Colombo - Squad politics, bickering and undue influence by player agents are to blame for the Sri Lanka cricket team's plummeting form, according to the country's sports minister.
Mahindananda Aluthgamage told parliament on Wednesday that, by the players' own admission, disunity and miscommunication were causing the team's losing streak and not government interference - as some critics have said.
The Sri Lankans have not won a Test in the 14 matches since ace spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan retired last year. They have lost series to England, Australia and Pakistan while drawing a largely rain-curtailed series against the West Indies.
They also lost three one-day international series during the period.
Aluthgamage said that he summoned a meeting of captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, senior players, coaches and the management to discuss the reasons for the poor performance and the players admitted to several shortcomings.
"At this moment, senior players stated that there's a communication gap between the captain and the main coach," Aluthgamage said. "It was also highlighted that there was a communication gap between the main coach and the other coaches, that there was no proper understanding between the senior players and the newcomers, and that the captain does not get the fullest support from the senior players."
"This is the true story. This is the politics within sports," he said.
Aluthgamage also said extensive commercialisation of the game and the interference of player agents were also causing problems.
"It (commercialisation) has become a cancer to the entire game of cricket."
"These days it has become a problem that cricket players play cricket according to the way their managers want them to. These persons influence the selection of the teams. They have become so strong as to even influence the selection of the team captain," Aluthgamage said.
He also warned that a failure to deal with this situation would lead to even greater problems.
Sri Lanka's government has been accused of politicising the game, appointing its favourites to run the sport and turning a blind eye to allegations of mismanagement.
Sri Lanka Cricket, once the richest sports body in the country, has run up a debt of $69 million, mainly because it constructed two new grounds and renovated a third for the World Cup held earlier this year.
National team players have gone without pay and match fees since March. SLC owes them $6 million, according to the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations.