Sri Lanka hopes to convince the ICC to allow the three men accused of breaching the Spirit of Cricket to play some part in the forthcoming Test series against South Africa. That hearing is due to be held on July 10 – two days before the first Test.

On the surface, it appears as if captain Dinesh Chandimal, coach Chandika Hathurusingha and manager Asanka Gurusinha will be suspended for both Tests against South Africa in July; they have pleaded guilty to a Level 3 offence, the minimum punishment for which four suspension points, which in turn corresponds to two Tests. But although team management has accepted that refusing to take the field on the third morning was a disciplinary breach, they will make the case that the mitigating factors are such that even four suspension points is too serious a penalty.

“We are hoping that we can convince the ICC to reduce the punishment,” manager Gurusinha said. “But that will come down to what we can present to the ICC in support of that argument. We are hoping we will have a good case. We have accepted the charge as well. It’s not like we are appealing everything. We are hoping that especially these two guys – Chandimal and Hathurusingha – will be there [for the South Africa Tests].”

Among the points the Sri Lanka camp is likely to make is that the entire two-hour delay was not exclusively down to their reluctance to play. Sri Lanka’s team management believe that about an hour into the scheduled morning session, they felt they had come to an agreement with the match officials, whereby the officials would refrain from imposing the five-run penalty and changing the ball, but Chandimal would still have to face a tampering charge at the end of the match.

In fact, the Sri Lanka side did take the field at 10.50 am, an hour and 20 minutes past the scheduled start, supposedly on the basis that there would be no further penalties. However, to Sri Lanka’s surprise, the umpires changed the ball at this stage. It was at this point that the Sri Lanka team dug in its heels again. They left the field, further delaying the start.

It must be stressed, however, that there is strong disagreement about this sequence of events. There is another suggestion that no deal was actually struck; such a deal, it is felt, would effectively mean there was no charge to be laid, and that umpires were not following playing conditions. In this version of events, the false start is blamed on a misunderstanding between the match officials and the Sri Lanka team.

There is also a feeling within the Sri Lanka camp that their protest was prompted by the timing of the charge – Sri Lanka were only told that Chandimal would be charged about 10 minutes before the scheduled start of day three’s play. Sri Lanka’s sports minister Faiszer Mustapha has already characterised the “emotional” decision to refuse to play as wrong but understandable given the camaraderie in the team.

Sri Lanka’s planning for the South Africa series now becomes difficult. It is likely that they will plan for the worst. If further suspensions are handed out, Chandimal is allowed to be in the dressing room but cannot enter the field of play at any stage. Hathurusingha and Gurusinha, meanwhile, cannot be in the dressing room on match days – though they can still be at the venue. They are not barred from performing their duties as usual in the approach to games, and in between match days, however.

The Level 3 charge carries a maximum penalty of eight suspension points. If the ICC chooses to come down as harshly as possible, the three men also stand to be suspended from the first four South Africa ODIs.

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