Sharjah: Still recovering from the shock it suffered due to India's decision not to play at Sharjah, the Cricketers' Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) got a shot in the arm when it signed a three-year contract with Sri Lanka for its participation in tournaments at the desert venue and announced that Pakistan has also renewed its contract with it.
The contract with Sri Lanka was signed here on Saturday by CBFS chief Abdul Rahman Bukhatir and Lankan Minister of Sports and Tourism Lakshman Kiriella. Talking to reporters later, Mr Bukhatir announced that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had renewed its three-year contract with the CBFS.
This, in effect, means both Pakistan and Sri Lanka will participate in the next six tournaments, to be organised by the CBFS at the desert venue beginning in October. ''We are grateful to the Sri Lankan Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board for helping us at a time when everyone is trying to find fault with us,'' Mr Bukhatir said in an obvious reference to allegations made by some cricket administrators that match-fixing was rampant in tournaments played at Sharjah.
Asked how much money had been offered to the Sri Lankan Cricket Board for signing the contract, Mr Bukhatir said, ''We cannot give any financial details at this stage.''
The Sri Lankan Minister said, ''We are happy to help the CBFS. They have been strong supporters of Lankan cricket ever since we got the Test status in 1982.'' Mr Kiriella said the CBFS had agreed to assist Sri Lanka in building a cricket stadium and a coaching school at Kandy. In return, budding cricketers from the UAE would be provided free coaching at the school.
The next tournament at Sharjah is likely to be played towards the end of October. It is still not known who will be the third team in the triangular tournament.
India did not play at Sharjah in April even though it was under contractual obligation to participate in tournaments held at the desert venue. India was replaced in the tournament by New Zealand. Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the other two teams.
India's pull-out has certainly affected the CBFS in financial terms, but it hopes to make up to some extent for the losses with Pakistan and Sri Lanka agreeing to play here for the next three years.