The controversy looming over the decision of slinger Lasith Malinga to represent his Indian Premier League franchise Mumbai Indians in the forthcoming Champions League tournament over the local team he skippered, the Southern Express, was cleared by him when he said that many stand to benefit from his decision and it was one he made after great thought.
“Sri Lanka Cricket stands to gain US $ 150,000 from Mumbai Indians for releasing me, another budding cricketer gets the opportunity to fill my place and gain immense experience from this event and lastly I too do not get penalized by the Indian pay master,” commented the lethal fast bowler.
Many an eyebrow was raised questioning his loyalty when Malinga made this decision as opposed to the same predicament Kumar Sangakkara was faced with last year. Sangakkara nevertheless chose to represent his local side rather than his IPL team, the Hyderabad Sunrisers, that eventually cost him a colossal amount of money. If Malinga decided to represent his local side this time around he too would have had to forfeit over Rs. 24 million.
The champion fast bowler in a frank and exclusive interview with the “Daily Mirror” elaborated his side of the story as to why he chose to represent his IPL side.
“There has been lots of controversy surrounding the decision I have taken and I think I owe it to the Sri Lankan cricket loving public to set the record straight,” commenced Malinga.
“I requested Sri Lanka Cricket in a letter to utilize these funds that have been generated by my services since it was not a budgeted income for them and to build a much needed swimming pool at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium (Khettarama) where national practices are now held. The lack of this facility has been hampering the national cricketers from completing their swimming pool training to recover after the strenuous paces they are put through during ground practices and their gym exercises,” said Malinga.
He went on to say that he still remembers the time he had his knee injury and the exercises that he was put through in the pool immensely helped to get him back on the field. Currently there are many national cricketers with knee injuries and this facility is a must.
“Previously it was so convenient when national cricket practices were at either the Singhalese Sports Club or Nondescripts Sports Clubs grounds as everything was available. Now once we finish our training we have to get into our vehicles and drive all the way looking for a swimming pool to complete our exercises. It is disappointing to note that this basic necessity has been overlooked for a country that has been involved in five world cup finals in the last four years,” said Malinga.
This urgent requirement which also lacks ‘ice-baths’ is a must at this venue and was confirmed by Jerome Jayaratne the Head of Coaching Sri Lanka Cricket when the “Daily Mirror” spoke to him yesterday.
“With the completion of the IPL tournament this year, the side I represent, the Mumbai Indians, had already qualified for Champions League event. It was much later that we played the local “Super Fours” T20 tournament and I happened to captain the winning side,” continued the fast bowling dynamo.
He went on to say that he addressed a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket and requested them to release him in order to represent the Mumbai Indians a side he has been playing with for the last eight years, to which he received a reply that the decision lay with him.
Malinga went onto lament his request to secure a larger portion of the US $ 500,000 that SLC gets as appearing fees be distributed to the Southern Express cricketers. “This appeal appears to have backfired on me with people commenting that I am after money. The truth of the matter is that the sport of cricket has blessed me with plenty and I understand the hardships the non-contracted players face with the rising costs of cricketing gear. The only contracted players in the Southern Express side were Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera and I, and let me also inform you that winners of the locally conducted “Super Fours” tournament are still to receive their prize monies from SLC,” said Malinga.
Informed sources at SLC commented that they are still to receive the monies from the sponsors and therefore are unable to distribute the total of fifteen lakhs amongst the winning team.
At this juncture the non-contracted players are deprived of approximately Rs. 80,000 each which is due to them as part of their prize money.
Sri Lanka Cricket’s CEO Ashley De Silva confirmed that he did receive a letter from Malinga and commented that it is his right to send in a request. Nevertheless he confirmed that a three-acre plot of land has been allocated near the Khettarama grounds and constructing of living quarters are also in their plans to provide accommodation to cricketers.
Shammi Silva a member of the SLC’s Ex- Co commented that Lasith Malinga should focus on playing the sport and leave the administrative side of things for SLC to decide and complete their plans. “Swimming pools and infrastructure is not his business. He does not have to forfeit over Rs. 24 million by representing his Indian franchise, so there is no love lost here,” concluded Silva.
Malinga when informed of this quite bemusedly commented, “In the plans, in the plans, that’s all we hear. For how much longer will it be in the plans?” (Marlon Dale Ferreira)