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Let sanity prevail



by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka Cricket has played down the ongoing pay crisis with national cricketers, telling us that everything will be tickety-boo after the Bangladesh series as they are currently negotiating with the players. But the fact remains that the players refused to sign the contracts and many of them are angry at the suggested pay cut. The new contracts are so flawed that some players would be forced to go through 200% pay cuts.

No doubt these are testing times as SLC has rightly pointed out. The board’s finances have suffered major losses due to the pandemic. But if there’s going to be a pay cut, let it begin from the top. The CEO’s salary of Rs. 1.8 million a month has not been slashed. But he wants players to take a pay cut. The CEO is not covering himself in glory these days as we witnessed during the COPE hearing recently.

In fact, the CEO’s salary has tripled in the last five years. In that scenario, there’s no rationale in asking the players to get a pay cut while the head of the organization enjoys his perks. It is very easy to say that this was a suggestion from one of the sub committees and pass the buck. But the CEO has been in that position for a decade now and before that as Director Cricket Operations for a considerable time. He should have given a piece of his mind to whoever the mastermind, who wasn’t thinking clearly in drafting the contract.

If the proposed contracts go through, Suranga Lakmal, a former captain and a respected senior player, would be earning an annual retainer worth around US$ 45,000, which is close to Rs. nine million. The CEO, at the same time would be earning over Rs. 21 million. How can that be fair? Whoever who prepared this contract is prejudiced.

Apart from a significant reduction in the annual retainers, the seniority payment too has been completely taken off. The mastermind who drafted these contracts is said to be a former captain, who in his prime earned as much as Rs. 100 million annually from SLC. When the board wanted this amount reduced, he had a bone to pick with the administration and together with his crooked agent, who ran a cricket website, sought political intervention. Time was when some of our captains spent more time at Temple Trees than the time they spent at the crease. Literally, they were asking for the pound of flesh and had it their way.

The board’s counter argument then was that they wanted a fair share of revenue go to domestic cricketers in order stop the brain drain as professional cricketers were regularly traveling to England and Australia to earn a living. SLC failed miserably. Senior players were powerful.

Now the roles have been reversed. Since the mastermind is in administration currently, he feels domestic cricketers need to be looked after and hell with elite players. The poacher turned gamekeeper should not be allowed to get away with his ill-advised policies. Let him take his dumb, nonsensical and undiplomatic policies elsewhere.  

The players are up in arms. They are contractually bound to remain silent or else all hell would have broken loose by now as the recommended pay structure has taken things back to what it was 20 years ago.

Having said all these, it must be mentioned that players did need a shake up. The conduct of some of them in recent years has been unbecoming of professional sportsmen. Take the two kilometer run for example, which they are supposed to run in eight minutes and 30 seconds. Look at how many of them fail this basic drill. Or the skin-fold test, which you can pass with bit of discipline in your food intake and social life. Someone who is as young as Avishka Fernando, who has got a huge future ahead of himself, failing a simple fitness tests is awful.

Then there are allegations of players teaming up with trainers and physiotherapists and submitting false fitness reports. No wonder the ICC has categorized Sri Lanka as the most corrupt nation in cricket. Rarely a month passes without us hearing Sri Lankan cricketers either being charged for drunk driving, knocking someone on the road or being involved in a fight (some fights are now fought in social media). The new contracts ensure that players get penalized substantially if their conduct is not up to the mark.

Discipline is a must in all walks of life. So whilst retaining aspects such as minimum fitness standards and conduct of players in public, the pay cut that has no rationale needs to be reviewed.


Bringing cricket’s glory days back



Rev. Br. Nimal Gurusinghe FSC

After several setbacks in cricket in recent years, the national cricket team is looking to regain past glories. I must congratulate the national selection panel headed by former fast bowler Pramodaya Wickramasinghe for some of the bold decisions they have taken over the past two months.

In the Caribbean, the selectors handed the first Test cap to Pathum Nissanka, who made a hundred on debut and then last week in the second Test against Bangladesh, the selectors blooded in Praveen Jayawickrama, who took 11 wickets for 178, a Sri Lankan record for a debutant. It is also the tenth best figures by a player on debut in the history of Test cricket.

There is no doubt that we have talent in the country and bold moves such as these throwing the players into the deep end will bring us desired results.

I would like to see continuity in selections and for this to happen the current lot of selectors need to serve for a longer period of time. Our present system where we change selectors every year simply doesn’t help.

One of the things that I would like to see is resource personal like psychologists being brought in to assist our players. The modern day game has changed so much and a psychologist will be able to help players meet modern day demands. I see that teams like Australia, England and South Africa make use of psychologists. Although we too have done so, there is no continuity in this vital aspect.

One of the modern trends that I have seen in Sri Lankan cricket is our tail is too long. We do not have many tail-enders who are able to contribute towards the team’s total. We need to emphasize a lot on the tail getting exposure during training sessions and as a result they will be able to contribute towards the team’s total.

