The pay dispute: an afterthought


Having lost many a battle to the players over the last few years, some Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) bigwigs were blowing their trumpets for scoring one over the players on Sunday, as the players were left with Hobson’s choice and chose to sign contracts.


With two young players at the helm, SLC bigwigs must be feeling that they can push their weight around. But let those running affairs at SLC be warned; they can’t place the blame on the players and wash their dirty hands. SLC has to be transparent in its future dealings, as a lack of transparency and honesty has cost the board far more than what the players had demanded.

SLC has successfully argued that it can in no way afford to pay 67 percent of its earnings to the country’s top 23 cricketers. The top 23 players receiving the lion’s share is indeed cruel, but the question needs to be asked as to what SLC was doing all this while.

Surely Nishantha Ranatunga and Upali Dharmadasa didn’t become cricket administrators last week? Perhaps, they felt that they didn’t have the guts or the charisma to take on strong leaders like Sanga or Mahela. Instead, they seem to have patiently waited until their time came.

The players have been too demanding in the past and at times their demands have been unreasonable. They were at loggerheads with SLC in 2008, asking the board to increase their remuneration significantly. SLC was paying country’s elite cricketers 3500US$ per Test match and 1750US$ per ODI. The players were negotiating for a significant rise. Arjuna Ranatunga was the board Chairman, and he denied the players’ demands forthwith.

Then came the Asia Cup, which Sri Lanka went onto win, thanks to the magic of Sanath Jayasuriya and Ajantha Mendis. Riding on that moment, the country’s elite cricketers sought political intervention for an increase in payments. Overnight, the cricketers’ ODI match fees were increased to 5000US$ from 3500US$, while the payments for Tests were increased from 1750US$ to 3500US$.

No one realized the gravity of these raises at that point. No one blamed the players for asking the pound of flesh at that point. All were championing the cause of the well being of Sri Lanka’s elite cricketers. Very little did they realise the complications they would lead SLC to. Arjuna must be having the last laugh now having seen the saga unfold.

SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga was one of the individuals who played a leading role to ensure better pay for Sri Lanka’s elite cricketers, then. But today, he is endorsing and advocating the pay cut. If we are to believe what he says today, he was clearly lying in 2008. Thus, part of the blame for dragging SLC into a financial mess befalls on him too. Although he championed the cause of the country’s elite cricketers as the CEO of the Cricketers’ Association, now he is playing the lead role in the crusade against hefty payments.

Nishantha Ranatunga is a poacher turned gamekeeper.

As for the players, they have no one to blame but themselves. It is they who promoted the likes of Nishantha to key positions in cricket. ‘Karmic’ forces seem to be at work!

Cricket fans also need to be reminded of the main reason why SLC got into a financial mess. The building of three new stadia at a colossal amount has served little purpose. The maintenance of these grounds are costing another fortune, while already existing grounds like Dambulla have become white elephants, thanks to the combined wisdom of our cricket bosses.

It may have cost our cricket dear, but that seems to have done the trick for certain officials, who seem to be omnipotent in cricket governance.

In calling for cricket elections, those in power have given all stakeholders an equal chance, but certain individuals seem to be more than equal than others. The authorities have forgotten that under some of these individuals, SLC conducted two World Cups, but yet is in a financial mess.

In offering contracts to national cricketers, SLC has raised payments for Test cricket from US$5000 to US7500 per player.

The annual contracts of elite cricketers also have been raised from 120,000US$ a year to 140,000US$ a year. But the board is deducting 25 percent from the guarantee fee the ICC pays them for their events. The board has also been paying 25 percent of what they get from clothing sponsors, but the fresh contracts don’t offer those monies.

During ICC events, for a period of two months, cricketers cannot promote any product that’s a rival brand of the ICC sponsors. For example, Sanga and Mahela cannot promote Coke, during and lead up to ICC events, because Pepsi is ICC’s official sponsor. The players are compensated for the loss of revenue. This has been the practice since 2003.

So, perhaps rather than deducting the 25 percent that SLC pays as compensation, a reduction of contracts or match fees would have lessened the noise. SLC effectively has raised the match fees for Tests, but in truth, there are just a few Test matches left to be played this year. May be four.

Those at SLC who are preaching discipline and clean governance need to be careful about their conduct. Prominent members of SLC Ex-Co have conflicts of interests, while the upcoming cricket election is likely to see several sordid acts.

The way former captain Kumar Sangakkara was treated Sunday is unbecoming of a professional organisation.

SLC officials knew very well that Sanga was making the trip to Matara to play the warm-up game. They waited till he reached Matara and on Sunday, called him up and said that his services weren’t required as he had not signed the contract. That simply wasn’t cricket.

Sanga’s famous Lord’s speech may have won him accolades the world over, but it has also ruffled many feathers back home. Sanga needs to be aware of the Ides of March.

Article Courtesy The Island