How to get Malinga to meet Arjuna in the middle

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PhotoOne of the challenges that SLC will have to overcome is to understand, accept and find a way to accommodate the modern-day Sri Lankan cricketer into their plans. Understanding the modern-day cricketer will not require a rocket scientist. However, what has made things complicated is the fact that the current Sri Lankan cricketer is often judged and critiqued by those who grew up and followed, or played the game, when ‘playing cricket for the country’ was an honour and not a job.

A question that is frequently asked today is if our cricketers really truly care about playing for their country. Many wonder if today’s cricketers play the game for the pure love of the sport and the joy of competition, or mainly for money. Given the amount of big money to be earned, and the fact that players make no secret of their desire to have a piece of that pie, it is easy to see why these questions are asked. However, we shouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusion that these players only want money. In my personal opinion, I believe these cricketers do care when they play for their country, they seem to take pride in being national players and are passionate about Sri Lankan cricket. I for one did not think that the emotions Mahela Jayawardene and the rest showed at the end of the last T20 in Australia, and during the altercation with some Australian players, were pretentious. I thought those were actions of a group of cricketers who took a lot of pride in playing for their country and seeing their country win.

To truly understand and appreciate the modern-day Sri Lankan cricketer, one has to look at them in today’s terms. They are professionals. They are no less passionate and committed to their jobs as we are to ours. Just like most of us, they too want to make the most money possible. Just like us, they too always look around for new and better opportunities both locally and abroad. Just like we do, they too want to cash in on ground-breaking trends that present a once in a life time opportunity. Why then do we point a finger at cricketers who are no different from us when it comes to their passion and commitment to their jobs and love for more money?

Critics of professional Sri Lankan cricketers are not simply people who are jealous or cannot comprehend reality. They do indeed raise valid questions. Most of us who work for a living don’t represent our country and enjoy the recognition and honour that comes with it. Cricketers, unlike any other professional who comes through the local system by using local resources, do gain an unparalleled advantage from playing for the country. This is true especially for Sri Lankan cricketers, where the standard of domestic cricket gets little respect from franchise recruits to warrant any consideration of domestic players with no international exposure. Sanath Jayasuriya, Lasith Malinga, Kumar Sangakara and Jayawardene would never have been millionaires had they not played for Sri Lanka. Take, for example, some of the domestic cricket stars like Indika de Saram and Jeevantha Kulatunga who never established themselves as international cricketers. Without the international exposure, they never got the attention of professional teams and the money that comes with professional contracts. It is true that the exceptional skills of cricketers are what brought them their fortunes, but it is Sri Lanka that opened the door for them. There is no denying that Sri Lankan cricketers owe a huge debt of gratitude to the country, and I believe that it goes beyond just a moral obligation.

Those in support of cricketers playing in professional leagues to supplement their SLC income do also make valid points in favour of their position. It is true that contracted players already are paid a handsome salary, not to mention match fees. Their combined income from contract fees and match fees are well in excess of what the average doctor makes anywhere in the world. However, it is also true that their careers are significantly shorter, usually around 15 years, compared to around 40 years for most other professionals. It is also true that unlike other professionals who choose between many employers, Sri Lankan cricketers, who commit to their country alone, depend solely on SLC as the only employer to pay them their fair market value. It is also true that unlike other high paying professionals, a cricketer’s “form”, or ability to maintain their marketability, has many fluctuations. For example, the chances of a doctor, lawyer or an engineer losing their job due to loss or fluctuations of skills (such as a cricketer going out of form) and possibly never regaining those skills, or the ability to consistently maintain their income potential throughout their career, is almost non-existent. Cricketers, on the other hand, are always at risk of possibly losing their income potential for good after just one bad series or even a match for that matter. To add to the risks of uncertain careers, Sri Lankan players do not have any formal guarantee (i.e. pension or a retirement allowance) from SLC for financial support in case their careers are short-lived and they suffer from financial trouble later in their lives. When one considers all of these factors, it is easy to understand the sense of urgency in a cricketer, starting with the 19-year-old to the 40-year-old, to capitalise on today’s opportunities that may not present themselves tomorrow.

