I love cricket above everything else: Ranatunga

Published: Friday, July 21, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Colombo:Former Sri Lanka cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga said his love for the sport forced him to resign from the post of deputy minister in the government.

"I love cricket above everything else and I am what I am today because of the game," said Ranatunga, who resigned as deputy minister of tourism on Thursday to devote more time to cricket.

Ranatunga, 42, handed in his resignation to President Mahinda Rajapakse after sports minister Jeevan Kumaratunga delayed naming a fresh interim committee to run the sport.

Last week, Rajapakse acceded to the request of 11 former cricketers to call off elections to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and asked the sports ministry to appoint an interim committee that would include Ranatunga.

The sports minister, however, has yet to name the panel amid speculation that he did not want Ranatunga to enter cricket administration.

"If my holding a deputy minister's role is a stumbling block in getting into the SLC, I thought I should step down," Ranatunga told reporters here on Friday.

The sports minister had earlier prevented one of his ministerial colleagues from contesting elections, saying politicians should not get involved in sports administration.

"I am sad that my name has created such a stir. I ask whether I am unsuitable to come into cricket administration simply because I am a deputy minister," Ranatunga said.

"I am not just a politician. I have played the game for 20 years and I have been involved in various cricket activities," said Ranatunga, who became a cult figure in Sri Lanka after leading them to the World Cup title in 1996.

"I entered politics four years ago on the request of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. But I was never given the opportunity to do anything and am now stepping down to help the sport."

Ranatunga slammed the sports minister for delaying the appointment of a new SLC panel and blamed him for favouring the current interim head Jayantha Dharmadasa.

"Our cricket is deteriorating and something needs to be done quickly to sort out this mess," he said. "I spoke to (former Test star) Aravinda de Silva a couple of days back and he was willing to join the new committee."

"We also have Sidat Wettimuny, another respected cricketer, and so many others who want to work for the good of the game."

Last year, Ranatunga headed the SLC's high-profile cricket committee but quit in disgust after the interim committee failed to implement his proposals.

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