Colombo: Legendary Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga on Thursday slammed his country's sacking of Australian coach Geoff Marsh as "disgraceful" and "unprofessional." Marsh was this week replaced by South African Graham Ford.
The move followed Tillakaratne Dilshan quitting the captaincy on Monday. Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene was brought in to lead the team to Australia for the upcoming triangular one-day series involving India.
"It is disgraceful the way Sri Lanka Cricket handled it by removing a professional like Marsh," Ranatunga, 48, told AFP a day after the coach was sacked.
Marsh had begun a two-year contract in September 2011. He has not commented on his dismissal and Sri Lanka Cricket has not given any reasons for showing him the door. Removing Marsh also sends a negative signal to professional staff who work with Sri Lanka or plan to work with the national cricket team in the future, said Ranatunga, who led Sri Lanka to their only World Cup triumph in 1996.
"Top coaches, physios will think twice before they accept a job from Sri Lanka in the future. Sri Lanka Cricket has set a very bad precedent," he said.
Ford, 51, is the fourth Sri Lanka coach since Australian Trevor Bayliss stepped aside after the World Cup final in April 2011. Bayliss's assistant Stuart Law took over for the England series but quit to coach Bangladesh. Sri Lankan pace bowler Rumesh Ratnayake took over for the home series against Australia and was replaced by Marsh.
Ranatunga, a former captain and opposition lawmaker, also blamed administrators for the country's poor run of form after losses to England, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa.
"People who run cricket in this country, have no clue about the game. Do you think they love the game? No. Sri Lanka Cricket is in a major mess," he said.
And he said re-appointing Jayawardene, who led the side to the 2007 World Cup final, was not the right way to fix the losing streak.
"It is like changing the pillow to fix a headache. Mahela is not getting younger. I am surprised he accepted it again. We have to groom young people for the captaincy," he said.
However, Jayawardene said he took up the mantle to infuse some confidence in the team which has faired inconsistently over the past few months.
"I took up the captaincy once again, for one-year. Our target is to win matches, to regain our place as one of the top four Test-playing nations," Jayawardene told reporters in Colombo. "We have failed as a team in the past. But we have to look past that and move forward. We face India and Australia next month. We need to take the positives from South Africa and focus on winning matches again."
Jayawardene, who has clocked over 10,000 runs each in Test and one-day games, declined to comment on Marsh's hurried exit or Ford's sudden appearance.
"That is not my area. That is up to the selectors. My focus is to work with what I have got. Graham is experienced, and we need his services to rebuild, harness new players and win games."
Dilshan told reporters that Marsh gave "more than 100 percent" to the team, but declined to comment further."I have no control over that. There was criticism after we lost games about my leadership, so I resigned. The coach, I don't know, that is a decision of the selectors," Dilshan said.
Ranatunga accused the government of meddling in the sport, leading to financial ruin, poor governance and lack of foresight to pick players. A former cricket board chief, Ranatunga scored 5,105 runs in 93 Tests and 7,456 runs in 269 one-dayers before quitting international cricket in 2000.