A possible abandonment of the home series against South Africa and India in May and June may not trigger a long term financial loss as the home Board is confident it can reschedule the tours within the current cricket cycle—but it will certainly leave a gaping hole in Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) cash flow this year.
Additionally, any cancellation would be a major disadvantage to the 2014 World T20 champions who had hoped to the series to hone their skills ahead of the World T20 qualifiers in September. Sri Lanka did not secure a direct qualification for the October tournament on their international rankings and are therefore required to play a round of qualifying matches to occupy one of the two remaining places in the World Cup.
The Board is confident it can meet financial challenges using its reserves, if required, but will suspend some infrastructure development that’s in progress. This will help it float for now.
“There will be an immediate impact on the cash-flow if these tours are cancelled but we will not incur a loss as such because we are rescheduling them within the current cycle,” said SLC CEO Ashley de Silva.
“Financially we are okay at the moment as we have got enough reserves with us. But we will have to manage them carefully. We might have to suspend some of the infrastructure development work to support critical areas.”
The SLC has embarked on a major infrastructure upgrade spree across the country. The R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo is undergoing a significant facelift with stands under renovation and the addition of a much-needed swimming pool for players.
The Board has also set its sights on a university-like high performance centre in Kandy. Proposals have been made, too, for swimming pools at the Dambulla and Pallekele grounds. For now, only works at the R. Premadasa Stadium are to continue.
SLC confirmed that the South African series has been rescheduled as there was insufficient time to prepare. Both Boards have agreed to play it soon after the T20 World Cup in India next year. The series against India remains on.
De Silva does not think the Board will have to borrow money or retrench staff to make ends meet yet but he was concerned about the future of the game amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
With cricket, including recreational cricket, at a complete standstill owing to lockdowns worldwide, the International Cricket Council will hold a video conference with member countries on April 23 to discuss challenges facing the game and how to overcome them.
The meeting will revolve around the FTP (Future Tour Programme) which has been severely hampered.
“The South Africa series has been postponed but we will take a call on the Indian tour after the ICC discussion,” de Silva said.
Sri Lanka earlier cancelled the two-match Test series against England—the first cricket casualty of the virus outbreak—but Board confirmed that the series will be played in January next year.
Meanwhile, SLC said they hoped to kick off the domestic cricket season by mid-May if the curfew is lifted and authorities grant permission.
“We need about eight weeks to complete the remainder of the domestic tournament,” the CEO said.
“The moment we get the green light we will start it adhering to best health practices as recommended by the medical experts.”
Even though the SLC will complete the domestic first class tournament, it’s uncertain whether the board could revive their own version of the domestic T20 League again this year. Sri Lanka is the only elite cricket playing country in the world without a domestic tournament of their own and despites several attempts to revive, it has not been successful.
“We have not given up hopes. When we advertise for tournament ownership, there were good interest from parties but all these will be depended on how well we managed the current pandemic,” he concluded.