IPL or Sri Lanka - what should come first?

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Graeme LabrooyNever before has a league or format divided opinions in Sri Lanka as much as the IPL and T20 cricket have. Even though for years players have retired from international cricket well before their time to play county cricket, retiring early to play T20s is blasphemy to some. Why?

The critics of the IPL and T20s - the Arjuna Ranatunga camp - are extremely annoyed that during the IPL season Sri Lanka's international and domestic calendar is on hold, players like Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga have chosen to retire from Test and ODI cricket early to play in the IPL and in 2009 a last-minute tour to England was cancelled after Sri Lankan players protested that it was conflicting with the IPL.

There are people all around us who hate change - Ranatunga is one of them. When ODI cricket was first introduced and Ranatunga embraced it, there were old-timers in those days who claimed ODIs and day/night cricket would be the death of Test cricket. It was not. Only to the eternal pessimist does it seem like Test cricket is threatened, others view T20 cricket as a gateway to entice more new fans to Test matches.

The IPL has polarised even journalist in Sri Lanka, with Ranatunga's help of course. The Island's Rex Clementine, who regularly quotes Ranatunga and shares Ranatunga's view on the IPL, has not been shy to criticise and attack players taking part in the IPL and their agents. Perhaps due to Clementine's dislike of the IPL, The Island newspaper does not even carry scores of IPL matches.

Ranatunga has also used Clementine like a pawn in his game to attack the representatives of the Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association (SLCA) - the blokes who look out for the rights of our cricketers - because the SLCA was in the forefront, when Ranatunga was chairman of the cricket board in 2008, presenting the players' case to the media, cricket board and public.

Back then, without much consideration Ranatunga had agreed to help out the England cricket board by sending Sri Lanka to replace Zimbabwe. The English wanted Zimbabwe's tour there in 2009 cancelled because Robert Mugabe was re-elected in a sham election. The players were naturally upset that they would no longer be able to make the big bucks at the IPL.

Whether you agree with the players' stance or not, one thing was clear - Sri Lanka could not afford to upset India with whom they shared cordial ties with and depended on greatly financially. No other tour brings as much revenue for the Sri Lankan board like an Indian tour to Sri Lanka does and it's no secret that Sri Lanka needs India's financial support just to stay afloat.

When he was chairman Ranatunga was still keen on attacking India's T20 tournament in the media, which understandably upset the Indians and prompted a meeting between India and Sri Lankan sports ministry officials in Thailand in 2008. India agreed to pay a fee annually to Sri Lanka in order to release the players and the Sri Lankan cricket board benefits every year from their IPL players' earnings to the tune of almost half a million dollars.

As the head of the cricket board, Ranatunga was more preoccupied with preserving his reputation as fearless and outspoken than being a diplomatic leader of the cricket board. In 2009, India was just into the second season of their new tournament and as far as they were concerned not having Sri Lankan players present was not ideal. It was in fact England who had refused to cooperate and allow Sri Lanka to send a side minus its IPL players. But India's cricket board, Sri Lankan IPL players and those who protect players' rights have borne the brunt of the critiscm for the cancellation of the tour.

"FICA believes that a player has the right to choose where he plays and for whom he plays - the days of 'playing for your country' as the only way you could earn a professional living as a cricketer are well and truly behind us," the chief executive of the Federation of International Players' Associations (FICA) Tim May told ESPNCricinfo recently.

"International cricket needs to realise that there is a competitor to their ability to contract players, and to ensure they react appropriately and progressively to these new market forces. The imposition of unenforceable regulations (such as No Objection Clauses) is obviously not the answer.

"International cricket bodies need to make international cricket attractive to players. These measures should include smarter programming of matches, addressing the volume-of-cricket issues, offering fair terms and conditions in contracts, meeting their agreed contractual obligations and embracing player input."

Instead of authoritarianism and attacking people like Graeme Labrooy, whose job as the SLCA secretary back in 2008 was to ensure players' rights and interests were looked after, Ranatunga and his cohorts should focus on improving the earnings and well-being of Sri Lankan players so they can easily turn down overseas offers to play for Sri Lanka.

So, what should come first - is it IPL or Sri Lanka? Neither. The players should come first. After years of playing for next to nothing, it's time we focused on the best interests of these incredibly skilled athletes.

© Island Cricket

Comments

Marcian's picture
Member since:
8 December 2010
Last activity:
4 weeks 3 days

Damith, what will happen when Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan retire within the next year or two. No Test tours for SL because cant market the team? c'mon, mate!

Even with limited opportunities to play Test cricket within the IPL time frame, that option should be available. IPL cant dictate the international calendar for 7-long weeks - its insane. True, IPL is here to stay but it must not be priority for our cricketers!

There's obviously two schools of thought with regard to IPL. Lets leave it that, Damith! Good debate, though.

By the way, I do enjoy your podcast even though time does not permit me to comment as often. I think its very refreshing, so keep it up!

(Last edited by Marcian on May 4, 2012 - 01:18)
Damith Samarakoon's picture
Member since:
26 December 2008
Last activity:
15 weeks 3 days

Well I think that point is moot because naturally players will come into the side and become stars like Chandimal over a period of time. I don't think 7 weeks out of the Calander will stop that process?

