Sri Lanka's men's limited-overs cricketers have signed tour contracts that cover the forthcoming series against India. But Sri Lanka Cricket's decision to withdraw its offer of annual contracts had caused substantial dismay among players.
Angelo Mathews, who was offered a tour contract for the India series, is the only member of a group of 30 who declined to sign. Although an SLC release said Mathews had asked to be relieved from national duties owing to "personal reasons", Mathews' disillusionment with the contract offer and the general situation within Sri Lanka Cricket is understood to have informed his decision.
SLC CEO Ashley de Silva confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the board would only offer a succession of tour contracts until the end of the year, because "the players had enough time to sign the central (annual) contracts but they didn't". Essentially, this is the board's way of penalising players for making demands over their central contracts.
Unsurprisingly, this decision by SLC has caused significant distress among players. Firstly, those players who are not within the limited-overs frame have been left without contracts of any sort. Senior players such as Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal may not see a contract from SLC until November, when they are next due to play Tests.
Secondly, players who were holding out for better central contracts are now unhappy with those who agreed to sign SLC's temporary tour contract - a move that essentially ended the contracts negotiation, because to sign the tour contracts was to concede to SLC.
"I don't know how there can be unity in the team while all this is going on," one player told ESPNcricinfo. "Some players are being blamed for being the first to sign the tour contracts, and others are defending themselves for doing that."
Part-way through the England tour, the players had apparently decided to sign the annual contracts that SLC was offering. This was after SLC had provided the methodology on how the new contracts scheme was drawn up - the players' main objection always having been the lack of transparency in the new scheme. However, by the time the team returned from the UK on Monday, SLC had already made the decision to withdraw the central contracts it had offered. A first group of players then signed the tour contract for the India series on July 6, before the remainder of the squad followed.
de Silva said SLC would revisit the men's central contracts again in 2022.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf