SL captain Angelo Mathews (left) and pacer Lasith Malinga during a practice session yesterday. Pic/AFP
SL captain Angelo Mathews (left) and pacer Lasith Malinga during a practice session yesterday. Pic/AFP

The Sri Lankan government yesterday warned the national cricket team to get fit in three months or get booted out. The ultimatum came after the squad was found to be unfit for the series against Zimbabwe which starts tomorrow. "No one has a satisfactory level of fitness, but I have made an exception this time," sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said.

Though an independent panel selects the players for the national team, final approval of the sports minister is required before they can represent the country.

Fitness standards not met
Jayasekera said no member of the 13-man squad met required international fitness standards and noted that high levels of injuries were due to poor endurance. Only two players — Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Madushanka - scored high marks in the "yo-yo" endurance test which is mainly running against the clock, a source familiar with the process told AFP.

Controversial fast bowler Lasith Malinga who weighs 80 kilos (176 pounds) failed one test, the source said, and barely scraped through the rest. He is officially under observation. "Malinga has suffered recurring injuries partly because of the poor fitness," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Malinga punished
Malinga was slapped with a fine of 50 per cent of his match fee for tomorrow’s game and given a six-month suspended match-ban for comparing Jayasekera to a "monkey" and saying the minister knew nothing about cricket.

The Sri Lankan board held an inquiry after Malinga publicly lambasted Jayasekera who had said many players were too fat following their failure to reach the Champions Trophy semi-finals earlier this month. The typical body fat amount for a cricketer was 16 per cent, but most Sri Lankan players had over 26 per cent, Jayasekera said.
He has warned any player with a body fat percentage over 16 will not be allowed to represent the country.

Sri Lanka Cricket announced Tuesday that Malinga had apologised and also pleaded guilty to violating his contract with the board which precludes players from making public statements.