Former Sri Lanka national cricket team manager Air Commodore Ajit Jayasekara has written an interesting letter detailing the acrimonious relationship between national players and cricket administrators.
Jayasekara was the national team manager from 2000 to 2004 before becoming the CEO of SLC in 2009 and serving the institution in various the capacities till this year including as the Head of Anti Corruption and Security Unit.
He had blamed the players for the differences between players and administrators, specifically naming former stars Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene while mentioning their fiery stand against the then SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga. Jayasekara had submitted this letter to the three member committee that conducted the inquiry on allegations of corruption in Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) from January 2012 to April 2015. Below is the relevant section of the report. “Mr Ajith Jayasekera, gave us a written statement which stated that the cause for the differences between the Players and Administrators, was the conduct by the Players. We reproduce below, an excerpt from Mr Ajth Jayasekera’s written statement, which though somewhat lengthy, brings to light the reality of the conflict between Officials and certain players, from a perspective of a cricket Administrator:”
“Prior to WC 2007, the players negotiated with the Board (SLC) and were offered 10% originally, later increased to 15% of the ICC event distribution and participation fees. By the time the 2011 World Cup was nearing, with the D.S. De Silva Interim Committee in office, the players sought and obtained a payment of 25% of the event distribution and participation fee. Not only was this concession assured to them verbally but they demanded and succeeded in getting this commitment included in the player contracts. When the annual player contracts came up for review the following year, the Interim Committee felt that this amount of payment was excessive considering the fact that the top 15 players were then earning nearly 70% of the gross annual income of SLC and decided to remove the said commitment from the contract until a negotiated amount was finalized.
The amount was then reduced to 15%, which did not go well with the players hut the administration stood by this decision they took. The Secretary being: the ‘face’ of the administration took the ‘flak’ from the players and their distrust and defiance turned to outright confrontation and disrespect.
From this moment, at every turn, the players agitated against the administration and turned their wrath on them. The administration stood firm but the seeds of confrontation had been sown. In 2010, when Sri Lanka played India at Dambulla, India were on the verge of winning the match with 1 run to get and Virendra Sehwag not out on 99. Suraj Randiv, a relatively new player was bowling and on the urging of senior player Dilshan, bowled a blatant no bali, which was promptly hit for 6, but did not count as the one run to win had been obtained when Randiv bowled the no ball. Sehwag was left stranded on 99 not out. The Administration felt that this act was against the spirit of the game and held a disciplinary inquiry and dealt punishments to Randiv and Dilshan and reprimanded Sangakkara, the Captain, for not retaining any control over his players and permitting them to indulge in such blatant unsportsmanlike behaviour. Sangakkara defiantly refused to accept this reprimand/censure and argued with the Secretary. He was told in no uncertain terms that the reprimand stood. Later, the late Mr Tony Greig met with the Chairman, Secretary and myself and told us that Sangakkara was more culpable for this offence and that he should be given a more severe punishment than the other two. We collectively rejected his suggestion and told him that we had already decided on and conveyed our punishments and that we were not going to change it.
Meanwhile, every year, when the contracts came up for renewal the players’ financial demands became more intense and it always came to a stand-off situation which was solved at the last moment, much to the dislike of the players, but with justification as far as the administration was concerned. –
Nishantha Ranatunga, the Secretary, thus became the target of their virulence and with fans and cricket followers baying for the blood of the administrators, these player woes were over amplified and became fodder for Slc-bashing which reached unreal proportions and we, as administrators felt hard done by.
Kumar Sangakkara’s Colin Cowdrey lecture at Lord’s was another case in point. The World applauded Sangakkara for a wonderful speech, for its content, clarity, diction and presentation. BUT, he was in the breach of his contract, when he criticised the SLC. His criticism lasted just over 2 minutes of his hour long speech, which he himself admitted later, but the entirety of the Sri Lankan people applauded him for just this criticism and not for its other content. Such was the anger directed towards the SLC administration. This anger and antagonism continued with each passing incident between the players and the Board. The final nail on the coffin was the retirement announcement by Jayawardcna and Sangakkara when they were in Bangladesh for the World Twenty20 in 2014. Yes, Jayawardena had only answered a question by a journalist when he replied in the affirmative when asked whether he was going to retire from T20’s after the tournament. The Administration felt that he was out of order talking to the press before informing the board. It could have been better if there was a clear dialogue between them and us, but such was the level of anger that both players went public and criticized the administration at a press conference on their arrival as World T20 Champions. There was no longer any trust or friendship between the players and the Board. It had completely broken down”
The three-member committee recommended that differences between players and administrators should be resolved quickly and also that national team player payments should be limited.
“We recommend that if there is still lack of trust and friendship between (any) Players and the Board, it would be best to iron out these differences through dialogue to create a better relationship and an understanding for the sake of Sn Lanka Cricket.
Though strictly not seen by us as an act of harassment Mr Nishantha Ranatunga speaking to us, drew our attention to the reduction of the player payment percentage from 25% to 15% with regard to ICC events by the then Interim Committee in 2011. Mr Ranatunga further contended that, the top brass of players’ earnings and maintenance costs attributed to nearly 70% of the gross annual income of SLC at that time. In other Test playing nations the top brass, of players are only allocated 25% of financial resources.
We would recommend that a system of keeping the player payments pegged to a percentage of the SLC revenue’ be-pursued subject to the sponsorship periods coinciding with the player contracts” stated the report. (Daily Mirror)