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The third edition of the annual fixture between Sri Lanka's cricket board and its cricketers heated up this week, after the players made their yearly refusal to sign the new central contracts, while a board official directed the customary veiled accusation of greed at the players.
The sides have had one high-profile victory each in the history of the contest. In 2012 the cricketers edged a closely fought match-up, eventually compelling the board to omit several contentious clauses, while in 2013 the board stormed home in 24 hours after executing an inspired "lockout" manoeuvre.
"Sri Lanka doesn't have high-profile traditional rivalries like India v Pakistan or any other marquee fixtures," an SLC official said. "We are hoping that this fixture can address that problem, and that it may quickly become like Sri Lanka's own Ashes."
The board's crushing victory in 2013 was the result of months of planning and carefully planted smear stories that undermined the opposition. This year, however, they arrive at the fixture low on confidence, after a deflating loss against the Big Three in Singapore last month. The cricketers also suffered a dispiriting fate at the IPL auction in February, but that result is only expected to have made them more desperate for victory in this contest.
The public has begun to warm to the annual clash, with many reasoning that it at least brings some certainty to the team's often-changed schedule.
"It's always great to see two evenly matched units take each other on in a regular contest," a Colombo man said. "As fans, we've already built up familiarity with the players, but with the SLC elections the way they are, we can also form a connection with the board officials, who are almost certain to stay in their posts for years to come, regardless of performance.
"The contracts clashes are already way more exciting than the Sri Lanka Premier League, so people have begun to take interest. More than anything, we are just encouraged that our board is capable of making this contest happen like clockwork every March."
Like in any high-profile meeting, personal subplots and rivalries have added a layer of intrigue to proceedings. Relations between world No. 2 batsman Kumar Sangakkara and board MVP Nishantha Ranatunga have not warmed since their public showdown over Sangakkara's Champions League representation last September, and the contracts clash promises another gripping head-to-head.
Meanwhile, fans will also look forward to discovering who is on the receiving end of Lasith Malinga's trademark "mind your own business" tirade.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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