Lankan minister promises changes

COLOMBO - The sports minister in Sri Lanka has pledged to rejuvenate the game of cricket in Sri Lanka after the defeat by India in the World Cup final. "We have to begin a new journey, new approach in the game in the near future," Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage told BBC Sinhala service, Sandeshaya.

He was commenting after the series of resignations from captain Kumar Sangakkara, his deputy Mahela Jayawardena and the select committee chaired by Aravinda de Silva. The minister said the changes are needed, after the resignations, to prepare for the upcoming tour of England and then for the Twenty20 World Cup to be hosted by Sri Lanka in 2012.

We expect to appoint the new captain, vice-captain as well as the select committee within the next week," he said. According to sports regulations, the minister cannot appoint the captain or the vice-captain. They are picked by the select committee, which is appointed by the minister. "We hope to begin a new chapter in the game as soon as possible," he explained.

A crisis brewed in Sri Lanka cricket after the unexpected departure of the skipper, vice-captain and the select committee. Addressing media on Tuesday, Kumar Sangakkara insisted it was decision taken prior to the tournament. And analysts said it is customary for the vice-captain to resign after the departure of his skipper paving the way for the selectors to appoint a new team.

Sri Lanka cricket fans and certain media have accused the government of political interference, an accusation categorically denied by the minister.

"If there have been political interference, Sanath Jayasuriya should have been the captain of the World cup team," Minister Aluthgamage said. Two members of the 1996 World Cup winning team, Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas, were left out of the squad having been initially selected for the 30-member provisional team.

Sanath Jayasuriya is a member of parliament representing the ruling party in his hometown, Matara.

"This is a propaganda carried out by the opposition to sling mud at the government," added Aluthgamage. The minister also commented that no decision has been taken to replace the cricket Interim Committee at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), for the moment, despite serious accusations of mismanagement and financial irregularities.