Catholic Action Movement and Decline of Sri Lanka Cricket
Posted on December 5th, 2023

Namal Perera

Catholic action movement; groups found in government institutions and mercantile organisations, directed and guided by the Catholic hierarchy to promote the interests of Catholics through the use of their positions. Although the norm during colonial occupation, one would have expected the influence of the Catholic church to die out post independence given that the majority of the local population are of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic faiths. However, instead of showing signs of weakening, from the S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike assassination conspiracy; the military coup against Sirimavo Bandaranaike; and to the most recent people’s struggle” (Aragalaya”), which ousted and send into exile the majority Sinhala/Buddhist elected president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Catholic action movement, one might argue, has become stronger and more apparent than ever before. However, the crux of this article is not to discuss how the tentacles of the Catholic church are wrapped around our political, state and judicial intuitions, but instead to highlight how these tentacles have reached our beloved game; Cricket.

Being a sport introduced by our former colonisers, it is not surprising that Cricket is popular in missionary schools. In fact, missionary (or former missionary) schools have produced some talented cricketers in the past. However, with the mass popularity of the game, it is no longer an elite sport played in missionary schools, but has spilled over to the National schools. The missionary schools may have started playing the game, but it is the National schools that ended up mastering it. The culmination of this is the historic ‘96 World Cup win, where the majority of the team consisted of players from leading National schools with a few exceptions. This is also not surprising considering the number of students at National schools and hence a larger pool of talent compared to the much smaller missionary schools.

However, after winning the ‘96 World Cup the allure of Cricket and playing for the National team gained interest from all corners, including the missionary schools and unfortunately, this is when the influence of the Catholic church over cricket started to resurface. Unknown and unnoticed to the cricket loving public who at the time were revelling in the victories of the team, the Catholic church was gradually spreading its tentacles around the administration, selectors, clubs and players. The article below (which is referenced) is public acknowledgment of this.

The missionary schools were once again buoyant as their ranks in the National side increased. However, by no coincidence, this was the time when the National team’s performance started to decline. When you stop selecting the best team based on talent and instead on some extraneous reasons, such as the players’ religious affiliations, this is bound to happen.

But, exactly how far have the tentacles of the Church spread? Is it just the National cricket team or does it go beyond? Towards the end of the Mahela and Sanga era, the author was in the company of a friend, an old boy from a leading National school, when the friend met with a talented young cricketer from his former school. The friend inquired from this young cricketer about his cricketing pursuits and the prospects of playing for the first XI of his Club, and his response was a quick negative followed by a cautious (cautious probably because he didn’t know the author or his faith) you had to be of a particular faith (making a sign of the cross) to be given such a chance”. At the time, this seemed a random statement and did not hold the author’s attention until, of course, the story of the purported Pastor and his influence over cricket blew up in the media along with his big endorsement by Sanga’s wife.  What had until then seemed like a totally random statement started to make a lot of sense and to think the author had these snippets of information about what was going on behind the scenes of cricket in Sri Lanka before it came to the public domain. Thus, the influence of the Church has spread beyond the National cricket team and even influences selections at Club cricket level.

What other evidence of the Catholic action movement in cricket is needed than the current players contracted by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). If you follow this link ( to find the respective schools of the current contracted players, you will be shocked to realise that of the 28 players contracted to play ODIs 21 (75%) are from missionary or Church-run schools and only 7 (25%) are from the National schools. The contrast from the ‘96 World Cup winning squad is stark. This is not limited to the National squad; the article below (see reference) refers to an emerging side selected by SLC.

If you look at the school composition of this emerging side out of the 26 player squad 16 are from missionary or Church-run schools and only 10 from the National schools.

Have the National schools that produced the likes of the great Aravinda, Arjuna, Mahanama, Gurusinghe, Hashan, Dharmasena, Mahela etc. all stopped playing cricket!?

It is now certain that the Catholic action movement in cricket is an undeniable fact and that the decline of the National cricket team started around the time the Catholic church wrapped its tentacles around Sri Lanka’s cricket administration, selectors, Clubs and players.

The question is; what is going to be done about this? If the Catholic action movement in far more important institutions of the country is dismissed, ignored or covered up and swept under the rug, will it be the same with cricket? But this is cricket; a sport enjoyed and loved by all Sri Lankans irrespective of race, religion, caste, creed or divisive politics. Wouldn’t the Catholics and Christians want to see the National cricket team win rather than see a losing team consisting of their kin?

It is obvious that this accusation will always be levelled as long as the officials making the decisions regarding cricket in Sri Lanka are of that particular faith. Therefore, until public confidence is restored, all SLC board members and selectors of that faith should voluntarily step down. Further, when drafting players from Clubs, every Club should be required to disclose to SLC its selection criteria and the personnel involved in the selections.

No one should be prevented from doing their job because of their faith but with the proportion that this problem has reached to prevent public backlash it is something that must be done, albeit, temporarily. Once the SLC board and selection committee are constituted with personnel devoid of the concerned faith, the stage will be set for unprejudiced non faith based selections.

I fear that if the Catholic action movement in cricket is not addressed, even though there have not been any repercussions in other institutions where the Church has wrapped its tentacles, it will be different with cricket as there is a lot of passion riding on the game and hence there would be severe public backlash.


Union of Catholic Asian News. (2011, March 14). Sri Lanka draws on Christians for cricket.

Newswire. (2021, August 25). 26 players from 14 schools picked for Under-19 national training squad.

ESPN Cricinfo. (n.d.). Cricketers. ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved November 24, 2023, from

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