Sri Lankan cricket is headed towards a major crisis with the board on Saturday night freezing out 23 of its top players over a contracts deadlock, less than a week before the start of the home series against Bangladesh. SLC, which met the players earlier in the day, has told its selectors not to consider those cricketers for any international cricket, including the Bangladesh series, until they agree to their new contract terms.
Player contracts expired on February 28, and all 60 players who were offered new contracts have refused to sign them before the March 2 deadline prescribed by the board.
“We spoke to all of the players present at the meeting, and gave our viewpoints and they also gave their points,” SLC president Upali Dharmadasa said. “We have said, ‘Nothing doing. We’re going to stick to our guns.’ It ended like that.
“They will not be getting any facilities that Sri Lanka Cricket has been offering them, including, physios, masseurs and coaches. They can’t come for practice at our venues.”
New Test captain Angelo Mathews and Twenty20 captain Dinesh Chandimal are among the players frozen out, along with the bulk of Sri Lanka’s Test and ODI players. Mathews and Chandimal were appointed captains just over two weeks ago, and are yet to play any matches in their new capacity.
Dharmadasa did not rule out the possibility of Sri Lanka’s top cricketers playing in the first Test against Bangladesh in Galle, but only if the players signed their contracts by then. Kumar Sangakkara is the only player immediately affected by the lockout – he was due to play in the three-day tour match against Bangladesh in Matara, which begins on Sunday. The match was supposed to be Sangakkara’s return to competitive cricket after fracturing his index finger in the Boxing Day Test.
Dharmadasa also said SLC had not planned any more meetings with the players, but had invited them to put their concerns in writing, and present them to the board.
The major point of dispute in the new contracts is SLC’s refusal to pay the players 25% of the board’s earnings from ICC events, as they have done since 2003. This payment is to compensate players for their images being used by the ICC and its sponsors to promote the tournament as well as during the event.
Other points of contention include the board’s move to freeze payment to cricketers taking part in the IPL for as long as he is with his IPL team, a clause tying pay to team performance, and the scrapping of a convention that allowed players’ wives to travel on one tour a year on SLC’s money.
Contract terms also sparked a dispute in 2012, though SLC had a weaker bargaining position then, having not paid its players since the 2011 World Cup. The disputes were eventually settled in July after players threatened to boycott the Sri Lanka Premier League, after having played international cricket without an official contract for over four months. Payment from ICC events had also been a sticking point on that occasion, as well as a clause that required the players to have SLC permission before speaking to media. (ESPN Cricinfo)