Eighteen years ago, during this same period the Lankans were on cloud nine as a nation. They had just conquered the cricketing world while they were still being treated as minnows by the rest of the world. Arjuna Ranatunga and his band of fifteen men had brought home the ICC World Cup beating the much [...]


The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

SLC vs. players: Is there a win-win formula?

Come down from the pedestal for cricket’s cause

Eighteen years ago, during this same period the Lankans were on cloud nine as a nation. They had just conquered the cricketing world while they were still being treated as minnows by the rest of the world. Arjuna Ranatunga and his band of fifteen men had brought home the ICC World Cup beating the much fancied Australia in the final at Lahore. Yet, the Lanka’s talented cricketers were semi-professionals who always had to think, there was going to be a life after cricket.Once Aravinda de Silva, one of the greatest cricketing sons of Sri Lanka, told me: “At that time we had to think that there was going to be a life after cricket. The monies that we were earning through the game of cricket could not sustain us for the rest of our lives. So, we had to do certain investments for the future and now those investments are keeping us afloat.” Eighteen years after that great day at Lahore, the present day Lankan cricketers, now true professionals, are refusing to sign their annual contracts owing to a dispute with their employers — Sri Lanka Cricket.

There is no point dragging through the mud that drew the two parties to this standoff because the 20%, 12% and 6% have been discussed and haggled over, yet no solution has been arrived at.

However, it is a general labour norm that once a payment is passed by an employer and paid to any employee, it stays. But, here the authorities have flagrantly taken an arbitrary decision to go back on a word once which was good.

At the same time the players — the employees — are averse to the formula that the cash-strapped employer has arrived at as if their very existence depended upon it.

Unlike the pre-1996 era, today’s cricketers are the dream team. Today’s cricketers are simply rich by any standards of society. Besides their annual contract with SLC, the match money, winnings and the others that they do within the realms of cricket, they do have avenues of making a few extra bucks like wearing a new shirt for someone or advising someone how not to be a crooked old skeleton on a future date.

The egg theory comes to my mind. Which came first, the player or the authority? If not for the player there wouldn’t be a game. Yet, it is the authority that sustains the game and rolls the carpet out to the player to indulge in it. So for me it is the yoke and the white of the egg — the player and the official.

Looking from the player’s point of view, they cannot do their own advertising that may contravene with the ICC interests during an ICC event. So the advertisers do pluck a few feathers off the players’ shoulders during a big ICC event. To compensate, the ICC does hand a fair share of its earnings to the member boards. The ICC has its dealings with the respective boards and not with players.

The board’s contention is that this forms a huge portion – nearly 50 per cent — of its total income and when it has to pay nearly 50% of that to only 18-20 national team players, the scale becomes lopsided. SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga told the Sunday Times that during 2011 and 2012 the board spent about Rs. 2 billion among the national squad players while it spent only around Rs. 3 billion for the stadiums that were built in Colombo, Kandy and Hambantota. His argument was that the three stadiums were income-and-future oriented projects and were an asset to the cricket in the country, but the Rs. 2 billion spent on players was just soaked in.

Just a minute, I do not agree with that argument. During 2011 and 2012, it were the players who kept the flag flying for Lankan cricket. In 2011 they reached the ICC World Cup finals and in 2012 they reached the ICC – T-20 World Championship finals. These two events are the biggest events in the ICC calendar and the Lankan cricketers did reach the final of both events. It’s no easy task, but yet they achieved it.

At the same time several of these cricketers just kept representing the country for a sizable period when the employers have fallen flat on their faces with no money to pay their salaries. At that time they did not revolt and shout. “Pay us now or else we will not cross that boundary line.” Try that stunt with any other employee in Sri Lanka for that length of time and the employers will be in for some good surprises.

Then the next argument is that the board is still paying for the three-billion-rupee investment in new stadiums. This had made SLC that much poorer and when it would come out that quagmire is anybody’s guess. But, the 2 billion paid to the cricketers did yield results – in a big way.

Ironically, the facts are stubborn. May be the present lot of cricketers were born at the wrong time. Their employers have taken this decision to take away something that they feel that is legitimately theirs. Yet, at the same time we are talking about the sustenance of the game in Sri Lanka. Besides the national cricketers, the board has already pruned the allowances paid to the Premier division cricketers. But the poor club cricketers do not have a leg to stand on and shout. Even the number of contracted players have been pruned down. Yet, the authorities are talking of a system that would enhance the income of the national cricketers with 6% plus a performance based impetus.

This is the point that the players do have to ponder. By some means someone down the line has managed to dig a hole in the bottom of the barrel and now someone has to pay for it. Right now it is not the pound of flesh that the players have to think of. If the fight is real, they also should have fought for the rest of the gang who are hit on the way, but are in no position to hit back.

What they should think is “if we draw the line, would it help the cause of cricket in this country? Would the other cricketers whose pay chunk was cut have a better tomorrow?”

Is this the cause for all cricket’s woes? If the cricketers do come down from their pedestal would there be the promised evolution be enacted? Would the weevils who keep sucking the Lankan cricket coffers dry would change their attitudes?

If so the cricketers must come down and join hands for better cricket tomorrow.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.