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April 30, 2011
Stuart Law, Sri Lanka's interim coach, has expressed sympathy with Lasith Malinga's decision to quit Test cricket due to a knee condition, but has also acknowledged that the lure of the IPL - with its bumper signings and opportunities to secure oneself financially in quick time - makes it difficult for players to continue playing international cricket. He added it was important to keep India "sweet", as that's where a significant part of the revenue for several cricket boards lies.
Malinga made himself unavailable for Sri Lanka's upcoming tour of England and announced his decision to quit Tests because of a "long-standing degenerative condition in the right knee". While the condition made it difficult for him to play in the longest format, he intends to continue playing limited-overs cricket, and is currently the leading wicket-taker in the IPL, where he represents Mumbai Indians.
"'It's disappointing that he doesn't want to play [the] longer [format cricket] but you can't make [force] a guy who goes through hell every time he bowls a cricket ball," Law told The Age. "I can sympathise with him. I would love him to play every game for us but that's impossible, no one does that these days.
''It's a tough one for the players because we're not talking about $10,000 here and there. We're talking about a million dollars and Malinga, when he bowls, he puts his body through hell, so … two more years of IPL cricket and he can put his feet up and not go through that pain again."
Apart from Malinga, there are three other prominent Sri Lanka players participating in the IPL - Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. The tour of England clashes with the latter stages of the IPL, and there's been confusion in Dilshan's case about when he'll join the Sri Lanka squad. He had said he wanted to join as early as May 10, ahead of the first warm-up game, but the BCCI and the Sri Lanka board are negotiating his release date. Sangakkara and Jayawardene, meanwhile, will join their squad ahead of the second warm-up fixture.
''The IPL situation - we've got to be smart with that,'' Law said. ''India, they are big brother, we've got to look after them, we don't want to upset them. It's where a lot of the world cricket boards make a lot of their money, so we've got to keep India sweet.''
The financial incentive of the IPL was a major temptation for players, Law said. ''You want the best for your players and the best Sri Lanka can supply to the players at this stage is nowhere near what other international players are getting.
''I think [better pay] will arrive one day but right now it is difficult to attract the players to continue to play international cricket when they can go to the IPL for six weeks and earn five years' money.''
Sri Lanka have undergone a change in leadership since finishing runners-up in the 2011 World Cup, with Sangakkara and Jayawardene stepping down as captain and vice-captain respectively - decisions Law could "totally respect and understand" - and their selection committee resigning. Dilshan has been named the new captain and Law has taken over from Trevor Bayliss, who he worked with as assistant coach.
''Sri Lanka will go through a rebuilding phase now," Law said. "But the amount of talent that is yet to play international cricket at this stage is amazing."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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