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Cash-less Sri Lanka banks on India, says Ranatunga

by Mel Gunasekera*

Sri Lanka's new cricket chief and former captain Arjuna Ranatunga has revealed his board has no money left and is banking on financial support from India to stay afloat.
Ranatunga, who was appointed head of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) by the country's President Mahinda Rajapakse earlier this month, said the board was surviving on bank borrowings.
"There is no money left," Ranatunga told AFP in an interview this week at the SLC headquarters overlooking the Sinhalese Sports Club in the capital.
"We are now surviving on a six-million dollar bank overdraft. We also plan to ask for a short-term loan from the Indian cricket board to be set off against some of our future tour revenues."
Allegations of graft and kickbacks have dogged the island's cricket administration for years and Ranatunga, 44, has asked a team of auditors to investigate the board's finances.
Sri Lanka's cricket had not been short of sponsors after the island won its only World Cup under Ranatunga's captaincy in 1996, but the kitty has been running dry in recent times.
Most of the money that the SLC earns these days is through prize money won by the national team that includes the world's leading Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan.
Ranatunga, however, was confident he will meet his target to streamline the administration and nurture new talent.
"I promised the president that I will put things right," said the nation's legendary captain who quit international cricket in 2000 after playing 93 Tests and 269 one-dayers and is now a ruling party lawmaker.
Ranatunga said he looked forward to India's Test and one-day tour of Sri Lanka in July-August to help boost his organisation's finances.
India may not be the number one team in the world, but it has enormous commercial appeal, and less affluent countries like Sri Lanka cash in on it.
"India visits us this year and we are looking towards the Indian tour to earn some money," he said.
"India has financial muscle due to the massive captive (domestic) television audience. They have also helped us financially.
"While we work closely with other countries, India plays a strong role in keeping our finances afloat."
Ranatunga, a strong campaigner for a radical shake up in the nation's domestic cricket, fears that there may not be enough money to spend on developing younger players.
The previous administration, headed by businessman Jayantha Dharmadasa, had said it could raise 30 million dollars in worldwide sponsorships within the next five-years by way of commercial rights for television.
But Ranatunga was dismissive of the claim.
"I don't know where those figures came from," he said, adding he was also reviewing the current deal with Dubai-based satellite broadcaster, Ten Sports, for home internationals.
Ten Sports' 50-million dollar deal ends in 2009 and there were allegations that the previous administration had extended it till 2012 without a proper bidding process.