Johannesburg: South Africa's cricketers have lent their support to the Sri Lanka players, who have not been paid their salaries for eight months, saying it was a credit to the Sri Lanka team that they had kept going but the issue needed to be resolved soon.
South Africa are set to host Sri Lanka for three Tests and five ODIs, but Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers, the Test and ODI captain respectively, chose to speak out against the Sri Lankan board, who have withheld their players' salaries due to a severe financial crunch.
"We want to show our support for Tillakaratne Dilshan and our fellow professional cricketers from Sri Lanka on this issue," Smith said in a South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) release. "It is far from ideal that the Sri Lankan team is about to start a tough Test series and ODI series here in South Africa without having been paid any of their remuneration for the last eight months."
Sri Lanka Cricket is waiting on payments of around US$ 4.3 million from the ICC for co-hosting the World Cup, but that will only arrive after the ICC complete their audit and the ICC have said it is SLC's responsibility to pay their players. "In this age of professionalism in cricket this kind of thing should not be happening," de Villiers said. "It's a credit to the players that they've kept playing for their country since March despite all of this. We hope it gets sorted out soon."
The Sri Lankan Cricketers' Association (SLCA) has contacted the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) to seek assistance on what can be done to ensure the players are paid, and SACA's chief-executive Tony Irish said he hoped for positive progress before Sri Lanka started their tour game against South Africa A on December 9. "It's difficult to understand how a board which has just co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup can find itself in such a desperate financial situation that it can't pay its national team of fully contracted professionals for months on end", Irish said. "We know that the players association in Sri Lanka is doing what it can to sort this out for the players and we hope for some positive progress before the first match of the tour starts against."
SLC has been in a financial crisis following the construction of new stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, and the renovation of the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo for the World Cup.
Upali Dharmadasa, the chairman of SLC's interim committee, was critical of the previous administration for spending expansively on those stadiums. He had said he was hopeful the players would be paid soon as he understood that the ICC audit had been completed and SLC would receive the remainder of the World Cup payment due to them.
Meanwhile, the three stadiums were handed over to the military earlier this month because the board was struggling to maintain them. The World Cup had left SLC in debt to the tune of $23 million and the board had to ask for a grant from the Sri Lanka government.