No decision on 2024 Under-19 World Cup yet as SLC suspension row rumbles on

A view of a Sri Lanka player's helmet and kit bag inside the dressing room ICC via Getty Images

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) president Shammi Silva has warned that the country could lose out on hosting the men's Under-19 World Cup in January and February if the ICC's suspension of SLC was not lifted. He also said the ICC wanted to suspend Sri Lanka back in July, but he prevented it.

However, ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC has not yet made a decision on the U-19 World Cup and will discuss the hosting of that tournament only at the next board meeting on November 21. It is learned that there was also no discussion within the ICC of suspending SLC in July.

According to Silva, ICC deputy chairman Imran Khwaja had taken special interest in potential political interference in Sri Lanka. "About five months ago, the ICC came here when there was news of political interference, and held an inquiry," Silva said. "Mr. Imran Khwaja met the minister and the president (of Sri Lanka), and told them the ICC would be taking it seriously if you don't properly control this. This [the suspension] is not something that happening in one or two days.

"Khwaja came on May 10. I later went to an ICC meeting from July 10 to 14. In their report, it says that Sri Lanka Cricket is being totally politically abused. Then they told me we have a few options: either we ban Sri Lanka, stop the cricket in Sri Lanka, or stop the money to Sri Lanka. I told them not to do that. So actually we were going to be suspended between July 10 and 14, and we [SLC officials] prevented it."

According to information that ESPNcricinfo has, it is only after SLC complained to the ICC about political interference in November 2022 that Khwaja travelled to Sri Lanka on a fact-finding mission. It is understood the ICC did not find prima facie evidence of direct interference at the time.

The background to this issue is that SLC and the country's sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe have been in conflict over the past year, with Ranasinghe making accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the cricket board, while Silva and SLC accuse him of meddling with cricket.

Both Silva and Ranasinghe held media interactions separately on Saturday afternoon; both parties sometimes making personal insults. In Silva's press conference at SLC headquarters, he stressed that both the ICC and SLC seek assurance from the highest level of Sri Lankan politics - the president of the country, essentially - that there would be no further political interference in the running of cricket in Sri Lanka.

Though Silva and his elected board are currently at the helm at SLC, their place remains precarious. It is only the result of a 14-day stay order delivered by Sri Lanka's courts, which reversed Ranasinghe's appointment of an interim committee led by Arjuna Ranatunga on Monday to run SLC.

Ranasinghe, meanwhile, outlined the sports ministry's next steps as it attempts to have SLC's suspension lifted by the ICC. He said the ministry would approach the ICC's dispute resolution committee first, which is a body within the ICC that reviews appeals from boards on membership matters. If that process fails, Ranasinghe said, the ministry would look at pursuing a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On the home front, the ministry will seek a jugdement from Sri Lanka's own courts that reinstall the minister's Ranatunga-led interim committee.

It is Silva who is understood to have sought SLC's suspension, as a means of putting pressure on the Sri Lankan government. When asked directly about this at the press conference, he said: "I've already said this was something that was going to happen for five months. If I can pull strings like that, I've got to be an impressive person.

Earlier in the day, SLC's vice president Ravin Wickramaratne told ESPNcricinfo: "As a full member, it is our right to go to the ICC."

With inputs from Madushka Balasuriya.