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LPL 2020 – SLC confident of LPL starting on time despite more teething issues

The Lanka Premier League (LPL) continues to run into teething issues, with some franchise owners describing the tournament’s organisation as “chaotic” less than 10 days out. Sri Lanka Cricket, however, remains adamant that in spite of late changes in personnel, and the major logistical challenges that continue to arise, LPL 2020 will begin as scheduled, on November 26. On Tuesday, the tournament announced its principal sponsor, My11Circle, a fantasy sports platform.

Among the LPL’s personnel changes have been the exits of Dav Whatmore, who was to coach the Colombo Kings franchise, and that of Jon Lewis, who had picked the Dambulla team in the draft, and had been due to coach that side. Whatmore had been replaced with former England fast bowler Kabir Ali, but with Kabir now having tested positive for Covid-19, he is likely to withdraw from the league. It is unclear now who will coach the Colombo side.*

There is also uncertainty about Chris Gayle’s involvement in the league. Although coaching staff of his Kandy Tuskers franchise said he is expected in Sri Lanka on November 19, ESPNcricinfo understands that Gayle is still negotiating the terms of his contract with the Tuskers, and that his arrival in Sri Lanka has already been delayed once. Fast bowlers Wahab Riaz and Liam Plunkett are out of the tournament for certain, however, and the Tuskers have picked former India quick Munaf Patel, and Pakistan fast bowler Sohail Tanvir. Munaf last played a T20 in 2017, but Tanvir is an active player, having been part of Multan Sultans’ campaign in this year’s PSL.

The Jaffna Stallions franchise, meanwhile, have announced a slew of new foreign players, including former South Africa fast bowlers Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier. These players will replace Pakistan batsman Asif Ali and England batsman Dawid Malan, who is unavailable due to being picked for England’s forthcoming tour of South Africa. Stallions had also announced that batsmen Ravi Bopara and Shoaib Malik would be part of their squad, but their involvement is now also uncertain, as both players are understood to be asking for 100% of their fee to be paid before the tournament. Despite all this, SLC has projected confidence.

“Everything is in the pipeline for the tournament, and all that is left is for everything to be delivered,” LPL director Ravin Wickramaratne told ESPNcricinfo. “Today there is a press release about the title sponsor, and a broadcaster will be announced soon also.

“Most of the franchisees are coming to the island – the owners and other management staff. Players have also started arriving and Andre Russell is coming tomorrow.”

Broadcast crews and staff belonging to IPG – the Dubai-based tournament organiser – have also arrived, and are undergoing quarantine in various hotels near to Sooriyawewa ground, where the tournament is scheduled to be played in its entirety. Players must isolate for three days in the hotel, before they are allowed to begin training in small clusters, until eventually the whole tournament goes into a big bubble, contingent on the results of Covid-19 tests.

The concerns of some of the franchises centre around the ad-hoc nature in which this tournament is coming together. Some are also worried that player contracts have not been signed yet, and the advance that is due to go to players before the tournament starts, have not yet been paid in most cases. Wickramaratne confirmed that this has been an issue, and said that stricter financial controls put in place by many countries due to the pandemic has made international money transfers more difficult.

“Player contracts have been delivered, and they will have to come back to us with their lawyers and all that,” Wickramaratne said. “There have been issues with transferring money. We’ll talk to franchisees when they arrive. Before the tournament starts they will have to pay 40% to the players.”

Although several team owners are expected to travel to Sri Lanka, some, including co-owner of the Jaffna Stallions franchise Brindon Bagirathan, are not traveling for personal reasons. Only the players and some broadcast staff have been cleared for shorter quarantines by the Sri Lankan health authorities.

*Details in this story have been updated as more news has come in.

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