Sri Lankan cricket September 19, 2008

'Other boards should let ICL players play' - Atapattu

Marvan Atapattu: "This decision has come from a guy [Arjuna Ranatunga] who has led Sri Lankan cricket from the front, first as a player and now as an administrator" © Cricinfo

Sri Lanka Cricket's decision to lift the domestic ban on five of its ICL cricketers is a "strong message" to other national boards, according to Marvan Atapattu, the former Sri Lankan captain. Atapattu, who plays for the ICL's Delhi Giants, said the decision will lead to a situation where Sri Lankan cricketers can play for their country and choose between the unauthorised cricket league and the IPL.

"It's a very strong message to other boards that have imposed similar bans," Atapattu told Cricinfo. "It's a message that the game is not ruled by any single body, and nobody should try to rule the game. I hope that other boards, including India, also let all their ICL players play in all forms of cricket. The players in India have taken a brave stand by joining ICL; they are very young and talented. Why not give them a chance now?"

Atapattu, 37, who also represents ICL's World XI, was among the five who are now free to play domestic cricket again after the one-year-old ban was lifted by an interim committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), headed by Arjuna Ranatunga. The others who benefited from the decision, taken last week, were Russel Arnold, Upul Chandana, Avishka Gunawardene and Saman Jayantha.

Atapattu described the removal of the ban as "a positive step" that will level the field between ICL and IPL at least for Sri Lankan cricketers. "I don't think there should have been a ban in the first place but we are very happy that the Sri Lankan board has taken such a positive step," Atapattu said. "We are hopeful this will soon lead to a situation where our cricketers can play for their country and choose between the ICL and IPL. Right now, the situation is grossly unfair where some of our players play in IPL while the others sit at home and watch it on TV. It's not fair that only players who play in the IPL can play for Sri Lanka. The ICL is a similar tournament, with a similar format, and only the name is different. So why is there this discrimination?"

Admitting he was "relieved" that the ban was lifted, Atapattu said the decision has prompted him to think about a comeback, possibly even to international cricket. "But for that, the first move has to come from the cricket board," he said. "The previous administration wasn't quite sure about me and the end wasn't too good. This time, if they approach me, I will definitely think about it [an international comeback]. I just don't want to jump the gun."

Sri Lanka's ICL cricketers, he said, had Ranatunga to back them and that made the difference. "This decision has come from a guy who has led Sri Lankan cricket from the front, first as a player and now as an administrator. He has once more shown the aggression that he showed as a World Cup-winning captain [in 1996], and we are thankful to him for that.

"Right now, I am just relieved that the ban has been lifted, and I haven't given much thought to what I will do next. I have played all my life for Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), and I am still fit and can play in all formats of the game. Let's see what lies ahead."

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo