Jayasuriya steps in to help contracts settlement
Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya has stepped in to move Sri Lanka's contract crisis towards a resolution, after his meeting with the locked out players on Sunday night ended with the players indicating they would sign SLC's original contract. Jayasuriya had personally set up the meeting earlier in the day in an effort to break the deadlock, which he has now successfully done.
"The players have decided to put their country first and sign the original contract." Jayasuriya said after the meeting, which lasted over two hours. "Once they sign, they will be considered for selection for the Bangladesh series." The players are yet to put pen to paper, but are expected to do so on Monday.
Jayasuriya said that while the players had agreed to bring the standoff to a close, they expected to have further discussions with the board on the key issue of contention - that of compensation for the use of their images by the ICC and its sponsors, during ICC tournaments. Under their 2012 contracts, Sri Lanka players received 25% of the net fee paid by the ICC to home boards during ICC tournaments, but in the 2013 contract they have agreed to scrap these payments entirely.
"In the meantime when the ICC events come, the players will talk to the SLC what they are going to do about the players' guarantee money," he said. SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga was unwilling to call the crisis closed until contracts were signed, but was pleased with the outcome of Sunday's meeting. "What I've heard from Sanath is that the players will sign, but a full resolution hasn't been reached," he said.
If the original contracts are signed on Monday, Sri Lanka's cricketers will not have gained anything from the standoff which lasted little over 24 hours, largely owing to SLC's powerful bargaining position. In the weeks before the contracts were issued, SLC announced it will not recognise player managers, and has since extended that policy to players' associations, who were not allowed to represent the players' interests during the contract negotiations.
In addition to doing away with player payments from ICC's guarantee fee, the new contracts also allows the SLC not to pay a player's regular salary for as long as he is with his IPL team. A convention that allowed players' wives to travel business class on one tour a year was also scrapped, and a clause that tied payment to performance as per the ICC rankings, introduced.
The contracts had been issued late last week, with March 2 being the deadline prescribed by the board. After the players refused to sign before the deadline, SLC immediately engaged the strategy laid out by its executive committee, which was to freeze the players out.
"They will definitely not be considered for selection," SLC president Upali Dharmadasa had said on Saturday. "They will not be getting any facilities that Sri Lanka Cricket has been offering them, including physios, masseurs and coaches. They can't come for practice at our venues."
Jayasuriya's selection panel was expected to name a squad for the first Test against Bangladesh, on Sunday, but delayed the announcement until after Jayasuriya had met with the players. If the players sign as agreed, a full strength squad is likely to be named on Monday, after the contracts have been finalised.
The only direct effect of the lockout so far has been Kumar Sangakkara's omission from the side playing a three-day tour match against Bangladesh. The match was supposed to be Sangakkara's return to competitive cricket after fracturing his index finger during the Boxing Day Test.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here