By Amindha de Alwis
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is eyeing a window between November 15 and December 7 to stage the inaugural edition of the Lanka Premier League (LPL) which was scheduled to be held from August 28 to September 20 before its postponement was announced last week.
SLC Vice-President and LPL Tournament Director Ravin Wickramaratne, speaking to the Dailymirror, stated that the postponement of the LPL could allow the tournament to attract several marquee foreign players who would have otherwise been unavailable.
“We have found a new window in November-December. It will be starting on November 15 and ending on December 7. We are trying to get the top players who also participate in the IPL, since when you look at the calendar, the IPL finishes on November 10.”
“The Pakistan Super League (PSL) also wants to finish off their tournament, which had three matches left to play. If the PSL plays their matches before the LPL, then players of the caliber of Chris Gayle and Eoin Morgan will all be available for the LPL; so we want to grab those players as well, and SLC is communicating with the PCB about this,” Wickramaratne revealed.
He further added that the selection of players for the event could be done in early September and that SLC are sounding out the availability of players in line with the revised dates.
“Because of the changing of dates, we have time till say early September. The thing is we are trying to get more players, then the league’s value and attraction will go up. We are writing to player agents and managers to get the updated list in line with the new schedule,” he said.
Selection of franchise owners
With regard to the vetting process for franchise owners, Wickramaratne explained that the appointment of franchise owners would be carried out by Innovation Production Group (IPG), the Dubai-based sports broadcasting company which was awarded the ‘total rights’ for the LPL for a period of five years. However, he stated that, once selected, details of the franchisees will be sent to SLC and thereafter forwarded to the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit.
“Selection of franchisees is entirely upto IPG.We have nothing to do with the franchisees; so they (IPG) will likely go for the best bids, but from our side we have our thing where they will have to declare all the franchisees and their directorates to SLC, upon which we will be sending all details to the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit to get their scrutiny,” he stated.
On SLC’s confidence in IPG’s ability to deliver a product comparable to other existing franchise leagues, Wickramaratne said, “Taking the Indian Premier League, it is difficult to compare with the market and its financial aspect but we do hope that IPG will enable the LPL to replicate the glamour of the event and attract the best players from the world. It is all up to them (IPG), and we have the authority, if we are not happy with IPG, we can terminate. So, we will be working hand-in-hand with them and will support them to host what is a significant event.”
Failings of the 2012 SLPL
SLC’s previous foray into a franchise-model T20 league resulted in the one-off Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) in 2012 – a tournament that was shrouded in controversy.
Wickramaratne cited corruption allegations and non-payment of players as two of the biggest issues that arose from the SLPL and said that SLC were taking measures to avoid a repeat of such occurrences.
“The biggest problem was allegations of corruption and also some of the players were not paid. One team basically. Therefore, SLC will be getting a bank guarantee from the franchise owners, so that if they default any payments, we will have an obligation to pay the players. It will be a tri-party agreement,” he explained.
Upcoming international cricket
Wickramaratne revealed that international cricket will recommence in the island in October with the Bangladesh national side touring the country along with their High Performance Squad. Bangladesh are expected to send a bumper 62-player contingent who will arrive in Sri Lanka several weeks in advance of the series which is slated to commence on October 24.
“Bangladesh will be touring with 62 players of which 25 will be from their National squad. The emerging team is also touring with the same crowd. The National team will be having three Test matches,” Wickramaratne stated.
He went on to add that the Test series with England, which was postponed from March this year, is expected to be conducted in January next year. He also mentioned that SLC were open to hosting other foreign tournaments or even bi-laterals among other nations should a request be made.
“Next year we have a fully packed calendar starting with England in January. We have also indicated that we are willing to host any tournament in Sri Lanka because of the COVID situation. We have to think positively as we can show the world that the country has handled COVID-19 relatively well. Even if it is without spectators, if we can host matches we can generate revenue for SLC as well as the country,” he said.