Former Sri Lanka Cricket president, Thilanga Sumathipala, has pulled out of the race for the presidency, leaving his main rival Upali Dharmadasa as the most likely to win the election on January 3.
"I have decided not to contest for personal reasons," Sumathipala told ESPNcricinfo after accompanying the rest of his team to hand over their nominations to the Ministry of Sports earlier today. The said ministry will conduct the elections.
Since the last interim committee, headed by Dharmadasa, was dissolved by the ministry on November 15, there has been a lot of lobbying going on for key positions from either side. The consensus of opinion suggests that political pressure was put on Sumathipala, who is a sitting member of parliament, to withdraw, thus paving the way for Dharmadasa, who also has strong links with the government.
However Sumathipala denied that was the case. "I have taken the decision not to contest because I need time to devote to cricket if I am to become president," he said. "With my involvement as a government MP, I may not find that amount of time."
Sumathipala had served as president of SLC in 1997-1998, 2000-2001 and 2003-2004. His board was forced to stand down in the wake of an investigation into alleged financial irregularities in 2001. In 2004, he had to pull out of the elections as he was in jail at the time for passport fraud.
Sumith Perera, the president of of Baduraliya Cricket Club, is the only other candidate for president, but is not seen as a serious contender.
Running alongside Dharmadasa will be K Mathivanan, a former SLC secretary, who is running for one of the vice-president's posts. However, the Dharmadasa camp has not nominated anyone for the posts of secretary and treasurer.
Nishantha Ranatunga, who was secretary of the interim committee headed by DS de Silva, is contesting as an independent candidate for the post of secretary. He faces opposition from Michael de Zoysa, a former assistant secretary who has been nominated from the Sumathipala camp.The post of treasurer is uncontested with Nuski Mohamed, a former secretary and treasurer being the only nominee for the post.
Sri Lanka Cricket is holding elections for the first time since 2004. Over the last seven years, the sport has been run by a succession of government appointed interim committees. The biggest challenge the new board will face is rebuilding SLC's finances, which are reportedly in debt to the tune of $32.5 million. SLC was bankrupted revamping the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and building two new grounds in Pallekele and Hambantota for the 2011 World Cup, for which the DS de Silva interim administration has been blamed. These stadiums are now being maintained by the government, with the army, navy and air force each looking after one stadium.
Since the World Cup ended in April, Sri Lanka Cricket has been unable to pay the salaries of its 100-odd contracted cricketers and 200-odd employees. It has sought the help of the treasury department of the government is awaiting payments due from the ICC to help pay the players.
In the lead up to the nominations, Dharmadasa had revealed a 12-point plan for revitalising SLC. Among his proposal are the maximisation of revenue from television rights, something SLC has not always done in the past, and to use the 2012 World Twenty20 as a starting point to develop sports tourism in the country.
List of Nominations
President (1 post) : Upali Dharmadasa, Sumith R Perera
Vice Presidents (2 posts) : Jayantha Paranathala, Mohan de Silva, Michael de Zoysa, Asanga Seneviratne, K Mathivanan
Secretary (1 post) : Nishantha Ranatunga, Ravin Wickramaratne, Michael de Zoysa
Treasurer (1 post) : Nuski Mohamed
Assistant Secretary (1 post): Irwin Jayawardene, Gerard Hirantha Perera
Assistant Secretary (1 post): Ajitha Pasqual, Prasanna Fernando, Gihan Weerasinghe, Michael de Zoysa, Nihal Lewke.