While there are enough reasons to sympathise with the players, it is also very important to remind the players that they would never have gotten as far as having to make a financial compromise for the betterment of their country, if not for their country having given them the facilities, guidance, opportunity and exposure. While acknowledging that there should be consideration given to players' desire to make hay while the sun shines, there should be no confusion as to what the most important priority of SLC is — to serve in the best interest of SLC. At least as of today, it should be to ensure that all formats of the game are represented by the best players and that SLC continues to place the highest emphasis on being the best in all formats of the game. It is understandable if SLC does place lesser importance to a particular format, say Tests for example, if that is the direction that the sport in general is heading and is guided by the ICC as well. However, if SLC ever starts placing a lesser emphasis on Test cricket simply to accommodate the players or for non-cricket reasons, then that is when SLC should rather cease to exist.

In order to get the best out of the best cricketers, SLC should pave a middle ground that both SLC and the players can walk without conflict. A path that would help bring the Malingas and Arjunas together. And the avenue for that should be SLC player contracts. However, SLC will have to get a lot of help from the ICC, if we are to see Lasith Malinga and Arjuna Ranatunga sitting on the same side, if ever possible.

Following are some thoughts of potential contract clauses that could help bridge the gap between the Malingas and the Arjunas:

1. Reasonable opportunity (NOC) is afforded to contracted players to participate in SLC approved professional cricket leagues in such a way that does not compromise the best interest of Sri Lanka cricket.

This should mean that players are clearly aware that SLC will in no way compromise on the opportunities to play international cricket in order to let players participate in professional leagues, but that SLC will, whenever possible and deemed not to be in conflict with priorities of SLC, provide players NOC to participate in professional leagues. Under such guidelines, SLC would not cancel Test cricket to allow players a window to participate in the IPL uninterrupted.

Regrettably, what I think will happen is that SLC will, for cricket-related financial and more so for political reasons, give into pressure from Indian government and make all attempts to stay away from scheduling international cricket during the IPL season. If that is to be the case, then it is a matter that is outside of cricket and is not within the scope of this discussion. Sadly, due to its proximity to and dependency on India on many levels outside of cricket, Sri Lankan government and SLC are under far more obligation and at the mercy of India than any other cricket playing country. It is easy for us purely from a cricketing point of view to say: ‘stop acting like South India and stand up’, but I believe the matter is much more complex than that. Eventually, it will have to be the ICC, if they ever get the strength and courage, to step in and bail out world cricket, especially helpless nations like Sri Lanka, from India’s monopoly and abuse. This conflict of professional cricket versus country would be made easier to solve if the ICC does their job and addresses issues and risks associated with all of these professional leagues that are coming up. I am in favour of there being one, or may be just two, ICC recognised (therefore given a window) professional leagues, played in different countries each year, that allows players to make that extra money as well as member countries/boards to share profits in a manner that eliminates the need for each country to have their own league and cause disruption to world cricket. There again I see India’s monopoly dictating terms, and India not wanting to share their advantage with others. This again is a topic for a different blog post.

2. An increased percentage of player earnings from professional leagues should go to SLC.

One way to increase the current percentage is by making sure that there is a certification/licensing processes for player agents that restrict their commission earnings from player-salaries from professional leagues.

3. All players who take part in SLC events, at least the premier division one and two tournaments, should be contractually obligated to a set of rules, regulations and a code of conduct that ensures their commitment and loyalty to SLC

4. Strict consequences to those players who refuse to sign SLC contracts.

I suggest at least a three-year ban on any player who refuses a SLC contract before they are eligible to, among other things;

a) Play in any premier league, provincial or professional events organised by SLC.
b) Use any SLC facilities or resources.

5. Strict requirements for becoming eligible for reconsideration of a SLC contract.

After serving a ban, the player should be required to play in a certain percentage of specified domestic cricket events in order to obtain eligibility for future SLC contracts and represent Sri Lanka again.

6. Exceptions clearly defined and always subject to SLC’s evaluation.

We need to recognise that there will always be extraordinary circumstances, such as a legitimate injury preventing a player from playing Tests, and such exceptions should only be made based on SLC’s evaluation.

7. No option for players to pick only certain formats unless SLC exempts the player from this requirement.

Comments

Theekshana Somaratna's picture
Member since:
14 April 2012
Last activity:
1 year 30 weeks

Very good stuff buddy. take a bow. :)

MyTwoCents's picture
Member since:
25 January 2013
Last activity:
1 day 21 hours

Hey Theekshana - Thanks...I am just doing my best to try and learn from you man :) .....
To add to your points per you previous post on Akila, I do honestly believe that SLC contracts should also include language to monitor the development of younger players whom SLC had invested a lot in and perhaps state that "players under the age of X or who have only played X number of matches will be subject to certain guidelines with respect to NOC for them"...

