New Delhi: After preferring his domestic side Kandurata over IPL franchisee Sunrisers Hyderabad for the Champions League Twenty20, senior batsman Kumar Sangakkara has lashed out at the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) officials for questioning his loyalty to the country.
Sangakkara said he himself wanted to play for Kandurata after their qualification but his IPL team had initially refused to release him, saying he was an integral part of the side even if his place in the final XI was not certain.
Sangakkara's comments came after SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga had said that the board would prefer Kandurata's IPL players played "for their country" in the Champions League.
However, Sangakkara said no SLC official had asked him to play for the Lankan team until a meeting on Tuesday and statements made by them only put him in a bad picture.
"The first time I heard directly that they wanted me to play for Kandurata was on Tuesday - the same day I arrived from the West Indies. I was told that they expected me to play for Kandurata, and I said if that's the case, and if they are informing me at such a late hour, I'm happy for them to speak to the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise and also the Champions League, to see if that could be done in a respectful and amicable way, and I would await the outcome," he said.
"At the same time, SLC failed to mediate a workable solution, so I had to make a decision on my own. I decided to stay with Kandurata and absorb the considerable financial loss."
"I was quite upset that there were statements released by individuals in an official capacity, where my loyalty to the country was brought into question," Sangakkara told ESPNcricinfo.
"The statements were made to put me at a disadvantage and to make me appear in a very bad light. Certain individuals' efforts to isolate me as a player misled the public and inflamed the issue further," Sangakkara said.
The former national skipper will lose USD 140,000 from his IPL salary due to his decision.
"...I think there is little or no comparison in the amounts lost. None of the board members or anyone else loses individually, but the player suffers," a displeased Sangakkara said.
"The real matter is not the financial penalty, but the issue of principle. This is not a country versus money issue, but it was created to be so, and I as a player was left alone to be caught in the middle of it."
Former Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga too had made similar statements the day Kandurata qualified for the Champions League two weeks back.
Sangakkara, who captained the Hyderabad team, said the day Kandurata qualified for the Champions League, he had approached his Indian franchise owners to allow represent him his native team.
"When I qualified with Kandurata on the 17th, I contacted Sunrisers through my representative and asked them if I was not an essential member of the squad and if they were looking to release me to play for Kandurata. Without making any bones about it, they said they can't release me because I'm going to be an integral part of the squad, even if they can't guarantee me a spot in the first XI," he said.
"Things after that took a very different turn. A very wrong image of the choice that was to be made was presented to the public."
Sangakkara said he managed to convince the Sunrisers management after speaking to them.
"I'm very happy to represent Kandurata. I have no issue with Sunrisers Hyderabad and, at the end of the day, this is my profession - this is how I make a living. I'm pretty happy to have made the decision that I did," he said.