The Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association (SLCA) has claimed Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), including chairman Arjuna Ranatunga, was informed during a meeting in June that some of the country's leading cricketers had committed to the IPL for the next three years. However, in July, the SLC finalised a tour of England in 2009 - currently put on hold by sports minister Gamini Lokuge - despite assuring its cricketers during that meeting that they would keep a window free for the players' participation in IPL till 2010. The tour announcement was made in July, a month after the meeting.
"We see this not as a one-off thing; we feel there is something more to it," Graeme Labrooy, the SLCA secretary, said at a press conference in Colombo that was also addressed by Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, and vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara. "Unfortunately, even in 2008, when the players had been given permission by Sri Lanka Cricket to play in the first IPL, SLC tried its best to play a one-day series in Pakistan that would have led to a direct confrontation with IPL. So it is not just the 2009 England tour."
Labrooy, Jayawardene and Sangakkara said they had decided to go public with their views after recent comments from SLC officials, including Ranatunga, questioned their commitment to playing for the country. Sangakkara said he was "disturbed" by the ongoing controversy over the players' participation in IPL.
Labrooy said that SLC's only demand from the players during the June 12 meeting was they commit to playing 75% of the provincial season. SLC then agreed to tour England for two Tests and three ODIs after the ECB suspended bilateral ties with Zimbabwe, who were due to tour in 2009. Labrooy said Zimbabwe were slated to play three ODIs but the ECB were keen to add two Tests to give the players some practice ahead of Australia's visit. "We were prepared to compromise and play three one-day games but England wouldn't want to go with that. They were keen on playing two Test matches.
"The key stakeholders of the game are the players. Knowing the players had signed contracts during the same period, SLC should have come back with the England proposal and sat with the players and the cricketers' association and thrashed out the matter. It would have been resolved to a great extent and wouldn't have gone so far."
Sangakkara and Jaywardene, who were given permission by the SLC to speak at the press conference, said they wanted to clear the air over the issue and present their "side of the story". "We always try as players to stay away from controversy, to do what is right and to play our cricket in peace," Sangakkara said. "There are certain things that we can ignore and take and not worry about it and make any comments. But when we are accused of misleading the public and the government of Sri Lanka, it is time for us to come out into the open and state our side of the story."
Jayawardene said the players had signed for IPL as individuals and not as part of the Sri Lankan team. "So therefore I am not the captain of this IPL group," he said. "I am the captain of the Sri Lanka team and I am responsible for the decisions which I make on and off the field regarding the team. Above and beyond that, it's not my responsibility. All these players have their own managers or agents and they have individually written to SLC and got permission and signed with IPL."