Sri Lanka cricket March 26, 2013

Tightrope walk for Sri Lanka's IPL players

The IPL's decision to not let Sri Lankan players play in Chennai this season because of political tensions has put the country's cricketers in a difficult position

The IPL's decision to cut Sri Lankan participation in the league in Chennai following political tensions, combined with the public reaction to that at home, has left the players walking a political and professional tightrope a week before their scheduled departure for India.

The worst affected players are Chennai Super Kings' Nuwan Kulasekara and Akila Dananjaya, who were advised not to join their team in Chennai until further notice before the IPL's decision on Tuesday evening. They had planned to travel to Chennai on April 1, along with several other Sri Lanka players, but will now put those plans on hold. 

The 11 other players from Sri Lanka will seemingly not, at this stage, be facing major disruptions to their tournament, apart from skipping the single game in Chennai on their round-robin schedule. However, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are both captains of their sides in addition to being key players and their absence could be crucial for their franchises. 

Sri Lanka Cricket has expressed confidence in the BCCI's commitment to ensuring the safety of the Sri Lankan players. An SLC statement released this afternoon said, "SLC has written to the president and to the secretary of BCCI and received assurances that the BCCI will take all necessary steps to ensure that the players feel safe and action will be taken to ensure that the players' safety is paramount."

SLC could hardly have reacted any other way, given the way its finances are linked to, and their plans shaped around, the IPL. The board cleared Sri Lanka's international schedule - agreeing to do away with a Test tour of the West Indies - so that its players are available throughout the IPL. SLC is clawing its way back from huge debt after building two new stadiums and renovating a third for the 2011 World Cup, and can scarcely afford to lose the 10% cut of player salaries it receives for providing no objection certificates for their contracted players. The players' 2013 contracts also allow SLC to cease salary payments to IPL cricketers, for the duration of their time with their franchise. 

In Sri Lanka's public and political sphere, the recent increase in political activism in Tamil Nadu against the Sri Lankan government's treatment of Tamils has largely been met with anger and cynicism. Some Sri Lankan politicians have accused the government of Tamil Nadu of disrupting the bilateral reconciliation process, while prevailing anti-India sentiment has been strengthened among parts of the populace. Reports of attacks on Sri Lankan Buddhist monks who were visiting Tamil Nadu have not helped the situation either, nor has India's refusal to side with the Sri Lanka government in an ongoing UNHRC resolution in Geneva on the civil war.

All this means the players are put in a somewhat difficult situation. They will want to play in the IPL, for themselves, and to some extent because the board has gone to such lengths to allow them to play a full tournament. On the other hand, they may risk being seen as disloyal mercenaries among some sections of the public. Sri Lanka fans have never really warmed to the IPL, and have been particularly vocal in their condemnation of domestic Twenty20 after two Test tours were removed from the 2015 schedule to accommodate the IPL and SLPL. For many fans, this latest episode will only add to their dismay at Sri Lanka's internationals playing in India for two months.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    I am a tamilian and i feel what tamilnadu doing is very bad thing. Mixing politics with sports has always been the worst part of Indian sports. Thats the reason why indian sports is a shame when comapred to others.

  • Owen on March 27, 2013, 16:40 GMT

    I think this would throw up some sticky legal situations especially for Kulasekara and Dananjaya. If they are contracted to play, but are prevented from playing by a league decision then they should still be entitled to payment.

    Also, if one were to be cynical about it all, it could be viewed as a sneaky move to give Chennai an advantage in the competition by the top guys in Indian cricket, who all seem to have links with Chennai. Conspiracy theorists have concocted arguments using much less!!

  • Mark on March 27, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    I have no problem SL Players playing in the IPL. They have only till their late 30s injury free permitting to secure their financial future for them and their families, after that they will be forgotten by the public. They have to go on think about what they have to do with their lives after they retire from the game in their late 30s if they are lucky and good enough to play that long. Cricketers and sportsman and women unlike other people live two lives. First one as Sports men and women and the second one after they retire. They know the Public won't care about them once they retire from the game so they are doing the wise thing and trying to secure their financial future before their time in the sport is up.

  • Balajee on March 27, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    I wonder sometimes if people forget that cricket players have a family to feed and have relatively short careers in which to secure their financial future. Its easy to take the moral high ground and preach to players to make a statement or fight for a "common" cause. One only needs a little bit of empathy to understand the players' plight.

  • Tony on March 27, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    I still find it hypocritical of Sangakkara last year when he said he wants more tests but seems silent when they clear way for IPL at the expense of test series against the West Indies and so on. If the Indian administrators can't provide enough security to protect the players, I just can't understand how they are making it more the player's faults that they are Sri Lankan!

  • Sulaimaan on March 27, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    As a Sri Lankan, its would be wrong to find fault with our players for taking part in the IPL. The problems that have surfaced are only in TN whereas the rest of India adores and loves the SL players. Sri Lanka and India have also been very friendly countries and on the field there always has been a great rivalry, to expect our players to not go to India simply due to the actions of a very small fringe minority would be wrong.By doing so we would in fact be giving importance to such people. SL fans and players should hold themselves to much higher standards and involve themselves in the IPL.

  • sachit on March 27, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    Andrew , It should also be noted that Sri Lankan fans have also become more critical of the IPL ever since BCCI refused to send their players for SLPL.

  • sachit on March 27, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    A very timely article Andrew. I feel for the players. A considerable part of the Sri Lankan public are too naive to understand the concept of contracts. To their eyes the player's are just "chasing money".

  • indika on March 27, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    As a Srilankan, i think our cricketers should not participate in this event because those protesters are not against these players but against our country and our cricketers must display their solidarity. They know how we love them and respect them and they should not hurt our sentiments. They should not be victims of south Indian dirty politics and show some respect to their country. Come-on guys you all are our heroes , remember guys, we have manifested entire world, how brave we are on the field of sports and Geo-political Erena.the bravery that displayed by Arjuna Ranatunga during discriminatory events in the past and eradication of brutal terrorism. Show some respect to our country and set aside the monitory gains.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2013, 23:01 GMT

    If the players safety cannot be guaranteed then the IPL has to be courageous and move all games out of Chennai.

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