Cricket: World Cup - Minister rounds on Ranatunga

ARJUNA RANATUNGA, the Sri Lanka captain, is paying the price for the reigning champions' early exit from the World Cup with government calls for his removal. The 35-year-old, who lifted the trophy in Lahore in 1996, has been asked to step down by thesports minister, S B Dissanayake, after the unsuccessful defence of their title.

In a wide-sweeping clear-out, the sports minister has replaced the top administrators of the game. Dissanayake said he intends naming an ad hoc committee to run the Board of Control for Cricket following the suspension of the elected office bearers by the Colombo district court on Thursday.

The board, headed by president Thilanga Sumathipala, was suspended after a challenge of their March election by the defeated presidential candidate, Clifford Ratwatte. The case is to be called again in September.

Dissanayake has accused Ranatunga of several mistakes which contributed to the country's poor showing. He said the 35-year-old should step down as captain of the Sri Lankan squad but could continue to play cricket. "He got many things wrong in the tournament," Dissanayake said. "He made very bad decisions, so it is time for him to step down."

The Australian batsman Darren Lehmann is almost certain to miss today's Super Six match against South Africa while there are doubts over the fitness of the pace bowler Glenn McGrath.

Lehmann is expected to be replaced by Damien Martyn after damaging his finger batting against Zimbabwe. McGrath is struggling with a tendon problem in his right leg but the final decision on whether he plays is dependent on the outcome of yesterday's match between New Zealand and India.