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Interim committee chairman Sidath Wettimuny

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Interim committee chairman Sidath Wettimuny stated that the finance position of Sri Lanka Cricket was in ‘very good shape’ thanks to a tightly controlled budget enforced by the current administration after it took office three months ago.

“You will be pleased to know that today with very tight control of our financial team we have over half a billion rupees in deposit, we are way below the budget that we have had in the recent past,” said Wettimuny at a media conference held at SLC headquarters.

Wettimuny who had returned after attending the ICC Board meeting at Barbados said that the ICC had released US$2.3m from the monies that are due to SLC and the balance US$6m would be released very shortly.

“We have indicated to the ICC our budget our cash flow and our requirements until the month of December and on the first day of the meeting they released the first instalment,” said Wettimuny.

Although Sri Lanka were asked to attend the meeting as an observer, Wettimuny explained that he was allowed to participate as a normal member and even invited  for the customary official photograph.

“Observer status only means that if there is a vote at the ICC meeting you cannot vote but other than that you can participate just like a normal member,” said Wettimuny. “Fair enough there is a breach as per the new regulations and we accept and respect that, Sri Lanka’s goodwill and relationship with ICC remains excellent.”

Wettimuny said that he had extended an invitation to the new president of the ICC Zaheer Abbas to visit Sri Lanka and he had indicated he would do so after July 7. He said an invitation was also given to S Srinivasan, the ICC chairman to visit Sri Lanka during the Indian tour next month.

When it was pointed out that Sri Lanka had refused to accept the observer status at a previous ICC meeting and did not attend, Prakash Schaffter the interim committee secretary said, “As far as SLC is concerned we don’t agree that there is even provision for an observer status and even as far as the ICC is concerned there is no such thing as observer status in their constitution.

“We have conveyed our position to the ICC but in the larger interest of the game and SLC and, more importantly to maintain cordial relationship with ICC and member countries we after a lot of discussion and soul searching decided to attend.”

Schaffter said that Nuski Mohamed who attended the previous ICC meeting was instructed correctly at that point of time to refrain from attending because it was something which was sprung upon SLC only at the meeting.

“It should have been on the agenda if there was any concern and there was a two week gap between the date of appointment of he interim committee and the meeting. The agenda was sent to us only after our appointment. It should have been an agenda item if it was a matter of concern so on hindsight Nuski took the right decision in consultation with us to refrain from attending the meeting as an observer. After discussion with ICC we took the decision that we are comfortable attending because they gave certain assurances with regard to our concerns.”

An ICC media release at the end of the Barbados meeting stated that they would like SLC to hold elections before the next ICC meeting in October.

“What the ICC told us was they would like us to have elections in October if not later at their meeting in January 26,” said Wettimuny. “If we go beyond that period they will have to start taking further action like calling for an inquiry or suspension. I don’t think we should go anywhere near that, we should go for an election as soon as we can and be done.”

In the limited time that is available to them the interim committee under Wettimuny have put in place several projects and taken decisions for the betterment of cricket in the country.

“We have an under 19 World Cup coming in February and our priority is to look at them. We have not done too well in u19 World Cups,” Wettimuny said.

“A lot of the cricket areas are falling into place. We got a very good trainer some of the reports I got are excellent; hopefully the fitness levels and performances of our cricket will get better. We are in transition and we will have a few ups and downs but so far we are hanging in there which is good.

“We will do our planning on a daily basis. On July 2 we are laying the foundation stone for our indoor facility to get the pool done. I would love to have another indoor facility coming up in Pallekele also. During the Test match I want to find a location and get our engineers to come and set it up and build an indoor facility there also.

“Infrastructure at our main bases to me is no. 1 without it we cannot do anything. Ninety percent of our national cricketers come from outstations, but we have to bring them to Colombo for everything. We have to decentralize in the long term. Depending on the finances we’ve got to get the indoor facilities going. Time permitting we will do whatever is possible,” he said.

Wettimuny said that SLC had invited former captains Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara for a brain-storming session on how to take the Premier League forward. “We need to figure out how we can make our cricket more vibrant.”