CoverDrive's picture
Member since:
17 December 2011
Last activity:
21 sec

Good article, last year when England toured SL, the three test series was reduced to two for ugly reasons, SLC should take responsibility for that and should avoid in future.

Lanka1's picture
Member since:
23 February 2013
Last activity:
1 year 39 weeks

Dear MyTwoCents,

In a revolutionized world where cultures have taken different approaches and strides, your approach to bringing about awareness of bridging the gaps of yester years to today in Cricket culture in Sri Lanka is commendable. Many of us see Cricket only in two dimensional entertainment aspect. Your Two Cents bring about the third dimension for all of us to see things in a much different perspective. I do appreciate your contribution in this regard. I saw only the two team players, officials as one dimension and the spectators in a particular sporting venue as the second dimension. You have shown us the selectors, SLC and the internal politics as the third dimension that has been vital to the sport as it has taken a new culture. Many thanks and much success is wished for your wisdom in this area. Thank you and I take my hat off to you sir!

UppercuT's picture
Member since:
19 October 2011
Last activity:
21 hours 45 min

Great examples(of De Seram and Kulatunga) on how representing the country helps the players to get their rep up!
Good suggestions, but SLC and players wud always find a loophole yeh?

For example if SLC reduces the 3 match test series to 2 matches, they can argue, oh look we actualy have enough time between tours to let our players to participate in IPL. It will be hard to argue for fans like us and prove that the '3rd test' was canceled in order to 'accomadate' IPL. So technically they are not violating the contract, but obliging a mere 'coincidence'.

Other thing is who decide upon the 'excemptions'? Are we gonna take into account medical reports of a random specialist? Or SLC appointed Medical panel?

Am not suggesting for a moment that, players shouldn't get the value for their talents, they really should, but they really shud have the chance for themselves to get their priorities in order WITH a given set of concequences.

The abv suggestions will be of great help(if they r implemented) to 'arrest the current slide' in short term, but in long term we really should look to build the players' 'mind-set' in a way that they look at things on a level-head rather than leaning towards either Malingas or Arjunas :)

MyTwoCents's picture
Member since:
25 January 2013
Last activity:
1 day 21 hours

Thanks for your comments Lanka1.
Uppercut_7 - Of course the excemptions should be made based on SLC appointed experts. For example, it might just be that Dr Eliyantha White grabbing the players by their balls and kicking them in their tummy to see if they are fit for a 5 day match :)

UppercuT's picture
Member since:
19 October 2011
Last activity:
21 hours 45 min

:D))))))))) Dr. White!!! Watever happened to that guy?? Hopefully nowhere near the SL TEAM anymore!

(Last edited by UppercuT on February 23, 2013 - 15:35)
Theekshana Somaratna's picture
Member since:
14 April 2012
Last activity:
1 year 30 weeks

@mytwocents : you should now term your blog "my two dollars" :) i like the balance you try to achieve which is not always easy for me. btw i have been fortunate to have good editing. and i am going to pick on your method of linking to other related articles.

one differing point of view that i have is the synthesis you suggest of the GOSL - GOI relationship and BCCI - SLC relationship (thats my reading). i blv that GOI wd care whether they get Sampur not whether we play in IPL. true in both relationships we are dependent on them (one due to intl pressure and proximity, one due to money) but i would suggest the two relationships are not significantly interlinked.

MyTwoCents's picture
Member since:
25 January 2013
Last activity:
1 day 21 hours

Good point Theekshana...perhaps the two does not have to be linked...

Maithri89's picture
Member since:
30 May 2009
Last activity:
44 weeks 1 day

Great post.

But I fear that because of the financial situation, SLC will much rather jump into bed with the BCCI than upset them.

As for the Malinga v Arjuna debate, I don't think many players will be on either extremes. Lasith plays T20s around the world primarily because his knees can't hack Test cricket. If he were still a Test player I wonder whether he would make the same decisions? I'd like to think not, but we just don't know.

And Arjuna is a hardline traditionalist and I think there is a lot to be said for his stance, but like you mentioned you cannot deny a player his opportunity to earn more money.

Like Uppercut eluded to, the solution might be somewhere in between.

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