Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal quashed the sports minister’s decision to sack the country’s crisis-ridden cricket board, named Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and restored the expelled officials on Tuesday pending a full hearing.
The court accepted a petition by board president Shammi Silva challenging minister Roshan Ranasinghe’s move on Monday to dismiss the Sri Lanka Cricket board and appoint an interim committee.
“The restoring of the board is for two weeks when the court will hear the case again,” a court official said.
It is the latest twist in a months-long struggle between Ranasinghe and the cricket board, which is the richest sports organisation on the financially stricken island.
Ranasinghe has accused the board of widespread corruption and his sacking of its members came days after the national men’s cricket team were thrashed by India at the ICC World Cup 2023.
As Tuesday’s court decision was read out, members of the interim committee headed by former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga drove out of Sri Lanka Cricket offices and the restored office bearers took over.
The government is split on the issue, with the cabinet appointing a rival committee headed by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to address “outstanding issues” at the cricket board.
There was no immediate comment on Tuesday from Ranatunga, the country’s 1996 World Cup-winning skipper, who took over just the day before vowing to clean up the board and revive cricket in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka Cricket had become known as the most corrupt institution in the country,” he said on Monday. “I want to change that image.”
Minister Ranasinghe lashed out at President Ranil Wickremesinghe in parliament, accusing him of trying to revoke his dismissal of the board.
“The president wanted me to cancel the interim committee and restore the elected board, but I told him he can sack me, but I will not back down,” Ranasinghe said amid table thumping from opposition benches.
There has been no reaction to the deepening crisis so far this week from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the world governing body.
The ICC has rules against political interference and has previously suspended Sri Lanka.
Last month the sports minister was forced to withdraw a three-member panel to investigate the board after the ICC considered it interference.
On Saturday, Ranasinghe wrote to full members of the ICC asking for their understanding and support.
“Sri Lanka Cricket has been besieged with complaints of player disciplinary issues, management corruption, financial misconduct and match-fixing allegations,” Ranasinghe said in the letters, released to Sri Lankan media.
“I would like to emphasise that interim measures will only be taken to establish good governance principles.”
Sri Lanka have not won the World Cup since 1996, with Ranasinghe blaming the board for the “deterioration” of standards.
A former sports minister, Harin Fernando, introduced tough anti-corruption laws in 2019 after saying that the ICC considered Sri Lanka one of the world’s most corrupt cricketing nations.