COLOMBO: Sri Lanka are set to extend a deadline to recall their players from the Indian Premier League to avoid embarrassing India, the country’s sports minister said Thursday. “We are favourably looking at giving players more time to play IPL (Indian Premier League) before joining the team for the England tour,” Mahindananda Aluthgamage told AFP. “We have excellent relations with the government of India and the Indian cricket board. We don’t want to upset India. We don’t want to embarrass them (BCCI).” Aluthgamage said he will meet cricket administrators shortly and suggest players be allowed to join the team by May 18 in London.
The change of heart comes days after Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) ordered its IPL players home by May 5 to prepare for the tour of England, more than three weeks before the money-spinning Twenty20 tournament ends. The Test team was due to leave for England on May 10 ahead of a warm-up game on May 14 followed by the first Test at Cardiff on May 26. The Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) wrote to SLC last Friday asking them to reconsider pulling out players early. Eleven Sri Lankan players are currently playing in the IPL, including former skippers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene who are captaining their respective franchises. Their early exit would have disrupted the balance of the IPL teams they play for as the franchises were under the impression that the players would be available till May 21.
Aluthgamage said the extended deadline will only affect seven Sri Lankan players who were selected on Wednesday for the Test squad. The minister brushed aside speculation that the compromise came after BCCI used its financial clout and threatened to withhold the 10 percent royalty due to SLC, in the event of an early pullout. Aluthgamage also insisted that the decision to recall the players was taken by a five-member selection panel headed by former skipper Duleep Mendis. “The selectors felt the boys were playing too many one-dayers and T20s for the past two months. They wanted the players to come early and adjust to English conditions and new changes in team management. “There is no sinister move.” The Indian board earlier in the day said it was “inappropriate” on the part of Sri Lanka to order players back home early.