Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi, Faf du Plessis and Carlos Brathwaite are among the high-profile foreign players that have been drafted into Lankan Premier League teams for the tournament that is set to begin on November 21.
Although the draft, held on Monday, was carried out in incredibly haphazard fashion over the internet, with team owners unclear on the draft rules and protocols, SLC has nevertheless taken another step – however unsteady – towards hosting its own T20 franchise tournament.
Wasim Akram was among those present at the draft, in his role as Galle Gladiators’ mentor. The Galle side shares the same owner as PSL franchise Quetta Gladiators. Also in attendance were former Sri Lanka players Hashan Tillakaratne (who will coach Kandy Tuskers), Thilina Kandamby (who will coach Jaffna Stallions), and English coach Jon Lewis (who is involved with Dambulla Hawks). Dav Whatmore, the former Sri Lanka coach who led them to the 1996 World Cup victory, was not seen at the draft, but is linked to the Colombo Kings franchise.
Each team had two foreign marquee picks – players whom each franchise approaches individually and signs up. There was one local marquee pick as well. The remaining players will be paid according to the value determined by the category they were chosen in in the draft. Players drafted earlier are generally paid more.
Given the disorganised nature of the draft, there was frequent backtracking and repeated misunderstandings, with selectors dropping in and out of the video call, and constant back-and-forth between owners and SLC, which was ostensibly running the draft process. The biggest hiccup came when Lewis had seemingly picked New Zealand legspinner Todd Astle for the Dambulla side, but then received a message several minutes later to suggest that Astle had in fact withdrawn two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, the draft juddered to a conclusion, with the teams having picked between 16 and 20 players. Some slots were deliberately left open, with teams essentially backing themselves to persuade overseas players to play in the tournament and fill that position.
The LPL is set to run from November 21 to December 13, and will be played initially in Sooriyawewa stadium, before moving to Pallekele for the latter stages of the tournament and the knockouts. The Sri Lankan government has not approved lenient quarantine measure for those coming into the country for the tournament, but SLC insists that the foreign players and officials taking part have all agreed to the strict 14-day quarantine, in which arrivals are not allowed to leave their rooms.
The final squads are as follows:
Jaffna Stallions Thisara Perera, Dawid Malan, Wanindu Hasaranga, Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari, Avishka Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva, Suranga Lakmal, Binura Fernando, Asif Ali, Minod Bhanuka, Chaturanga de Silva, Mahesh Theekshana, Charith Asalanka, Nuvinidu Fernando, Kanagaratnam Kapilraj, Theivendiram Dinoshan, Yiyakanth Yiyaskanth
Dambulla Hawks Dasun Shanaka, David Miller, Carlos Brathwaite, Samit Patel, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Kumara, Oshada Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Paul Stirling, Lahiru Madushanka, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Perera, Ramesh Mendis, Pulina Tharanga, Ashen Bandara, Dilshan Madushanka, Sachindu Colombage
Kandy Tuskers Chris Gayle, Kusal Perera, Liam Plunkett, Wahab Riaz, Kusal Mendis, Nuwan Pradeep, Seekkuge Prasanna, Asela Gunaratne, Naveen-Ul-Haq, Kamindu Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Priyamal Perera, Kavishka Anjula, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nishan Fernando, Chamika Edirisinghe, Ishan Jayaratne
Colombo Kings Andre Russell, Faf du Plessis, Angelo Mathews, Manpreet Singh Gony, Manvinder Bisla, Isuru Udana, Dinesh Chandimal, Amila Aponso, Ravinderpal Singh, Ashan Priyanjan, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Thikshila de Silva, Tharindu Kaushal, Lahiru Udara, Himesh Ramanayake, Kalana Perera, Tharindu Rathnayaka, Navod Paranawithana
Galle Gladiators Lasith Malinga, Shahid Afridi, Colin Ingram, Mohammad Amir, Hazratullah Zazai, Danushka Gunathilaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Akila Dananjaya, Milinda Siriwardana, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Azam Khan, Lakshan Sandakan, Shehan Jayasuriya, Asitha Fernando, Nuwan Thushara, Mohomed Shiraz, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Chanaka Ruwansiri, Sahan Arachchi