Kumar Sangakkara has slammed Sri Lanka Cricket for "creating" a narrative that brought his loyalty into question, even as he confirmed he will play for Kandurata Maroons over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Champions League.
He said he is ultimately happy to represent his home province, but was perturbed by the manner in which the board publicly framed his situation, which he does not believe ever entailed a question of country loyalty. Sangakkara will lose $140,000 from his IPL salary as a result of his decision.
"I was quite upset that there were statements released by individuals in an official capacity, where my loyalty to the country was brought into question," Sangakkara told ESPNcricinfo. "The statements were made to put me at a disadvantage and to make me appear in a very bad light. Certain individuals' efforts to isolate me as a player misled the public and inflamed the issue further.
"Well-placed comments have twisted this into a country versus money, which it is definitely not, because this is a franchise-based tournament where franchises play franchises. It was made out to sound like I was choosing money over country."
Sangakkara's comments were ostensibly aimed at SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, who had told ESPNcricinfo the board would prefer Kandurata's IPL players played "for their country" in the Champions League.
Sangakkara also took a dim view of the board's professing it did not mind losing out on the $150,000 sum a foreign franchise must pay if a cricketer plays for the overseas franchise over his local qualifying team, as it did not parallel the loss he would have to incur personally.
"There's been a statement made that SLC was willing to lose $150,000 by getting me to play for Kandurata. I think the true picture is that I incurred a considerable financial loss out of my salary, and the board incurs a financial loss of $150,000 out of approximately $1.5 million that they will earn through the Champions League, via player commissions of 10% on each players' contract, plus the half a million dollars the Champions League pays for franchise participation. I think there is little or no comparison in the amounts lost. None of the board members or anyone else loses individually, but the player suffers.
"The real matter is not the financial penalty, but the issue of principle. This is not a country versus money issue, but it was created to be so, and I as a player was left alone to be caught in the middle of it.
"Since I got my first contract in 2003, I haven't taken any money to play for my club. I haven't taken any of the prize money from the domestic championships. I haven't taken any money to play in the provincials or any prize money. I've always redistributed that money either to the side, or in the case of my club, to the workers at the club, because I think as a matter of principle; because I hold a national contract, I shouldn't charge for playing first-class cricket in Sri Lanka. "
Ranatunga had first indicated the board would like Kandurata's IPL players to represent their home province on August 17 - the same day Kandurata qualified for the Champions League - but Sangakkara said the board had not asked him to play for Kandurata until a meeting on Tuesday evening.
"The first time I heard directly that they wanted me to play for Kandurata was on Tuesday - the same day I arrived from the West Indies. I was called in for a meeting and met with a few representatives from SLC. I was told that they expected me to play for Kandurata, and I said if that's the case, and if they are informing me at such a late hour, that I'm happy for them to speak to the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise and also the Champions League, to see if that could be done in a respectful and amicable way, and I would await the outcome.
"Being contacted at the last minute, and told that SLC wished me to play for Kandurata, it all seemed a bit surreal to me. At the same time, SLC failed to mediate a workable solution, so I had to make a decision on my own. I decided to stay with Kandurata and absorb the considerable financial loss."
Sangakkara said he had already inquired about a possible release from Sunrisers even before the board approached him formally. "When I qualified with Kandurata on the 17th, I contacted Sunrisers through my representative and asked them if I was not an essential member of the squad and if they were looking to release me to play for Kandurata. Without making any bones about it, they said they can't release me because I'm going to be an integral part of the squad, even if they can't guarantee me a spot in the first XI.
"Things after that took a very different turn. A very wrong image of the choice that was to be made was presented to the public."
Sangakkara said he had spoken with Sunrisers after having made his decision, and found them to be understanding and supportive of him. "I'm very happy to represent Kandurata. I have no issue with Sunrisers Hyderabad and, at the end of the day, this is my profession - this is how I make a living. I'm pretty happy to have made the decision that I did."
He will now join the Kandurata side as they prepare for the Champions League qualifiers, which begin on September 17.