Sri Lanka is about to restructure its selection committee for the losses in T20 and ODIs

ODI and T20I series losses in India for Sri Lanka to starting 2023

The selection committee, led by Pramodya Wickramasinghe, is about to undergo a shake-up, less than four months after Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup. His name is expected to be among the first to go.

Since April 2021, Wickramasinghe has served as the committee’s chair. During this time, Sri Lanka’s limited overs squads have undergone a youth-driven revamp. 

Senior players cut from the white-ball teams include Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, and Dimuth Karunaratne. Under Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka changed its selection procedure to be less reactive.

Under Mickey Arthur and Chris Silverwood, respectively, as head coaches, the national team has enjoyed varying degrees of success during this time, most significantly home ODI series wins over South Africa and Australia, and an Asia Cup T20 win.

Despite this, a weak performance at the T20 World Cup and two humiliating white-ball defeats to India at the beginning of 2023 have put the responsibility of the selectors in the public eye.

Understanding the current position of Sri Lankan cricket requires a little bit of a bigger perspective, starting with Roshan Ranasinghe’s nomination as the new sports minister in May 2022, following Namal Rajapaksa, the nephew of the former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Gotabaya was ultimately forced to quit due to a severe economic crisis and significant nationwide protests, which also caused Namal to lose his job as sports minister.

One of Ranasinghe’s first acts as the nation’s sports minister was the selection of former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to head the 15-member National Sports Council (NSC), which is tasked with advising the sports minister on matters pertaining to the nation’s sports.

Ranatunga has long been a vocal opponent of the Sri Lanka Cricket executive committee, which is headed by president Shammi Silva. Following the team’s disappointing T20 World Cup performance, Ranatunga wasted little time in calling for the removal of the selectors.

In an interview with the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka earlier this month, Wickramasinghe justified himself by posing the following question: 

We are number three in the ICC Test Championship points table. Clinched the country’s first major title in eight years, the Asia Cup, and then earned direct qualifications to the T20 World Cup in 2024. In ODIs we won a series against Australia. Aren’t these results of our efforts during the last 18 months?

Although it appears that the SLC tends to agree with Wickramasinghe, they are not the ones attempting to replace the selectors. The National Sports Selection Committee, established by the Ministry of Sports, is responsible for that (NSSC).

According to Sri Lankan sports law, national team selectors must be chosen by the sports minister; in fact, even the teams they choose must first receive the blessing of the ministry before being approved. 

And in October 2022, the NSSC, a seven-member committee led by General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka, was given the responsibility of approving sports selection in the nation. The group also included previous chairman of selectors Sanath Jayasuriya.

The SLC submitted the NSSC a list of ten names earlier this month, among them Wickramasinghe’s, for use in choosing the next selection committee. 

However, the NSSC voiced dissatisfaction and asked for a new list to be given without outright rejecting them. On Monday, January 30, the NSSC will convene to make a final decision.

In Sri Lanka, political interference in cricket-related decisions is not uncommon; the country’s post-1996 World Cup history has been marked by a number of interim committees, changes to the selectors and selection process, and changes to captaincy.