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Under the Microscope: Government Intervention in Cricket and the Suspension of Sri Lankan Cricket by the ICC

Written by Kruthi Ravikumar



Cricket a game which is often also synonymous as a religion in South Asian countries with massive fan following worldwide , it tends to carry significant social, cultural and political weight. There have been several instances wherein governments have found themselves involved in the affairs of cricket , reflecting the game’s intricate intersection with national identity , diplomacy and economic interests. Governmental involvement in cricket can be noticed in various forms, ranging from direct funding and regulatory actions to diplomatic engagements and infrastructural developments in the sport. For instance, in countries like India, England, and Australia, cricket boards often operate with substantial governmental support, receiving funding for player development, stadium construction, and organizational activities.

Additionally, governments may intervene in cricket governance to ensure transparency and fairness, as seen in the case of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), where legal battles and government oversight have aimed to reform the administration of the sport. Furthermore, governments often invest in cricket infrastructure to bolster tourism and economic development. The construction of state-of-the-art stadiums, such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia or the newly constructed Narendra Modi Stadium in India, not only facilitates international matches but also serves as iconic landmarks that attract visitors and boost local economies.

Moreover, cricket has frequently served as a diplomatic tool, with governments leveraging international matches and tournaments to strengthen bilateral relations or showcase national prestige. Notably, cricket has played a pivotal role in the diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan, where cricket matches have been used as a platform for peace talks and cultural exchanges despite political tensions. Governmental engagement in cricket highlights the intricate interplay between sports, politics, and society, where policies and decisions wield significant influence over the sport's trajectory, both domestically and on the global stage.


Cricket Governance


The anatomy of cricket, as governed by various cricketing bodies worldwide, encompasses a comprehensive framework that regulates the sport's structure, rules, and development. At the international level, the International Cricket Council (ICC) serves as the apex governing body, responsible for overseeing global cricketing affairs, including organizing international tournaments such as the Cricket World Cup and enforcing the playing conditions across member nations. The ICC is the global governing body for cricket. Representing 108 members, the ICC governs and administrates the game and works with our members to grow the sport. The ICC is also responsible for the staging of all ICC Events. The ICC presides over the ICC Code of Conduct, playing conditions, the Decision Review System and other ICC regulations.

The ICC also appoints all match officials that officiate at all sanctioned international matches. Through the Anti-Corruption Unit it coordinates action against corruption and match fixing.

 Additionally, each cricket-playing nation has its own governing body, such as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA), Sri Lanka Cricket and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), etc.  which manage domestic competitions, player development programs, and administration within their respective jurisdictions. These governing bodies play a pivotal role in shaping the anatomy of cricket by setting standards for player conduct, equipment regulations, and tournament formats, ensuring the sport's integrity, growth, and global appeal.


What led ICC to ban Sri Lanka Cricket ?


Since the enactment of Sri Lanka's sports law in 1973, every national squad formed by the country has been required to receive approval from the nation's sports minister. While this practice may seem unusual, instances of government involvement in team selection have occurred, with ministers occasionally asserting their authority in this regard. Despite the explicit prohibition in the ICC's Articles of Association against governmental interference in the "selection and management of teams," Sri Lanka has not faced suspension from the ICC for this practice, even within the past decade. SLC is a Full Member of the ICC – a national governing body (NGB) that is listed in the Register as a “Full Member” (under Clause 2.7(A)(viii) of the ICC Membership Criteria).


Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) found itself embroiled in controversy following a string of disappointing performances in the Cricket World Cup finishing with only 4 points out of the 9 matches in the group stage . The Sri Lankan sports minister, Roshan Ranasinghe, took drastic action by dismissing the entire SLC board, citing the team's disaster in the World Cup. This move sparked a legal battle as Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal intervened, reinstating the board temporarily pending further hearings. The turmoil within SLC shed light on broader issues plaguing sports governance in Sri Lanka, where government interference and political influence have long been apparent. The football federation and rugby union faced similar scrutiny from their respective international governing bodies, reflecting a systemic challenge that extends beyond cricket.

