Rangana Herath took 200 Test wickets between the age of 35 and 40
Attorney-at-Law Nishan Premathiratne
Q: Do the players feel that the new performance-based contracts offered to them are unfair and that a proper assessment of each player has not been done?
Well, it is premature to comment on this as the player evaluations have not been released. But on the categorisation of players already disclosed, and also considering that certain players have not been awarded contracts (from last year), there is uncertainty and question marks among the players as to how such categorisation transpired.
The best way forward is to consider the player evaluations and the awarding of points under the five categories. But it must be said that the players in principle have no objection to a performance-based model. It is also noteworthy that even in the previous years, the player categorisation was actually effected on performance, for the simple reason that certain players who had not done well, had been given contracts with reduced annual contract sums.
Such player names I do not wish to disclose, but it was exclusively owing to the player not performing as expected. In such instances, the affected player also accepted it as he too felt it, and it was apparent to everyone that he had not done well. So yes, performance was an integral part of the contracts even in the previous years is my thinking.
Also, in last year’s contract, there is also a clause to which the players had agreed, where during the tenure of the contract, if Sri Lanka’s ICC ranking had dropped in a format, when compared with the standing at the commencement of the contract, a proportion from the contract fee which was to be paid to the player was to be deducted.
Depending on the drop in the number of slots in respect of the ranking, the percentages of reduction varied. This was to work vice versa as per the last contract, where if the ICC ranking of Sri Lanka was to increase at the end of the contract tenure, there would be a percentage increase in the contract fee being paid to each player.
So, this is also performance based as to my understanding. I am informed that owing to this clause players had reductions effected in their agreed contract fee owing to the dip in Sri Lanka’s ICC rankings during the last tenure. So, the players too had to bite the bullet and it can’t be said that players were not aggrieved by Sri Lanka going down in the ranks in the respective formats.
The players however voluntarily agreed to such reduction in the last contract. Such clauses were implemented reducing their contract payments to which the players had no issue at the point of negotiations which transpired in respect of the previous contract.
Q: Do you think the previous system of offering contracts is a fair assessment of the players’ performance and if that was persisted with this impasse between the players and SLC could have been avoided?
Well, to my understanding, the previous system as stated earlier was purely based on performance. Fitness was not an integral part when considering a contract. This time around, fitness has also been considered and emphasis has been given when awarding a contract. The players are fully agreeable and have no objection to fitness and they whole-heartedly believe in the importance of such emphasis.
Players actually insisted in a clause to be included, where the discretion being given to selectors to select a player, even in the event of not satisfying the fitness requirement, to be omitted. In addition, for a clause to be also included that it in fact such would not be done by SLC. Undoubtedly the modern-day sportsman is required to be fit.
Cricket has evolved and it is not the same cricket that is played probably in the late 90s or early 2000s. Even a runner is prohibited even in the event a player is injured on field. So, fitness being allotted 20% of the total contract assessment is good. Players have wholeheartedly agreed to this, and even to the clause where in the event a player fails two continuous fitness tests, for a quantum of the contract fee to be deducted.
In the event of three consecutive failures, players in principle have agreed to give SLC the right to terminate the contract. Fitness tests are to also be done every 60 days, hence the players would be under continuous scrutiny, which the players agree too in principle. These are all new elements which the players accept.
Whether strict fitness requirements would actually curtail players closing the age of 40 from being selected, even though they might be competent to deliver in a match purely on skill, is a different matter. I am not a cricketing expert or fitness expert to comment on such. But as my personal opinion, it is a noteworthy fact that so many of our stalwarts and legends globally have reached or even maintained their prime at the twilight of their career.
Arguably, the best left-arm spinner in the world, Rangana Herath has got 200 Test wickets between the age of 35 and 40. Not that I am saying for a minute that these greats were not fit, but whether rigorous fitness tests would have come in their way in delivering for the country is a different matter. However, performance and fitness can be clearly ascertained or assessed on facts and figures.
The other three categories are very subjective, requiring guidelines or criteria to be given beforehand for the players to be aware, as to how professionalism, future potential and adaptability and leadership are to be assessed.
So, answering your question, owing to the importance of fitness being highlighted, and thus only on such distinction, I would say the present model is seemingly better. A model which is exclusively based on fitness and performance would actually be overall full proof. But let the players await the evaluations.
The third part of this article will be continued tomorrow.