'Team choice not about loyalty or money' - Sangakkara
Players who choose to play for their IPL franchise over their local team in the Champions League do not betray their nation, Kumar Sangakkara has said, after a meeting with Sri Lanka Cricket on Tuesday evening yielded no concrete decisions on which team he would represent in the tournament. Sangakkara has been named in the Sunrisers Hyderabad squad, but SLC have also asked him to play for the Kandurata Warriors side, Sri Lanka's only team in the tournament.
If he plays for Kandurata, however, Sangakkara stands to lose $140,000 from his IPL salary - a figure which is close to his entire annual earnings from the board. Although he is financially vulnerable under his IPL contract, he will not breach that contract if he plays for his local team, as the Champions League rules leave the choice of the team to the player.
"Unfortunately in the last week it has been portrayed as a country versus franchise issue; a money versus loyalty issue," Sangakkara told Daily Mirror. "That's unfair, not just to me, but to any player in this situation, because it is not the case. I think if local players are required to play for their home franchise, then those agreements must be discussed at the start of an IPL season between the cricket board, the IPL and the player, but there is no such agreement there."
"The way the public has viewed it and it has been presented to the public, it has been made into an issue where whichever way I go, I am the one who suffers."
After their meeting, SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said the board had begun discussions with Sunrisers Hyderabad regarding Sangakkara's release. SLC's correspondence with Sunrisers includes a request to mitigate the financial penalty Sangakkara is liable to receive if he does not play for Sunrisers, Sangakkara said.
"I told the cricket board I am more than happy for them to get involved and speak to the franchise in India and the IPL governing council, and secure my release in a manner that either doesn't penalise me, or penalises me very minimally, so I am able to play wherever they direct me to play."
Whether Sunrisers are content to allow Sangakkara to play for Kandurata but still pay him his full salary may be dependent on whether they have planned for him to be a major part of their tournament strategy. Sunrisers coach Tom Moody would not be drawn on whether his team would acquiesce to SLC's request, but told ESPNcricinfo that Sangakkara remained "an important cog of the team, as all our international players are."
SLC will hope, however, that Sunrisers did not plan to play Sangakkara in their preferred XI, and that they will be swayed by the prospect of retaining the $150,000 sum that a foreign franchise must pay a players' qualifying home team, if he plays for the foreign team in the Champions League.
Despite its dire financial situation, SLC has seemed unconcerned about receiving this payment and Ranatunga confirmed the board was happy to effectively incur that loss.
Sangakkara is crucial to Kandurata's hopes in the tournament as he was their most experienced player in the domestic competition, and is also capable of providing leadership support to young captain Lahiru Thirimanne. He has been in the limited-overs form of his life in the past three months, in which he has revealed a hyper-aggressive facet to his batting, borne out through an unprecedented range of strokes.
In contrast, he had had a poor IPL for Sunrisers, and although he began the season as captain, he increasingly left himself out of the side towards the end of the tournament.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here