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07 Jun

Sri Lankan great Mahela Jayawardene joins criticism of Steve Smith’s ‘rest’

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Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene has joined the criticism of Australia’s decision to rest Steve Smith for the remaining three one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches in Sri Lanka.

Smith, the Australian skipper and key batsman in the three formats, has been sent home to enjoy time off before a short one-day series in South Africa and then a busy home campaign, capped off with a four-Test tour of India from March.

While chief selector Rod Marsh and coach/selector Darren Lehmann have moved to justify the call, Michael Clarke, Shane Warne, Michael Slater and now Jayawardene have questioned it.

“Surprised to see Smith going back home to prepare for SA tour when this one is not finished. Would any other @CricketAus captain done this?” Jayawardene tweeted.

Smith had led his side in a short one-day series in the Caribbean, leading into the Sri Lankan tour. The South African tour begins with a one-off clash against Ireland on September 27.

Resting or rotating Australia’s more marketable players during a home summer has often been a contentious point, with host broadcaster Channel Nine having expressed fears ratings would be impacted.

Lehmann said he did not have an issue with the comments made by Clarke, Warne and Slater.

“We respect our former captains and former greats having an opinion. There is no dramas about it and they’re entitled to it. But we think it’s the best for Steven to get him right and ready to go,” Lehmann said.

“It’s hard captaining in all three formats and we are just making sure he gets a break.”

With Smith gone, vice-captain David Warner will become the 23rd man to lead Australia when the tied series resumes in Dambulla on Sunday. Surprised to see smith going back home to prepare for SA tour when this one is not finished. Would any other @CricketAus captain done this?— Mahela Jayawardena (@MahelaJay) 25 August 2016

Australia will hope a refreshed Smith can help overcome their troubles on the sub-continent and a testing summer at home which threatens to hit the players’ in the hip pocket.

Having been ranked the No.1 Test side by this year’s April 1 cut-off, the Australians enjoyed bonuses from Cricket Australia and an added $1 million from the International Cricket Council, when presented with the championship mace on the eve of the Sri Lankan series. But a losing 3-0 series there has led to Smith’s team dropping to No.3 on the ICC rankings.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed in 2012, the Australians are entitled to CA bonuses only if they have a top-two ranking. That is also the case in the one-day international and Twenty20 formats.

That Australia (108 points) narrowly sit behind India (110) and the freshly crowned Pakistan (111 points) means they have a chance to quickly vault up the Test rankings but Pakistan and South Africa shape as significant challenges this summer, even though the Proteas have slipped to seventh. A potentially rugged tour of India then awaits, which could again dampen hopes of a return to a top-two ranking.

Players are also entitled to bonuses for Test and series victories but none were forthcoming in Sri Lanka – and major improvement will be needed in India if things are to change there.

The Australians remain well rewarded financially in terms of base contracts and match payments, with players pocketing a fixed percentage of between 24.5 and 27 per cent of annual revenue depending on performance. This could mean that should there be two losing series on the sub-continent within an eight-month period – an area CA has targeted for improvement – then overall pay when the next round of contracts are debated next year could be closer to 25 per cent, as the 2011 Argus report suggested.

The fixed revenue scheme, established amid much agitation in 1997-98 under then players chief Tim May and Australian Cricket Board chief Mal Speed, appears under threat heading into a new round of discussions over a memorandum of understanding.

CA has not publicly detailed its stance ahead of discussions, officially beginning on October 1, but players believe the governing body is after change. Kevin Roberts, a former board member turned administrator, will lead CA’s negotiations.

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