The International Cricket Council has waded into Sri Lanka's serious cricket administration crisis, declaring that it would be recognising the government-appointed Interim Committee as the rightful body empowered to run cricket in the country after taking legal advice.
The ICC, which last week appeared reluctant to be drawn into the dispute, claiming that it was an internal issue, has also sent out an advisory note to other ICC members, stating that the legal advice is clear and that they should accept the new body as the organisation currently responsible for running the game in Sri Lanka.
"Please be advised that ICC acknowledges that the Interim Committee has been duly appointed by the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs in accordance with Sri Lankan law," said Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive. "Accordingly, ICC is required to recognise the Interim Committee as the body lawfully conducting the affairs of Sri Lanka cricket."
The new Interim Committee, which is headed by the businessman Jayantha Dharmadasa, was appointed by the sports minister last month after the suspension of Sri Lanka Cricket's registration. However, the decision is being contested in the Sri Lankan courts by Sri Lanka Cricket's executive committee, which is chaired by Thilanga Sumathipala.
Sumathipala described the ICC's decision as "premature", and said he believed the timing was "suspicious", coming as it did just a few hours before Sri Lanka Cricket's legal team returned to court to try to win a stay order against proposed amendments to the sports law that would strengthen the sports minister's hand in the dispute.
"It is premature for them to make this judgment," Sumathipala told Cricinfo. "This is a determination that Sri Lanka's Court of Appeal will make. There are so many areas that remain unclear. It's a shame that the ICC did not consult us about this."
The ICC's move will strengthen the sports minister's position, but the legal fight is complicated and not yet finished. The Interim Committee still cannot access the board's Colombo headquarters, which makes running the administration difficult, and, earlier in the week, they could not even persuade board officials to hand over practice balls to the team.
However, if Sumathipala's committee is not able to win a stay order tomorrow to put the minister's proposed law changes on hold until the completion of the first case, which is scheduled for June, then the parliament can pass the new laws and the Interim Committee will take over full control of all property, including the building and the bank accounts.