Yea, no point boiling blood over this. Can't wait for the Pak and NZ tours.

Hey glad to know you're listening mate! We've got a couple of good guests lined up so keep an ear out for them!

Hilal's picture
Member since:
20 November 2008
Last activity:
40 min 58 sec

I think a lot of people who have been critical of this piece have somewhat missed the point.

The last two paragraphs, even if you disagree with the rest, is the crux of this piece.

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"Instead of authoritarianism and attacking people like Graeme Labrooy, whose job as the SLCA secretary back in 2008 was to ensure players' rights and interests were looked after, Ranatunga and his cohorts should focus on improving the earnings and well-being of Sri Lankan players so they can easily turn down overseas offers to play for Sri Lanka.

So, what should come first - is it IPL or Sri Lanka? Neither. The players should come first. After years of playing for next to nothing, it's time we focused on the best interests of these incredibly skilled athletes."

------

The players went a year without seeing any money from the board. This includes all our contracted club and provincial players. Even the clubs were paid money late. Under these circumstances, I wont hold it against any player wanting to play in a league that actually pays them as opposed to playing for SLC.

I wonder how many people who blame players for prioritising their earnings will give up their jobs to work for the Sri Lankan government for less than 20% of their current salary.

We should be blaming SLC and SLC administrators for being dependent on India and unable to match the salaries of England and Australia, not the players for wanting to play in the IPL.

Vasula's picture

Arjuna is a master manipulator and a failed politician. He is not an authority on anything.

Dasun's picture

@vasula: then who lead us for wc victory

Theekshana Somaratna's picture
Member since:
14 April 2012
Last activity:
1 year 34 weeks

I did not really appreciate the piece since it seems to be a hatchet job lacking a balanced approach... a writer should be able to refute Clementine and his ilk without stooping to their level.. but thats my personal opinion
There are a lot of ppl who are not in ARs camp but who dislike the impact IPL has had on SL cricket.
As a SL fan, for me, SL cricket comes first and the SL team is far more important than any individual player. IPL is an irritant whos scores I sneakliy check coz SL team is in limbo during that time and just to see how the SL chaps are doing or sometimes not doing. I have an emotional attachement to SL cricket which I do not think I will ever have for a club side.
BOTH SLC and some players are responsible for the issues we have. We should be able to criticise both. Incompetence of one does not whitewash the mistakes of the other.
International cricket is a zero sum game (I want us to win WC etc) ; we cannot give a strategic advantage to India, Aust or Eng and suceed. Talking of things as thats India, Aust or Eng is a defeatist mentality ; we have to counteract and find ways for us to come on top. Kowtowing to BCCI will get us only the second best place as the most optimistic outcome. Please note that they are just using us and we should not have any illusions there. SLC should have an organisational belief that we are second to none.
Again that does not mean i am in ARs camp or I hate player A or B. I have been dissapointed and saddened but i dont think any SL player has done anything extreme as such to be hated. However I must admit that I think AR would do a much better job than any other SLC chief we had recently.

Anonymous's picture

This is the same Arjuna Ranatunga who boycotted national duty (Sharjah tournament) because officials didnt give him what he wanted??

Because of Arjuna our Mahanama, Gurusinghe and Whatmore also quit!

Arjuna = walking disaster!

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
2 days 23 hours

Guess I am a bit late on this debate but a job well done to you guys - this is what is called an intelligent debate. If I had to pick a side I agree more with Damith and Hilal than others.

Expecting the players to blindly put Country before self is a bit like expecting the officers to go to war with no army. In normal circumstances (AKA: ECB, CA) this wouldnt even be a choice as was seen by the Australian players arriving late and English players leaving early. But in SL's situation the players are forced to fend for themselves, which they did.

The other important reality is the position and power of the BCCI and the dire straits SLC are in. Like it or not the BCCI is the only way out for SLC.

The call of the day is for a compromise that accomodates the IPL. This will ensure the best outcomes for the players, the BCCI and safeguard SLC in the BCCI's eyes.

Theekshana Somaratna's picture
Member since:
14 April 2012
Last activity:
1 year 34 weeks

Stormy ; do you think BCCI in their munificence would allow poor SL to build the no. 1 team in the world while being under their thumb?
and when you talk about players fending for themseleves i think you are referring to the delated player salaries ;please note this issue predates that.

(Last edited by Theekshana Somaratna on May 13, 2012 - 13:05)
Observer's picture

Simply just take Angelo Mathews's bowling stats... SL vs IPL.

For SL,
He has played 23 Tests and bowled 157 Overs. (~3 overs per innings) over a period of nearly 3 years. (average of 1 match in 1.5 months)

Played 71 ODIs and bowled 301 overs (~4 overs a match) over a period of 3.5 years. (average of 1 match in 0.5 months)

For IPL,
He has played 9 matches and bowled 26 Overs (~3 overs per match) in 4 weeks time. (average of 1 match in 3 days time)

Based on the stats and his capability, i guess he can bowl more frequently in SL context.

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