Sri Lanka cricket | Sunday Observer
Seedy underbelly of religious mafia hits:

Sri Lanka cricket

27 November, 2022

The dark shadows of a religious cult appear to have fallen on Sri Lanka cricket. Several years ago it was rumoured that one had to be a follower of this group to enter the national team. It has also been suggested that this religious group is behind the removal of cricketing all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne from the team and the decision to impose a one-year suspended ban on him. This article attempts to delve into the cancerous born-again cult now taking over Sri Lanka cricket.

Any person has the right and freedom to follow a religion of their choosing. This personal choice must be respected. However, if these beliefs are misused in a manner that affects another’s career or future, any person also has the right to object to it. But the incident relating to Chamika proves that the born-again cult is a powerful group able to strip anyone of that right.

According to cricketing sources, Chamika’s removal from the team had been highly organised and planned. Sri Lanka cricket had released Chamika’s disciplinary investigations report, at a time when the Minister of Sports had directed the Director General of Sports to call for an explanation in writing from the selection committee on the player’s removal from the team heading for the one-day tournament with Afghanistan.


The decision to remove Chamika who scored 75 runs in the last one-day match against Australia to emerge as the man of the match from the upcoming tournament had perplexed the cricketing world. The incident even made its way to the Sri Lankan Parliament. The matter was even taken up at the meeting of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Sports and Youth Affairs recently. The MPs had raised concern that Chamika was removed as he had opposed the particular religious cult operating within the team and there appears to be a notion that only players belonging to that cult were being chosen for the team on a regular basis.

It is also being said that Buddhist cricketers such as Chamika are being forced to join the born-again group and the refusal to do so often ends up in them getting removed from the team.

While Chamika was removed from the squad chosen to face off against Afghanistan at a time a three-member disciplinary committee had been appointed to look into his conduct, it is evident from a recent statement made by the secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket Mohan de Silva that there is no connection between the two. There he admitted Chamika was removed not because of a disciplinary issue but because he had failed to perform recently.

But former cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga has expressed his concerns about the manner in which the disciplinary inquiry was conducted against Chamika. While noting that the selection committee is tasked with choosing the best team for a tournament, Ranatunga admitted any disciplinary issue must be dealt with by the administration. “However, it must be done according to a proper procedure. As Chamika has performed in one-day matches recently he should have been selected,” Ranatunga had said.

Cricketing sources said an inquiry was only ordered after the removal of Chamika from the team and he had only been informed to be present before the disciplinary committee only an hour prior. At the time Chamika had been preparing to leave for the airport in order to fly to Abu Dhabi where he was to take part in the T-10 matches being held as he had already been removed from the national team.

At the inquiry, he had been asked about an alleged altercation at a casino in Australia and about the lighting of a lamp inside his hotel room.

In the first incident, nine players including Chamika had visited the restaurant of a hotel that housed a casino for dinner. However, there were no reports of an altercation at the location. Instead, a mere exchange of words had taken place about a group of Sri Lankans taking photographs or videos of the players. However, it was resolved thereafter. Chamika had admitted to the committee that an exchange of words had taken place at the hotel.


As for lighting a lamp in the room, Chamika had said he had lit it to worship Buddha and he was already fined US$ 1000 by the team management as he had violated the safety protocols of the hotel.

While the incidents appear minor, the committee has now submitted a report claiming he had admitted all allegations and recommended Sri Lanka cricket impose a punishment that would not affect his cricketing career. In a release, Sri Lanka Cricket said therefore Chamika was handed a suspended one-year ban from cricket. Meanwhile, the organisation had only provided the no-objection letter required for him to take part in the T-10 tournament at the eleventh hour.

If in fact Chamika was removed from the team due to his refusal to join the born-again religious cult, it can only be described as an unfortunate event. The national team has been represented by cricketers of all faiths over the years and has collectively worked to secure wins for the country. But threats from any religious group or cult such as this have been unheard of previously.

The rise of the born-again cult is a recent phenomenon. An offshoot of the Christian faith, it has deviated from the traditional Christian faith spreading across those in the higher echelons of Sri Lankan society.

However, a self-proclaimed pastor, once a wicket-keeper and cricketer of the Ragama cricket club is being accused as the main person in spreading the faith within Sri Lanka cricket.

It is clear that his acts that have clearly affected Sri Lankan cricket and caused harm to the careers of crickets must be looked into by the authorities including the Ministry of Sports and even the President.

Cricketer Bhanuka Rajapaksa, the so-called spiritual son of the pastor along with his wife, are members of this cult. However, the pastor’s claim that he was to be credited for Rajapaksa’s performance at the Asia Cup is laughable.

However, two senior cricketers and their wives must also be held responsible for Bhanuka becoming a victim of this group. According to sources, one of these senior players had been recruited to the religious group following his divorce, by the wife of the other senior player.

An expert commentator, several officials of the Sri Lanka Cricket Institute, several former coaches, and several other current coaches of the national cricket squad have been confirmed as regular members of the pastor’s ministry.

In February last year, His Holiness the Cardinal called a press conference and said that various groups calling themselves pastors have sprung up and are carrying out organised actions targeting the country’s veterans, artists, sportsmen, businessmenand so on. Explaining the position of the Catholic Church in this regard, His Holiness the Cardinal said that the Roman Catholic Church led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka has nothing to do with the activities of the so-called pastors. He said it appears they are using various methods to draw in and mislead people.

He said that he condemns such actions carried out for personal gain and that it is a very serious situation for which people are being misled and it will hinder religious freedom and religious harmony. It is evident that therefore the people must be alert to the actions of such so-called pastors affecting Sri Lanka cricket.