Sri Lanka contracts crisis ends
Sri Lanka's top cricketers signed Sri Lanka Cricket's contracts on Monday, bringing the crisis to an official end, after having been frozen out by SLC during the weekend. A resolution appeared unlikely as late as Sunday afternoon, but a meeting between chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya and the players, approved by SLC, broke the deadlock and a four-tiered contracts list has since been issued.
The top pay category has been expanded from five players to seven, with new captain Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath joining Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga in the top bracket. Thilan Samaraweera, who was in last year's top tier, has been put in a special category with Prasanna Jayawardene, as both players will only be considered for Test selection. Twenty20 captain and Test and ODI vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal has been given a category two contract.
Lower down in the hierarchy Dimuth Karunaratne, Shaminda Eranga, Jeevan Mendis, Kushal Perera, Nuwan Pradeep and Sachithra Senanayake have all been offered central contracts for the first time. Dilhara Fernando, Tharanga Paranavitana and Chamara Kapugedara are the players to miss out, having held central contracts in 2012. Suraj Randiv has been reissued a contract despite not having been named in the squad for the first Test against Bangladesh.
SLC officials said they were pleased the players could begin focussing on cricket ahead, after the contracts issue had been resolved. SLC CEO Ajit Jayasekara said there would be no negative consequences for the players who had refused to sign their contracts by deadline. "As far as we are concerned, the matter is closed," he said.
Jayasuriya, who had personally set up the discussion that ended the deadlock, reiterated SLC's commitment to move past the dispute, and said agreement was reached amicably. "I explained to the players as the chairman of selectors, what we are trying to do in Sri Lankan cricket. They accepted that and were happy, and said that they would try. In the end they wanted to play for Sri Lanka."
The major contention for players was SLC's refusal to pay 25% of the board's earnings from ICC events as they have done since 2003. This payment was to compensate players for the use of their image by the ICC and its sponsors for the duration of the tournament. Although the players agreed to sign away that payment for this year, they had only done so in the hope that dialogue about that money would continue with SLC, with the chance for that payment to be reintroduced in future contracts.
An SLC release on Monday said that after the contracts were issued, the players had proposed investing part of their share from the ICC payment into cricket development, but this was rejected by the board, who felt "cricket development purview should be vested with the governing body, than with players in concern".
The release further said SLC expected to pay 67% of its 2013 revenue on the 23 players with national contracts. "If SLC agreed to grant the players' request to include the guarantee fee component to the contract value, SLC will have to bear 81% of its annual revenue towards the 23 Cricketers, leaving no provision for a successful all round year. SLC's stance towards this matter was maintained taking in to account all cricketing interests pertaining to Sri Lanka."
Mahela Jayawardene is the only player who has not yet signed a contract, but he is expected to do so when he returns to the country.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here