I am also glad to see that the selectors emphasizing a lot on fielding these days. At the same time, I would like to see them giving equal importance to fielding. This vital area has been neglected so long and that is one reason why we do not do well at present in one-day cricket. Sri Lankan teams of the past were on par with teams like Australia and South Africa when it came to fielding. But not anymore.

When we stress the importance on fielding in selections, if players are able to take half chances and create run outs that is going to be so crucial in crunch games.

Another aspect that I would like to see improve is running between the wickets. I can not recall when the last time a Sri Lankan pair completed three runs was. Physical fitness is so vital for this to happen.

Another thing that I would like to see happening is our players doing well not just at home but overseas as well. We are yet to win Test matches in Australia and England although we have been a Test playing nation for 40 years now.

I wish Pramodaya and his team good luck and look forward to see them transforming Sri Lankan cricket. Pramodaya is a member of the World Cup winning team and he knows what is required to become a champion team.



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National badminton players dominate Summer Season Tournament in the hills



The hills were alive with the swish of rackets and smashing shuttles as the popular Summer Season Badminton Level I Championships came to a close last week. What was noteworthy was the performances of Sri Lanka’s top shuttlers who left no room for contention by winning all the plums of the scintillating competition. With Olympic prospect Niluka Karunaratne away on the international qualifying circuit and brother Dinuka domiciled in the UK on an advanced training program, the rest of the Elite Squad were equal to the task.

Ranthushka Karunatilake, for long in the shadows of his more renowned exponents came out fighting to get the better of the seasoned Buwaneka Gunetileke. The hunger Ranthushka displayed was plain to see for after giving up the first set, he clawed his way back to surprise the senior partner with a nerve wracking battle that went to the wire with a 21-19 score in the two following sets. Earlier, he partnered Buwaneka to clinch the men’s doubles with an overwhelming victory against evergreen contenders Clarence Homer and Hasitha Chanaka.

In the Women’s Open, Dilmi Dias had no major opposition clinching the women’s singles with ease against the up and coming Ranithma Liyanage before taking the women’s doubles with her partner, Kavindika de Silva. Young Ranithma just 13 years of age, though beaten in the final, is certainly making an emphatic statement in the sport. Badminton fans are sure to hear about her in the not-too-distant future.

Other top ranked players to impress were Rasindu Hendahewa and Viren Nettasinghe in the men’s category, while Panchali Adhikari and Madushika Dilrukshi were notable in the women’s category. Many others in the elite squad were not present due to on-going examinations, the likes of Lochana de Silva and Thulith de Silva and yesteryear champions Thilini Hendahewa and Kavidi Sirimanage. Sachin Dias and Hasini Ambalangoda are nursing injuries following the Nationals and are expected to return to the courts in the Southern Open, late May.

Watching their charges keenly were the National Coaches led by Pradeep Welagedera assisted by Yukthi Perera, Rajitha Dahanayake and Subash Chanaka, while Chairman of the National Pools, Palitha Hettiarachchi had a good look at the National Pool players, especially those in the Elite Squad who have undergone a very high-level training and conditioning over several months.

SLB President Rohan de Silva who is always seen among the Badminton Masters winning several medals both here and abroad was at hand to witness the performance of est players in the country and also give the Summer Season event a big boost by ensuring all arrangements were fully supported to achieve a very high level of organization amidst the stringent Covid 19 protocols.

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Bangladesh-Sri Lanka ODI series to be held in Dhaka



The upcoming three-match ODI series between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be held at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, the BCB has announced.

The matches, part of the ICC’s ODI Super League, will be held on May 23, 25 and 28, within a bio-bubble stretching between the team hotel and the ground.

Sri Lanka will arrive in Dhaka on May 16, shortly after the Eid ul Fitr weekend, and complete a three-day quarantine. Their first practice session will be on May 19 at the National Cricket Academy ground, adjacent to the stadium. The visitors will then play a practice match at the BKSP on May 21. At the conclusion of the ODI series on May 28, the Sri Lankan team will depart on the following day.

This will be Bangladesh’s third ODI series within the ICC’s World Cup qualifying campaign. They are currently in seventh place, having beaten the West Indies 3-0 at home in January, but lost to New Zealand 3-0 in March. Sri Lanka lost to West Indies 3-0 last month, are now in 9th place.

The two teams only last week played out their final World Test Championship series, which Sri Lanka won 1-0 after a 209-run win over Bangladesh in Pallekele.

Sri Lanka will become the second international team to arrive in Bangladesh since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The BCB successfully hosted West Indies in January-February this year, in a three-ODI and two-Test series in Dhaka and Chattogram.

This will however be a different situation, since Bangladesh are in the middle of a strong second wave of Covid-19 cases. The country has been under a lockdown since April 5. The international flight suspension ended on May 1, but the country’s lockdown has been extended till May 16.

Bangladesh will be without their fast-bowling coach Ottis Gibson, with the team opting to use a local coach instead. (ESPN Cricinfo)

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