Sri Lanka news July 17, 2012

Sri Lanka players agree on central contracts

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and its players have agreed in principle to the terms of the central contracts for the next year, bringing to an end almost five months of negotiations and avoiding a potential stand-off over Sri Lanka's top players participating in the inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL).

The new contracts, which will run from March 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013, will bear the existing retainer and match fees, ESPNcricinfo understands.

On Monday, Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, had said the country's cricketers might decide against taking part in the SLPL if the Sri Lankan board didn't "settle" the players' central contracts. The agreement between the two sides means the players no longer have any objections to taking part in the Twenty20 tournament.

"Player contracts will be signed tomorrow or the day after," Nishanta Ranatunga, the SLC secretary, told ESPNcricinfo on Tuesday. "It has been agreed upon by the players and the board." Sri Lanka host India for five ODIs and one Twenty20 game from July 21, and Ranatunga was confident the contracts would be in place for the series.

There was a discussion about requiring the players to seek prior permission from SLC before speaking to the media, but that clause did not make it in to the final version of the contract. However, if a player does make comments considered detrimental to SLC, he could face a disciplinary committee hearing.

The contract issue follows a year in which SLC ran into financial problems after running up debts of close to $70 million to finance the building of two international stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, and to renovate the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, for the 2011 World Cup. As a result the players were not initially paid their salaries for eight months. In December 2011, 42.36% of the fees due to the players from the World Cup to September 30, 2011 were paid. The payment of US$2 million was made directly into the players' bank accounts, instead of routing it through Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), on December 16.

SLC claimed to have paid the remaining dues in March 2012 after the state-owned Bank of Ceylon agreed to release 600 million rupees (approx US$5.07 million) to the board, following discussions with sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage. However, the players have not been paid since the previous contracts expired, as the new contracts are yet to be signed.

The SLPL starts on August 11, with the final to be played on August 31. SLC had released a list of 112 local players and 56 overseas players who will take part in the event. The tournament, which features seven franchises this year, will have two more the next year, covering all nine provinces.

Jayawardene, who is the icon player for the Wayamba franchise, said the focus of the tournament should be on developing the game in Sri Lanka. "While we say all good things about the tournament, let me caution everyone … While we are making financial gains, the commitment of the people involved should be to harness the talent, develop the game in the outstations, get every possible youngster involved and let them realise their dream of playing for Sri Lanka one day."

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo