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Sri Lanka Cricket Board members are furious over a fiasco and alleged fraud perpetrated by organisers in Los Angeles where the World Cup winning Sri Lankan team are to play two widely publicised dollar-spinning exhibition matches.
While the Cricket Board's newly elected executive committee were holding their first meeting on Thursday night, team manager Dulip Mendis reportedly called from the capital of California to say the national team felt badly let down by the organisers, an official said.
He said board members were very disturbed over the manager's disclosure amidst reports from Los Angeles that some Sri Lankan organisers there were trying to get rich by fleecing the people who wished to watch the exhibition matches or host the Sri Lankan players.
According to the telephone call from Mendis, the national cricketers had not got what was promised to them - $ 1,000 for each player for each match plus $ 50 a day as expenses for each player. It was said that the players were angry about the fiasco and might revolt.
The official said the board had instructed the Sri Lankan team management to pay what was promised to the cricketers from funds that the team had. If necessary the board would also pay extra and get the team back to Colombo from Los Angeles earlier than scheduled. The team had gone there on a one-way ticket with the organisers being expected to arrange the return flight. But now the board might have to intervene to stop the racket which was an insult to the Sri Lankan team, he said. "Someone appears to be playing the devil in the city of angels," one official quipped.
He said no contracts had been signed for the two exhibition matches in Los Angeles and it is likely the whole matter would have to be investigated.
Behind the much publicised American tour of the World Cup winning Sri Lankan cricket team, there is a big plan to make the tour organisers "big fat cats", claims the disgusted Sri Lankan cricket fans in California.
They claim that the organisers who did not lift a finger to help their motherland at times of crisis came forward in a big way to organize the tour since they could easily make a couple of hundred thousands US Dollars from the enthusiastic, cricket mad Sri Lankans living here and other Americans.
The first match with the Sri Lanka team was played yesterday (Saturday April 20) against an invitation XI at Woody Park in Burbank, California where a crowd of ten thousand watched the game in addition to the Sri Lankan cricket fans, and Indians, Pakistanis and Australians among the spectators, with entrance tickets priced at $ 20 each.
Some cricket fans, who produced the facts and figures of this business, told me that they have decided to write to the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka about the ongoing project that has produced some "cricket mudalalis".
In the tamasha is a dinner for seven hundred guests where the tickets are priced at $ 50 each. At the same time 5000 souvenirs are to be sold at $ 2 each and T-shirts which will cost them $ 3.50 a piece, are being sold at $ 15 a piece.
There is also a plan to put up 40 tents to represent Sri Lankan schools. However, old boys and girls of these schools will have to pay $ 150 to the organisers for the use of each tent. In addition there is a special dinner in honour of the visiting team, where the tickets are priced at $ 100.
The funniest part of this whole exercise is that the wealthy Sri Lankan cricketers in their comfortable homes are being forced to pay $ 1000 to the organisers, for the privilege. The organisers however will not be burdened with the hotel bills of our cricketers.
Nevertheless the opposing team is to be accommodated in a 'five star' hotel, one fan said. He and his friends were disgusted about the way organisers have plotted to fleece the cricket fans.
The organisers have requested $ 12,500 from the Sri Lanka Board of Control for Cricket to meet the expenses of the team at Los Angeles.
Nevertheless the Sri Lankan travel agents in Los Angeles claim that the tickets for the 17 members of the team will cost only $ 6,800 at the rate of $ 400 each, one way trip Video cassettes of the tour are also to be produced and marketed under exclusive rights.
The Sri Lanka Cricket Board has requested the organisers to pay around $ 10,000 to the cricketers initially. Later on, they had increased that amount to $ 25,000 when they got wind of the earning capacity of the tour.
The management of the Woody Park revealed that they are planning to charge about 100 dollars each for 500 fans. Already most of $ 20 tickets have been sold out.
A dinner to the team has been arranged in the gambling city of Las Vegas at the end of the tour. Thereafter there would be a press conference. Sri Lankans who protested at the way this whole tour has been used to make some business people richer said that "Our cricketers are a national asset, and some scheming business sharks should not be allowed to exploit them".
In the meantime the Eelam Lobby in Washington is sending messages to their supporters requesting them to boycott the match. They have also planned to picket outside Woody Park.
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