Sri Lanka’s limited-overs tour of England, due to start later this month, has been thrown into doubt after an escalation in the dispute between Sri Lanka Cricket and the players.
All 24 members of the squad announced on Friday are among the 36 signatories of a statement released on Saturday which explains their refusal to sign new central contracts.
The deadline set by SLC for the contracts to be signed passed on Thursday, and with no resolution there are likely to be temporary contracts put in place to cover the tour, a device which has been used since the previous central contracts expired last October.
There is little time for significant negotiation, with the squad due to depart in the early hours of Wednesday morning, though the players stated that their “first priority is to play for our country” and that they would continue to do so “even if Sri Lanka Cricket refuse to pay us at all”.
Contracts have been offered to 24 players, down from the 30 who previously had deals. In addition to improving their own pay and conditions, the 24 want more of their colleagues to be retained.
“Because of problems with the transparency of the ratings system devised by SLC, the players will not sign,” the statement said. “In addition, the players have decided they will not sign the contracts until players who have performed well in past years are looked after fairly.”
The proposed contracts implement a new pay structure, with players categorised not only according to their performances but also criteria such as leadership and professionalism. They feature increased bonuses, particularly for winning series, but impose significant pay cuts on many players.
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SLC says the new arrangements are intended to incentivise good performances, with the team having won just one of their last eight series in all formats, but they have been denounced by the players’ lawyer for being “unfair and opaque”.
Aravinda de Silva, the former Sri Lanka captain who now works at SLC and helped to create the proposed new pay structure, said last week that players “should get into the middle and play positive cricket and start winning games for the country rather than complaining.”
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