Tillakaratne Dilshan's IPL induced dilemma

By Andrew Fernando | May 4, 2011

TM Dilshan
Sri Lanka's new skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan wanted to leave the IPL early to prepare with his squad for the tour of England, but a deal between SLC and the BCCI allowed him more time at the IPL and less for Sri Lanka. AFP PHOTO/Ishara S.KODIKARA.

Tillakeratne Dilshan has made all the right moves since becoming captain. He’s set off on amicable terms with the board (or at least appeared to do so), embraced his new position without reservation, stashed away the earrings, and no longer looks like he shaves himself with a bear trap. The bad boy of Sri Lankan cricket appears to have shed the naughty persona and emerged with a sudden air of responsibility. At the rate he’s turned it around, he’s probably heading towards monkhood by the end of the month.

Best of all though, Dilshan has expressed fervently, and unrelentingly, his desire to put national commitments above all else. His eagerness to leave the IPL to fit in as many first-class games as possible before the England tour has shone in contrast to Lasith Malinga’s (albeit understandable) decision to do the opposite.

This is especially impressive considering the man that Dilshan is, or at least, used to be. Mere months ago, if fans were to pick a single Sri Lankan player who might shirk national duties for the sparkle of the IPL, most would almost certainly have voted Dilshan. Now, amazingly, he seems the only one who is keen to leave the glitter behind for England’s depression-inducing gloom.

Let’s also not forget that it was the 2009 incarnation of the IPL that effectively transformed Dilshan as a cricketer. Head-spinning paydays aside, there aren’t many players who have as much to be grateful to the IPL for. Still, he’s opted to ditch it earlier than he needed to.

Why then was there such a major administrative kerfuffle regarding his departure?

At first, it appeared as though he was set to leave in early May, until it was revealed that, in fact, it wasn’t really upto him. It was the boards’ decision, apparently. The SLC had signed an agreement with the BCCI regarding the involvement of their players in the IPL – the details of which still remain unclear.

This episode has raised questions. Why is there an agreement between the SLC and the BCCI regarding players’ availability in the IPL in the first place? The benefits to the BCCI from Sri Lankan players remaining in the IPL are clear, but not so for the SLC. What did the Sri Lankan Board have to gain from it?

But perhaps more importantly, why, in a lucrative league, that is supposed to be at the forefront of player empowerment, was the player’s wish for an early exit not immediately ratified?

It’s Dilshan who offers his services to the IPL franchise, and should he wish to withdraw from the league and take a paycut to pursue playing for and captaining his national team, he should not be held back by the BCCI, the SLC or anyone else, for that matter.

Fears about the astronomical wads of money involved in the IPL threatening cricket’s purest form have already begun to materialise, as Chris Gayle’s spat with the WICB has proven. Now, the shady deals between cricket boards seem to be another needle intent on unseaming the whites.

To SLC’s credit, they negotiated an early release for Dilshan in the end. But my point is that the decision should have been left to the player and him alone. A positive outcome shouldn’t smooth over a flawed system. In addition, five other Sri Lankan cricketers who haven’t played Tests for almost six months will go from the slap-happy Twenty20 format, on tracks so lifeless they remind you of Ricky Ponting’s face, to playing Test cricket in England in spring (which presents some of the toughest batting conditions in the world), with only one first class outing under their belt.

This problem must quickly be identified and nipped in the bud. If agreements drafted between boards can prevent players from being released to play (or adequately prepare) for their countries, Test cricket will inevitably suffer.

Without the class, skill and calibre cultivated in the Test arena, the IPL wouldn’t be half as attractive – particularly to those outside India. If players like Dilshan are eager to preserve it, the BCCI, SLC and whoever else should only be so happy to allow it without question. They owe Test cricket that much.

© Island Cricket/Andrew Fernando


visal's picture

i think the author has missed out on the fact that cricket boards get 10% of the player fees from the IPL...THAT'S their underlying interest in keeping players there...

Anonymous's picture


Riyas's picture

I havent seen any employment contract where someoen is allowed to leave without notice and then come back to the job. its silly to think that the IPL team won't mind one of their top players suddenly deciding he cant be there for as long as he signed for at the begggining. once you sign a contract you are bound by it whatever preofession you are in. if Dilshan breaks the terms of his contract now why would the IPL team want the liability of retaining him for the following years? IPL V Test cricket is a very naive argument. i dont even watch the IPL and would prefer the players playing test cricket but its not eh IPL's resposibility to ensureSl players are free to play test cricket. the SLC and the Sl players should have thought about that before signing their IPL contracts or put the necessary clauses in.

Suren's picture

"Without the class, skill and calibre cultivated in the Test arena, the IPL wouldn’t be half as attractive – particularly to those outside India."

It is naive to think that only "those outside India" respect the skill, class, and calibre cultivated in the Test arena, or that we Indians lack the appreciation to understand what such skills bring to other (and what many Indians consider lesser) forms of Cricket.

The author may please note that while (we) Indians enjoy the slam-bang versions of Cricket, the sheer number of Indians who follow Test Cricket would probably outstrip the combined populations of NZ, SL, Pak, and Bangladesh. Of course it helps to be at the top of the Test rankings, but that's not even the pre-requisite for deriving pleasure from test matches, because there is a substantial number of Indians that follow Test matches that don't involve India!


Andrew Fernando's picture
Member since:
5 May 2011
Last activity:
3 years 9 weeks

@ Suren: I think you've got me all wrong. I didn't mean to imply at all that Indians don't appreciate Test cricket, simply that as the IPL is an Indian league - it naturally holds more interest for Indians.

If there were no good international players in the league, few outside India would care. Just like noone really cared about the previous versions of the Sri Lankan domestic T20 tournaments. Or noone outside NZ cares about the HRV Cup.

@ Riyas: I'm not saying the SLC are blameless whatsoever. But how wise is it to sign a contract that releases your players for a massive Test tour just five days before it starts on the other side of the World?

My point is that contracts between boards - not the IPL and the players themselves, mind - are taking the power away from the players themselves to pick their priorities. I'm not sure how much the SLC care about Test cricket, but a this episode shows, the Sri Lankan players certainly do. As they are ultimately the ones who take the biggest pay cuts, make the calls and (most importantly) play the game - the final decision should rest with them.

NT's picture

Its great to see you writing for Island Cricket Andrew! I am a big fan of your stuff on Cricinfo. I'm now looking forward to reading your serious thoughts on Sri Lankan cricket.

Shehara's picture
Member since:
22 February 2011
Last activity:
2 years 32 weeks

Did they really stop him from leaving early? Because in the end he left pretty late and missd the May 10 team departure even though he said he was leaving IPL early.

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
6 days 16 hours

Lets put the issue in to context. The IPL is a domestic event that runs for a month! You have a guy appointed to captain his country in test cricket (the real deal) and two boards have to argue on when he leaves - I would have thought there is nothing to argue about here - he surely must be free to lead his country in test cricket over anything else, least of all a 20/20 version of the game. Sure there are contracts and clauses but all that is null and void when a guy is appointed to lead his country. The game is bigger than boards and contracts and this is nothing more than the BCCI bullying its way with cash. Can yo imagine the outcome if it was India's new captain about to lead on a test series and the captain was stuck in 20/20 doemstic series. Safe to say the BCCI would have its way.

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