An annual pay dispute which has been a common occurrence among Sri Lankan cricketers and their masters in recent years ended in yet another stalemate behind closed doors and as usual the local media was blamed and made a convenient scapegoat over charges of misreporting the revolt.
It marked a culmination where Sri Lankan cricketers, no longer the patriotic boys of international cricket or its poor cousins, decided to stake their claims as professionals in an establishment tainted with corruption and nepotism.
But neither the cricketer nor the administrator will be able to hide the fact that playing for money has now been encouraged more than ever with incentives and bonuses offered for individual wins and performances.
Former player and World Cup champion captain Arjuna Ranatunga, a lone but influential public voice against contentious issues in cricket, slammed officials for what he contends is a mix-up in priorities not realizing their slip was showing.
“Offering money to win a match, that’s highly inappropriate,” blurted Ranatunga. “This means that winning is about money and not the country.”
His outrage comes in the aftermath of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the sport’s governing body, cutting down on the regular or annual contract payments for players but offering the team big rewards for winning matches.
Sri Lankan cricketers prefer to keep their earnings under wraps for fear of losing their adored status among followers in the country who see them as role models and heroes for a land that has very little to boast of to the outside world.
But after it was reported that players had demanded ten per cent of the income that SLC gets from the International Cricket Council (ICC) for pitting them in global tournaments, they could have a hard time coming to grips with hardcore patriots like Ranatunga who see them as undermining their own jealously-guarded images.
“You win a World Cup or Asia Cup, you receive incentives (money) and that’s understandable. But when you appear in an international event, you are doing that as ambassadors for your country and not to demand appearance fees,” said Ranatunga.
From March 1, 2015 to April 30 this year, Sri Lanka Cricket paid out as much as Rs.695 million to 16 players, meaning the highest-ranked cricketer had a whopping Rs.95 million, the second level player Rs.65 million and the lowest category from Rs. 46 to Rs 7 million.
Ranatunga said it was a paradox that players have to imply that they sacrifice so much including family life to represent the country and then demand more by way of financial incomes.
Interestingly, Sri Lankan players are the most pampered among sportsmen in the country and at one stage received 25 per cent of the income paid by the ICC to Sri Lanka Cricket for merely appearing in global events until 2014 when it was chopped down to 10 per cent.
Although the players revolted last week, they eventually signed their contracts with very little or no negotiating clout against a powerful protagonist in Thilanga Sumathipala who heads the current SLC administration.
But Ranatunga still has more reason not to see eye to eye with Sumathipala whom he brands as a “businessmen running cricket” who has abolished the appearance fee but yet encourages the players to bat and bowl for money as individuals in the name of Sri Lanka.
“I too played for my country but I never had an issue like it is today. This is not the right attitude,” said Ranatunga.