Sri Lanka's tour of England has been cast into serious jeopardy after the players expected to be selected refused to sign the tour contracts offered by Sri Lanka Cricket.
This is as part of the men's cricketers' larger resistance to SLC's new annual contracts scheme, which they believe lacks transparency and does not adequately compensate senior players. Although players have not been centrally contracted since last October when the previous round of contracts expired, series since then have been played under a succession of temporary tour contracts. But the players have now dug their heels in and are headed for a serious confrontation with SLC over the next 72 hours. The team is due to leave for England at 12.05am on Wednesday (June 9).
Thirty-eight players have signed a statement refusing to sign the tour contracts - an increase from the 24 players who had previously made their resistance to the new scheme official. Primarily, the players' contention is that the workings of the grading system devised by SLC to assign contracts of varying value to players have not been sufficiently made clear to them.
"Because of the problems with the transparency of the ratings system devised by SLC, the players will not sign the [tour contract]," the release signed by 38 top players said.
Their lawyer, Nishan Premathiratne, told ESPNcricinfo that in addition to refusing the tour contracts on principle, there was also a legal objection to these contracts.
"The tour contract also refers to matters of the annual [main] contract for 2021, which is yet unsigned," he said. "In the event, the annual contract is not settled and a dispute is pending, the validity of the tour contract referring to an unsigned contract is also an issue."
In addition to taking issue with transparency, the players have also stated they would prefer the only criteria for drawing up contracts lists should be player performance and fitness. SLC's new scheme, however, also takes into account leadership, professionalism and future performance/adaptability.
And while the annual contracts were offered to 24 players - a reduction from the 30 who were offered central contracts in the last round - players are also now suggesting that some compensation be given to a wider group of players. As 14 further players have joined the original 24 in resisting the new contracts scheme, this new request follows.
"In addition, the players have decided they will not sign the contracts until players who have performed well in past years are looked after fairly," the statement said.
The new contracts scheme had been drawn up primarily by the technical committee headed by Aravinda de Silva and SLC's new director of cricket Tom Moody. There will now need to be serious negotiations over the next few days if Sri Lanka are to fulfil their tour obligations.
Players who have refused to sign the tour contract: Kusal Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews, Dananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Embuldeniya, Pathum Nissanka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Isuru Udana, Oshada Fernando, Ramesh Mendis, Lahiru Kumara, Danushka Gunathilaka, Ashen Bandara, Akila Dananjaya, Chamika Karunaratne, Asitha Fernando, Binura Fernando, Shiran Fernando, Avishka Fernando, Ishan Jayaratne, Charith Asalanka, Dananjaya Lakshan, Nuwan Pradeep, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kamil Mishara, Praveen Jayawickrama, Roshen Silva, Minod Bhanuka
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf