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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 May, 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Ranatunga sees Sri Lanka slide from grace
Ian Botham
Ian Botham instructing young Sri Lankan hopefuls in Galle
Arjuna Ranatunga knows a thing or two about cricket.

He led Sri Lanka to a memorable triumph in the 1996 World Cup, for example.

But nine years after that historic moment, Sri Lankan cricket, reckons Ranatunga, is on a downward spiral.

And he says drastic measures are needed to ensure the sport flourishes in the cricket-crazy island nation.

"Not many people outside Sri Lanka realise how bad the situation is," said the 41-year-old.

"The talent is there but it is not being harnessed properly.

"The way things have gone over the past few years we could soon be at the bottom of the pile."

He feels the current Sri Lankan team, captained by Marvan Atapattu, is a top-class side capable of taking on the best in the world.

And the facts speak for themselves.

Sri Lanka are rated the second best side in the world in one-day cricket and are fifth in the Test arena.

Arjuna Ranatunga
Soon we may not be able to defeat anyone
Arjuna Ranatunga

But the future, says Ranatunga, looks bleak because few talented junior players are rising from the ranks.

He said: "You can't expect seniors like [captain Marvan] Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan to go on forever.

"They have been the backbone of the side for a long time, even when I was playing.

"But what after them? Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera are young and very talented but they will have to be around for a long time to keep the team afloat.

"Soon we may not be able to defeat anyone."

Ranatunga, who played in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test against England in 1982 aged 18, quit cricket in August 2000 to follow his father into politics.

Now the junior minister for tourism, Ranatunga blamed the current mess in Sri Lanka cricket on officials who sought power without responsibility.

Jayantha Dharmadasa, Chairman of the interim committee of Sri Lanka's governing board
Jayantha Dharmadasa, chairman of the interim committee

"I have said it many times before, our World Cup victory in 1996 came with a lot of unnecessary baggage," he said.

"As money came into cricket, it attracted a lot of unwanted people who were more concerned about themselves than the good of the sport.

"We are paying for it now."

Ranatunga supported the government's recent move to take over the administration of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

"It should have happened a long time ago, but better late than never," he said.

In a dramatic coup that stunned world cricket in March, sports minister Jeewan Kumaratunga sacked the elected representatives of SLC and appointed an interim committee in its place.

SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala did his best to prevent that happening.

But finally armed officers raided the SLC headquarters last Wednesday to install the government nominees, headed by Jayantha Dharmadasa.

Ranatunga hopes the new bosses will put cricket back on track and is himself willing to contribute towards it.

"I will always have time for cricket," he said. "I stood aside earlier because I felt the people running the game were very dubious.

"But if the interim committee is serious about cricket, I will willingly help. Sri Lankan cricket needs all the support it can."

Sri Lanka next host the West Indies for two Tests in July followed by a one-day triangular also featuring India in August.


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