Colombo: Sri Lanka's cricket board and two senior players were locked in a war of words on Wednesday, a day after the World Cup-winning Twenty20 team returned home as national heroes.
Former skippers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara sparked the row by criticising cricket officials during a red-carpet reception at the airport, but the board hit back with a strongly-worded statement. Sri Lanka Cricket denied allegations that they had made any disparaging remarks against the duo after they appeared to announce their retirement as the World Cup tournament got underway in Dhaka in mid-March.
Jayawardene was upset with reported comments from a Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) official, who was said to have accused them of announcing their retirement without prior notice to the board. "SLC considers such statements as damaging to both the image of the institution and the officials concerned," the board said in a one-page statement.
It said Jayawardene's allegations were taken seriously because he suggested that the purported remarks by board secretary Nishantha Ranatunga and CEO Ashley de Silva could have demoralised the players. "SLC regrets such unsubstantiated accusations levelled against the secretary and CEO by a senior member of the national team without verifying the facts," the statement said.
Amid the allegations and denials, both players maintained on Tuesday that they had never publicly announced their intention to quit T20 cricket despite giving interviews talking about retirement. Cricket commentators as well as local and international media played up the final game as a farewell match for the two former Sri Lankan skippers.
On Tuesday tens of thousands of fans joined an all-night party in Colombo after the team was driven in a slow motorcade from the airport, 35 kilometres from downtown Colombo. The victory on Sunday night against India in Dhaka came 18 years after Sri Lanka's triumph in the 50-over World Cup.