by Champika Fernando
In an unprecedented development, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera last night ordered nine players heading to India for the limited-over leg of the current series to turn back as they were leaving the country without his approval.
At the time of his intervention, the players had even boarded the flight to Delhi and were forced to disembark.
The team leaving the country without his approval was a blatant violation of the country’s sports law which requires Sports Minister’s approval, the Minister said.
Sri Lanka Cricket maintained that the team composition was sent for ministry approval yesterday evening, This gave the Minister less than 12 hours to sanction it.
“How can I approve a team at such short notice?” a furious Minister asked. “If you go by the Sports Law, it requires the list to be sent three weeks prior to leaving. Here, they are sending a team just three to four hours before leaving the country. So I had to recall them.”
“I have nothing against the players,” he said. “In fact, Thisara called me last night from the flight and said, ‘Sir we have already boarded’. But I told him, ‘Nothing doing’. If I allowed them to go, I am setting a precedent here.”
The Sports Minister will now meet the selectors, Board officials and skipper Perera this afternoon before approving the team.
“They can go tonight but I want to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
The selectors decided a squad of 15 players for the limited-over series on Friday but were to meet again on Monday to finalize the final team as there had been some disagreements over some players. Sources said the Board wanted the selectors to reconsider their decision to omit Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Perera from the squad. Chandimal, the highest run-getter in the current series with two 50s and a century, has been dropped along with Kusal, an aggressive left-handed batter who has reportedly not had enough match practice.
However, Kusal Perera who was not in the original tour party was included at the eleventh hour as the 16t man to the squad. Perera has not played international cricket since injuring himself in the Champions Trophy. The three-match series against India starts on December 10.
Sri Lanka’s ODI squad:
Thisara Perera (capt), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Chaturanga de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dushmantha Chameera, Sachith Pathirana, Kusal Perera