Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) were spared the ignominy of having to potentially pull out of the tour of England this month, after the players in the squad for the limited over series today agreed to sign declaration letters ahead of their scheduled departure.
On Saturday, the players, in a letter through their legal representative, said they would not sign tour contracts as their demands for more transparency on the grading system in the central contracts had not yet been met.
All 24 cricketers who were offered central contracts last month have refused to sign, with several seniors seeing their annual fees slashed based on a new criteria which has since been questioned by the players.
Another 14 cricketers joined the list of those rejecting the central and tour contracts, signing the letter sent to SLC on Saturday.
The declaration letters that were signed today cover chiefly commitments to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Anti-Corruption regulations, along with compliances for the tour, and agreements to wear playing and training kits bearing team sponsor branding.
“There were some discrepancies highlighted by the players and we are open to discussing it with them when they return from the tour,” SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva told the Daily Mirror.
“They were refusing to sign the tour contracts as well, but they will be compensated for the tour in line with the terms of the tour contract.”
It was reported today that the impasse had led to a heated discussion between the cricketers and administrators, with the players being threatened with a three-year suspension if they did not agree to sign the required documents to go ahead with the tour.
It is understood that SLC had also floated the idea of sending a second-string team for the tour, short of pulling out altogether, and the players were given till 3 p.m. today to decide, opting to sign letters of declaration.
Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa said that he was disappointed that an agreement over the player contracts had not been reached, saying that compensation should not be the motivation when representing the country.
“Disappointed that #SLC players & @OfficialSLC haven’t succeeded in reaching consensus on new player contracts. Motivating our players through competitive compensation is important but should not be the deciding factor to represent country. Players should always put #countryfirst,” Rajapaksa tweeted today.
However, the contention among the national cricketers is less about compensation and more about the lack of transparency in how they have been graded, with some criteria more subjective than others.
The players have been graded on an overall scoring and ranking system under five categories – Performance, Fitness, Leadership, Professionalism and Future Potential and Adaptability – carrying between 10 to 50 points each.
Some of these categories, the players have argued, are based on subjective assessment which they want removed with a focus on performance and performance only, or for the details of the assessment made known to them.