Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here
Sri Lanka Cricket has decided not to recognise player agents and will take a harsh view of players who decline central contracts, SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga has said. Players will still be allowed to have agents represent them elsewhere, but will not be able to involve their agents in dealings with SLC.
Ranatunga said he had made SLC's stance on player agents clear to new captains Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, and that the new policy to ignore agents and deal directly with players was borne out of a belief that agent involvement constituted a net negative to cricket in Sri Lanka.
"If you look at the past, the board used to correspond and communicate with the player agents," Ranatunga said. "At that time the board felt agents would allow the players to concentrate on the game as the agents would do the other work. But after what has happened in the past few years, the board took a clear decision not to recognise player agents, because they bring more negatives than positives.
"We explained to the new captain and the vice-captain that if there are any players who don't sign the SLC contracts within 10 days, we don't expect them to be in the national team."
In 2011, Lasith Malinga turned down a central contract with SLC, citing dissatisfaction with the amount the board had offered him. Malinga was placed in the top salary bracket, but was only eligible for 40% of the $100,000 the other players would receive, because he did not play Test cricket. He has, however, made himself available for every ODI and Twenty20 match for Sri Lanka since.
Ranatunga also emphasised that SLC's purview extended beyond the interests of the elite band of players who have agents, and suggested that in representing a handful of players, agents had been detrimental to both the game at large, and players without agents in particular.
"Agents are interested in looking after their players financially, and SLC has felt that they don't have the best interests of cricket at heart," he said. "Our job isn't to look after the 20 or 25 players who have agents. We have to think about every cricketer from 13-year-olds upwards, as well as club cricketers and provincial players. There are some who haven't earned a cent from the game, and we need to look after them and appreciate their efforts as well."
The Sri Lanka cricketers' central contracts expire at the end of February, and a new contract list will be drawn up and released by SLC soon after. In 2012, players and the board were locked in almost five months of negotiations over their contracts, after a heavily indebted SLC had failed to pay its players for almost eight months. Players threatened to boycott the Sri Lanka Premier League, and a clause requiring players to seek permission from the board before speaking to media had to be struck out, before an agreement was reached in July last year.