Shyam Impett discusses the central issue that is plaguing our cricketers

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has had the worst luck over the last six years… and it seems to be getting worse by the day. The latest scandals include players speaking ill of the administration to the media, touring seniors deciding to take the law into their own hands and break quarantine bubbles, and the dispute over players’ central contracts that have already meant the loss of some of our best cricketers.

At the time of going to press, neither the SLC nor some of the senior players seem to be able to reach an amicable solution over the dispute over contracts; and so we are at a standoff that is detrimental to the game in the long run.

To spice things up further there’s a lawyer in the mix and he has not been received with the greatest affection by SLC.

Thisara Perera retired prematurely in May as the contract issues began to surface. Now we run the risk of losing Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne because of this dispute.

And given how things stand right now, the greatest loser is the game. Taking the bull by the horns is clearly not working for either party and it’s surprising that the cricket committee has offered little or no guidance in this regard. The players are all at sea and feel let down.

Not wanting to back off, Sri Lanka Cricket named an extended squad and sent the players to two separate training camps – one in Colombo and the other in Dambulla. Each player was asked to sign either an ‘A Team Contract’ or a ‘Tour Contract.’

My take is that the SLC has decided not to issue central contracts to any of the players. Instead, they will be asked to sign tour by tour contracts. What this essentially means to the players is that there is no remuneration if there’s no tour.

One may get the feeling that this is a form of punishment for noncompliance in the first place. And the issue has seemingly turned into a power struggle with many a hidden agenda on both sides. It is ugly and embarrassing – and sad, to say the least.

The players are asking for transparency over their ‘grading’ and yet, nobody has either explained or justified it. Their request seems fair given that this is an assessment based on several attributes of a player with points awarded for fitness, discipline, game awareness, contributions and leadership (or something to that effect).

It’s their right to know how they’ve been assessed, which is why their request for transparency is reasonable. Many questions have arisen in regard to the formula and grading system – they don’t make sense to anyone including the two players who have been graded ‘A.’ In fact, one of them has been banned for a year for violating the rules of the quarantine bubble in the UK.

The issue of contracts can be resolved through a more holistic and humane approach but nobody wants to give in. Players like Mathews, Karunaratne, Chandimal and Suranga Lakmal have been servants of the game, and won many matches for Sri Lanka. They deserve better and a chance to finish their careers on their own terms.

It’s possible that this situation may force these players to opt for early retirement if they feel that Sri Lanka Cricket has no use for them going forward. They may want to explore franchise or county cricket with what little time they have left ahead of calling it a day.

Cricket is their main source of income; and when you take that away, they will obviously look elsewhere to sustain their livelihoods.

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