Sri Lanka Cricket has taken a harsh view of the decision to strip Hambantota Stadium groundstaff of their branded SLC trousers – which they had been wearing – following the fifth ODI against Zimbabwe.
The groundstaff had been given SLC uniforms to wear while performing their duties at the venue, but had largely not expected to have to hand the clothing back. Many, however, reported only being paid after handing over their trousers, leaving them in only their underwear. The groundstaff were casual workers hired from the venue’s locality.
“They only paid us for our three days worth of work after taking our clothes,” one groundsman told Hiru News after being stripped of his trousers. Another said: “They hadn’t told us to come prepared with another set of clothes. They asked us to hand over the trousers, so we had no choice but to do that.”
Sri Lanka Cricket has since officially apologised to “those subjected to this ignominy” and said that “stern action will be taken against those responsible”, following the conclusion of an inquiry. On Wednesday, SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala condemned the decision to take the trousers back from the groundstaff, in strong terms.*
“That was a very low thing that happened,” Sumathipala said. “These people come to the ground because of their love of cricket, and to do a service while watching the match. They aren’t just there for the money. If rains come, they close up the whole ground within minutes, and then take the covers off again. They are our colleagues, not our slaves. The board didn’t know anything about this. We had sent that clothing out to our provincial associations, but hadn’t taken a decision to get that clothing back.”
As Sri Lanka Cricket has adopted the practice of covering the entire ground in the event of rain, the board usually hires dozens of local workers on a day-wage basis whenever a match is to be played at a nearby venue. Only recently have they required these workers to wear a full uniform.
*This story was updated with Sumathipala’s reaction