Foreign players, franchise staff and tournament organizers continue to arrive in the Sooriyawewa area ahead of the start of the Lanka Premier League, but the tournament has been hit by two high-profile player withdrawals.

Chris Gayle has told the Kandy Tuskers franchise that he will not be traveling to Sri Lanka due to injury. Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka’s most recognized T20 player, also retired a week after the tournament’s start date, citing inadequate preparation time. However, the arrival of Andre Russell this week will ensure that the tournament features at least one world star.

Gayle’s departure had been rumored for several days, but Malinga’s retirement has been all the more surprising, especially since he was one of Galle Gladiators’ star players, and was expected to lead that team. Malinga, now 37, had not played a competitive match since March and said a lack of cricket and training this year had led to his decision to retire.

“Since the West Indies series earlier this year, I have not had cricket and I have not had any training for myself,” Malinga told ESPNcricinfo. “When the draft happened last month, I thought there would be about three weeks of training before the LPL, but there has been nothing. They are only going to make us come to Hambantota this week, and even there they ask us to do three days of quarantine .

“It is not easy for a bowler to play at a high level without training. At the LPL they also have games on consecutive days. So I decided not to play the tournament.”

Although the Sri Lankan coaching staff had held training sessions and training camps throughout the year, and invited Malinga to at least some of them, Malinga is not understood to have participated in any rigorous training with the national team.

Also retiring from the tournament this week is Ravi Bopara, who had been drafted late into the Jaffna Stallions franchise but has now confirmed to the franchise that he will not play. He had requested 100% of his LPL payment prior to the tournament; the franchise felt it couldn’t accommodate this. Both Kandy Tuskers, who lost Gayle, and the Stallions are looking for replacements for these players. There has been no word yet from the Gladiators about a replacement for Malinga.

Meanwhile, the Colombo Kings franchise, which had lost Kabir Ali as a coach because he tested positive for Covid-19 this week, replaced him with Herschelle Gibbs, who initially traveled to Sri Lanka to work as a tournament commentator. Gibbs will have Rangana Herath as assistant coach.

The first LPL game is scheduled to be played on November 26. The tournament will be played at the Sooriyawewa Stadium in its entirety, and will run until December 16.