Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has denied Niroshan Dickwella a no-objection certificate (NOC) to play in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and will also prevent Thisara Perera from playing in the majority of the T20 league, after the two players - and eight others - refused to tour Pakistan in September and October.
According to SLC CEO Ashley de Silva, it is the board's policy that if there is a national tour for which a player might reasonably be picked, that player will not be granted an NOC to play in a foreign league if he or she withdraws from national commitments voluntarily.
Another SLC official also expressed serious dismay that so many frontline Sri Lanka players had refused to visit Pakistan, despite the fact that the board's security assessments had concluded that the tour was safe.
"It's our policy not to give NOCs when there is a national tour, and the players would have known that," de Silva said. "So Dickwella has not been granted an NOC and will be expected to train with the national team in the next few weeks. We have also asked Thisara to return to the country on September 15, so he can also join the team in training."
Thisara has already played two matches for St Lucia Zouks after initially being granted an NOC. That agreement, however, was conditional upon his availability for Sri Lanka tours. And although he has refused to go on the Pakistan tour, he now has to return to Sri Lanka.
Unlike Thisara, Dickwella had not been granted an NOC at all, because he had been with Sri Lanka's T20 team for the series against New Zealand last week. A third player, Isuru Udana, had also been picked for a CPL team, but later made himself unavailable due to international commitments and is prepared to tour Pakistan. As such, he has not sought an NOC from the board.
Dickwella and Thisara were among ten players who refused to tour Pakistan despite assurances from Sri Lankan security experts. Although chief selector Ashantha de Mel has told players their refusal would not hurt their selection chances for future tours, there remains frustration within the Sri Lanka board that a full-fledged tour could not go ahead as planned.
"We have done a very meticulous security assessment, and the Pakistan board has gone out of their way," one board official said. "Other international players have also toured there with the World XI and so on. And Pakistan is also willing to provide the same security they give to heads of state for the players. What more could they want?"
The Sri Lanka players, however, have suggested they would prefer another team to take the lead in helping international cricket return to Pakistan. It was the 2009 Lahore attack on the Sri Lanka team bus that halted international tours to the country, though only Suranga Lakmal of the current list of players had been caught up in that attack.
"I can completely understand that for players who were actually there during the attack - like Lakmal - why they would be reluctant," the SLC official said. "But we have to help our Asian neighbours. Soon after the Easter Attacks this year, Pakistan sent an Under-19 team to Sri Lanka. We're not trying to risk anyone's life, but we do have obligations and there needs to be reciprocation. The security situation in Pakistan has improved a lot."
On refusing NOCs, the official said: "It's not a question of trying to be vindictive or victimise players. But they do have an obligation."