By Champika Fernando
Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera has delayed approving the 15-man squad for the forthcoming series against Zimbabwe following reports of poor player fitness.
The Sunday Times learns that the test results of the national squad were unsatisfactory only meeting the minimum requirement. The law requires the Minister’s approval for any team competing at international level.
Sources said the Minister is awaiting the arrival of Sri Lanka Cricket bigwigs to discuss the issue. The Board President, Secretary and CEO are currently in London attending the International Cricket Council meetings and expected to return early this week.
Sri Lanka will play five ODIs and a Test match against Zimbabwe starting Friday in Galle. Following the team's unsuccessful Champions Trophy campaign, Minister Jayasekera slammed the national cricketers as "overweight" and ordered fitness test on the team. The Minister also said that cricketers who did not pass their fitness tests will not be allowed to play in matches.
"If any player fails the test, no matter who they are, they will not be allowed to play,” he said at Thursday’s cabinet press briefing.
Following Minister’s public criticism of player fitness, Lasith Malinga compared the country’s Sports Minister to a monkey.
"I don't care about criticism from those who are simply warming chairs," he said. "What does a monkey know about a parrot's nesting hollow? This is like a monkey getting into a parrot's nest and talking about it."
Malinga’s comments have now put him in hot water with the Minister of Sports ordering an inquiry against the player for his monkey rant.
"He is now under investigation for making statements to the media in breach of his contract with Sri Lanka Cricket (board)," Jayasekera told AFP last week. "In my criticism of the appalling fitness levels of our players, I did not name Malinga, but he has chosen to put the hat on and attack me publicly.
Last week Sri Lanka Cricket admitted that there’s a ‘disparity in fitness’ and commenced a physical fitness and conditioning program for its national performance squad ahead of Zimbabwe and India series.
“We have had several internal discussions with the coaches, trainers, the selectors, and the players themselves, and we all agree that there is a disparity in our fitness levels. We have incredibly talented cricketers, with the passion and the commitment to fly the flag on high – but they are not quite cricketing athletes, which is where we need to be,” SLC Cricket Manager Asanka Gurusinha said in a statement. (The Sunday Times)