On November 10, 2023 the International Cricket Council (ICC), cricket’s world governing body, suspended Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) over government interference. In a statement, the ICC said that SLC was in “serious breach of its obligations as a Member, in particular, the requirement to manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government interference in the governance, regulation and/or administration of cricket in Sri Lanka.” a statement from the ICC read. According to ICC, SLC failed to manage its affairs autonomously and allowed government interference in its administration, which resulted in the board being dissolved.

 Ahead of ICC's quarterly meeting which was scheduled to take place in Ahmedabad between November 18 and 21, 2023 the board met online on November 10 to discuss the situation related to SLC. In the meeting, they found SLC to be guilty of allowing the country's government to get involved in their governance, financing, and also in matters related to their national teams. However, amidst the chaos, there emerged a glimmer of hope for reform. Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe initiated efforts to revamp the outdated sports law from 1973, aiming to reduce political interference and enhance the autonomy of sports bodies.

A cabinet sub-committee, led by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, was formed to spearhead this transformation, focusing on restructuring SLC to meet international standards set by the ICC.

The envisioned legislation is poised to address these issues head-on, heralding an era of transparency, accountability, and autonomy in the administration of SLC, aligning with international standards set by the ICC. This reflects a dedication to bringing SLC in line with contemporary expectations and fostering a governance model that meets the highest international benchmarks. Following deliberations at the ICC board meeting in January 2024, Sri Lanka was reinstated as a member . However, the ICC imposed restrictions on SLC's autonomy, with future funding to be controlled by the international body. Additionally, Sri Lanka was stripped of the opportunity to host the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup, with the event relocated to South Africa.




The last time ICC banned a team was In 2019 , Zimbabwe Cricket faced a suspension from the International Cricket Council (ICC) due to concerns surrounding the organization's governance and financial management. The ICC took this drastic step after determining that Zimbabwe Cricket had failed to address long-standing issues related to governance, including political interference and financial instability. This suspension dealt a significant blow to Zimbabwean cricket, resulting in the country's exclusion from international competitions and further exacerbating the challenges already facing the sport in the nation. The ICC's decision underscored the importance of robust governance and financial transparency in cricket administration, serving as a reminder of the consequences when these standards are not met.


ICC's approach to governance issues in cricket is exemplified by its handling of South Africa's situation in 2020. When the South African government expressed its intent to intervene in Cricket South Africa's affairs, the ICC closely monitored the developments. However, unlike the suspension of Sri Lanka Cricket and Zimbabwe Cricket, the ICC refrained from taking action against CSA after the implementation of a new governance model ensured compliance with international standards. The suspensions of Sri Lanka Cricket and Zimbabwe Cricket underscore the importance of safeguarding sports autonomy. Governments, aware of the potential repercussions, as demonstrated by South Africa's proactive steps to establish a new governance structure, are generally deterred from interfering in cricket administration.

Navigating the autonomy of sports becomes particularly intricate in the realm of geopolitics, as evidenced by the ICC's response to Afghanistan's situation. Despite political and government interference by the Taliban, the ICC refrained from taking action. This illustrates the complex balance and limited jurisdiction that international governing bodies must navigate when addressing geopolitical issues while preserving the autonomy of the sports they oversee.

*The Author is a legal Scholar from India

(The Image used here is for representative purposes only)


1) ICC Article of Association, Membership Criteria

2) Sudarshan, N. (2023, November 19).What led ICC to suspend Sri Lanka Cricket?: Explained. The Hindu. 

3) Banerjee, R. (2023, November 21). Explained: Why ICC has suspended Sri Lankan cricket board. Sporting News India. 

4) Desk, T. S. (2024, January 2). Sri Lanka Cricket to introduce new law to curb political interference. The Times of India. 

5) ICC suspends Zimbabwe Cricket over government interference. (2019, December 9). Euronews. 


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