Lankan cricketers to stay till May 18
Colombo/New Delhi: A major standoff between the powerful BCCI and Sri Lanka Cricket was today averted with the island nation extending the deadline for its players` return from the IPL till May 18, a compromise which put an end to the uncertainty over their availability.
Under pressure from the BCCI to extend the original May 5 deadline, SLC relented after a meeting with country`s Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and allowed its star players to participate in cash-rich event for 13 more days.
Sources said according to the revised schedule, the players will now participate in the IPL till May 18 and leave from Mumbai for their tour of England after that.
The series against England starts May 14 with a practice match against Middlesex, followed by another warm-up game against England Lions on May 19.
The first Test of the three Tests is scheduled to begin in Cardiff from May 26 which means that those players staying back for IPL would just have about a week to prepare for the series.
The indications of a compromise came earlier in the day when Aluthgamage said that the players might be allowed to stay beyond the original May 5 deadline.
"I have received several e-mails from the BCCI and I will meet the selection committee and the SLC officials to discuss the matter. We might extend the May 5 deadline," Aluthgamage said.
"The players have to leave for England on May 10 and we might consider postponing that too. We don`t want to embarrass the BCCI, we have good relations with India and we want to maintain this. We are trying to work out new dates for the players," he added.
Eleven Sri Lankan players, including Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene who are captaining their respective franchises, are currently in action in the cash-rich IPL. Their early return would have had an adverse impact on their respective teams` combinations as the franchises were under the impression that the players would be available till May 21.
There is speculation that Sri Lanka`s climbdown came after the BCCI gave them a deadline to sort out the issue and even threatened to withhold the 10 per cent cut from the players` fee which the SLC was due to get after the IPL.
The SLC stands to earn approximately Rs two crore from the Rs 21 crore that the participating players would pocket from the event. The controversy began after the Sri Lankan government asked the SLC to direct all its cricketers playing in the IPL
to return home by May 5.
It got murkier after the government and the SLC rejected the BCCI`s request to allow its star cricketers to play in the lucrative Twenty20 tournament till May 15.
Speculation was that the Lankan government`s move was in retaliation to the treatment meted out to Sri Lankan minister who had accompanied President Mahinda Rajapakse during the World Cup final in Mumbai on April 2.
The Ministers were reportedly peeved that they were not allowed sit at the same enclosure and some of them had to buy their own tickets.
"I know that we had some problems with BCCI because we made request for more tickets (in the World Cup final in Mumbai) because a few cabinet ministers had come. They did not give it.”
"But that is a totally different matter. That is about protocol and the current issue is about cricket. Protocol and cricket are totally different matters," Aluthgamage clarified.
The Sri Lankan Board`s decision to call back its players by May 5 had created a furore in India as the IPL franchises put pressure on the BCCI to extend their stay.
The Sri Lankan players were repeatedly asked about these developments at their routine post and pre-match press conferences.
Retired spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan had slammed the SLC for asking the players to return midway through the IPL, claiming that the No Objection Certificate had permitted them to play to till May 20.
"I think the board (SLC) has given them permission till May 20. I don`t know what happened suddenly. The players were told to come on May 5. It is the fault of SLC because they signed the NOC till May 20 so if they change it to May 5 it is something wrong," Muralitharan, who quit international cricket after Sri Lanka`s defeat to India in the World Cup final early this month, said.
"Players will get demoralised because if they go back on May 5 they play half of the IPL and they are going to miss a lot. SLC should have informed the players earlier, then the IPL franchises would understand and everyone would understand," he added.
Two Sri Lankans -- Sangakkara (Deccan Chargers) and Jayawardene (Kochi Tuskers Kerela) -- are captaining their IPL franchises and their premature exit would mean their teams would have to find new skippers.
Apart from these two, Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has now been named Sri Lanka`s captain, Lasith Malinga, Suraj Randiv, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep and Dilhara Fernando are among the other Sri Lankans in action in the IPL.