is understood that SLC itself had requested the suspension, in order to illustrate to Sri Lanka's government that the ICC will not tolerate further meddling on its part.

"As a Full Member, it is our right to go to the ICC," SLC vice-president Ravin Wickramaratne told ESPNcricinfo*. "The government will have to give 100% assurance that there will be no interference. Otherwise, the suspension will mean that Sri Lanka can't play cricket. You saw what happened to Zimbabwe [in 2019, Zimbabwe Cricket had been suspended by the ICC over government interference]."

The suspension will not have any immediate serious impact on Sri Lankan cricket. Sri Lanka's World Cup campaign ended on Thursday and there is no cricket happening in the country until December. No ICC funds are due to go to SLC until January.

While the ICC's quarterly meetings are scheduled for November 18-21 in Ahmedabad, the ICC board met online on Friday to address the SLC situation - government interference in all spheres from administration to finance and even matters concerning the national team. The next course of action will be decided when the ICC Board meets on November 21.

The ICC also continues to recognise SLC president Shammi Silva, who is likely to be present at the ICC meetings in Ahmedabad as the ICC Board has allowed SLC representatives to be present in an observer capacity. Silva is understood to be at the centre of the ICC's move to suspend SLC.

"The ICC Board met today and determined that Sri Lanka Cricket is in serious breach of its obligations as a Member, in particular, the requirement to manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government interference in the governance, regulation and/or administration of cricket in Sri Lanka," the ICC said in a statement. "The conditions of the suspension will be decided by the ICC Board in due course."

On Monday, Sri Lanka's sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe had sacked the SLC board and installed an interim committee headed by Arjuna Ranatunga, but Sri Lanka's courts essentially reinstated the board a day later by issuing a 14-day stay order on the gazette that dissolved the board.

Since then, the affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket have been debated at length in the country's parliament. But as of Friday, when the ICC suspension came, it was the elected SLC board headed by Silva that was running cricket in the country.

Even if the interim committee was in power, the appointment of such committees by the government had not prompted suspension by the ICC before. The previous occasion when an interim committee was in place, from 2014 to 2015, resulted in the ICC putting the funds due to SLC in escrow, and demoted SLC to observer status at board meetings. But they remained a member of the ICC officially.

Sri Lanka's sports minister has also had the role of ratifying all Sri Lankan national teams, as per the nation's sports law, which has been in place since 1973.

SLC is the second Full Member to be suspended by ICC in the last four years after Zimbabwe Cricket was suspended in 2019 for similar reasons. However, unlike in Zimbabwe's case, where all cricket activities in the country were abruptly shut down, in addition to a freeze on funding, the ICC will tread carefully in Sri Lanka's case.

The article was updated after Ravin Wickramaratne spoke to ESPNcricinfo