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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 101

Cricket Cricket Lovely Cricket – Sri Lankan Style

By Rohan Abeygunawardena

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) proposed an International Cricket Stadium to be constructed in Homagama.

This is whilst having many internationally recognized stadiums such as Khettarama (capacity 35,000), Pallekele (35,000), Galle (35,000), Sooriyawewa (34,300), Rangiri Dambulla (16,800), P. Sara Oval (15,000), Tyronne Fernando Stadium (15,000), SSC (10,000).

In a press release SLC said that they were exploring possibilities in acquiring a land closer to Colombo to build a fully-fledged International Cricket stadium with a capacity of 40,000 spectators, as the need has arisen with the popularity of the game of Cricket and to best suit the demands of the World Cricket.

They also said that a 26 Acre land in Homagama was allocated by the Government of Sri Lanaka. Minister Bandula Gunawardena visited the site on 17th May and announced that biggest international cricket ground with 40,000 seating capacity will be built in Diyagama, Homagama.

The project is to cost US$ 40 million and can be accommodated only 5000 more spectators. Mr. Bandula Gunawardene who is the Minister of Information and Communications Technology said the funding is to come from International Cricket Council (ICC). Media and Communications Manager of the ICC Rajshekhar Rao when contacted by a local TV channel, has said that the ICC did not sanction any loan for the construction of a cricket stadium in Sri Lanka. This left the others who came to the rescue of Bandula high and dry. He was caught behind the stumps.

The project received a severe backlash on social media, with citizens including cricket lovers and former cricketers questioning if this was the need of the hour.

Within few hours Mahela Jayawardena tweeted “We don’t even play enough international cricket or domestic first-class cricket in the existing stadiums we have ... Do we need another one?”

Soon after former World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga said ‘’we already have more cricket stadiums in Sri Lanka than that of Australia. May be some cricket fans in Sri Lanka don’t quite know this.”

Former MP Namal Rajapaksa said a new cricket stadium should not be a priority presently as the country’s economy was affected by the pandemic.

Roshan Mahanama, Mahela Jayawardane, Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Lasith Malinga met the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees to discuss the construction of new cricket stadium. They raised concern about the project and were of the opinion that development of schools and rural cricket infrastructure are much important than the construction of massive stadiums. They all agreed to suspend the project.

So it was like Senaka Weeraratne’s Decision Review concept (DRS) at work at Sri Lanka Cricket. The cricketers who brought fame to the country appealed against the ground umpire’s decision (SLC officials, the Minister and others) to the third umpire (Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa) and got a decision in their favour. Apparently third umpire concept was the brainchild of another Sri Lankan, Mahinda Wijesinghe.

It is a good sign that the cricketers who really brought fame to the country through their cricketing skills and knowledge and established a Sri Lankan Brand of Cricket came forward to save millions of rupees otherwise wasted on a white elephant leading to financial crisis in SLC. This happened in the past. Now is the time for them to take an interest and keep an eye on the activities of SLC for the benefit of all cricket lovers of the country, creating a pressure group.

Then came a bombshell by Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage at an TV interview that 2011 world cup final between Sri Lanka and India was sold. This kicked up a row among cricket fans. They viewed with concern their much-loved cricket heroes who brought fame to the country through cricket and social activities being paraded to police Special Investigation Unit to record statements.

Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara was questioned for nearly 10 hours on Thursday 2nd July by detectives probing explosive allegations the 2011 Cricket World Cup final was fixed.

Earlier it was Aravinda De Silva and Upul Tharanga. A cricket fan has commented that Mahela Jayewardene will be asked why he scored the quick-fire century at the final. Another comment made by a reader of a national newspaper is very interesting.

Quote ‘’Sanga another long innings in your career. In schools we learn the lessons first and face the tests afterwards. But in real life we face the tests first and learn the lessons afterwards. Don’t worry we know it is only a political game and the end results will be.

Anyway, Sanga was very positive. Speaking to media after giving the statement, Sangakkara said he believed that after the investigations are completed, everyone would be able to know the truth of match fixing claims made by Mahindananda Aluthgamage. Latest was that Police media spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne saying that the investigation has been halted as the special investigation unit deemed the allegations were baseless.

Hindustan Times (HT) reported on 29th January 2018 that SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala said that Sri Lanka Cricket was set to build an international cricket stadium in former LTTE hub, Jaffna and has already carried out a preliminary inspection of a site.

Sumathipala visited the Mandaithivu area in the Kayts islet of Jaffna district to inspect a 50-acre plot for the purpose, HT further reported.

The president and whatever the government to be elected at August 5th general election should seriously think about this project. There are thousands of cricket lovers in North and East.

Andrew Fidel Fernando reported an episode that took place in Jaffna during the war in August 2014 in ‘Cricket Monthly’ published by ESPN Crickinfo. Quote.

The first time M Kandeepan visited the emigration centre (of LTTE) in his city in 1993, the man in combat gear behind the desk asked why he wanted to leave. "I want to go and play cricket."

"Play cricket where? In Colombo? You want to play for Sri Lanka?"

"Yes, because I am in Sri Lanka."

"You lie. This is Tamil Eelam. You're not going anywhere."

At the time, Jaffna was held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They wouldn't grant Kandeepan the permit that would have allowed him to exit areas under their control. He would try another 14 times over the next five months, bringing his father with him to aid in the verbal wrangle, but the most they got in response were screeched threats. They were told that unless they desisted, they would both be shot dead on the spot. It was a crushing experience for the young man with a sky-high dream. A humiliating one for his father, who scrambled on his hands and knees to collect files and papers flung across the floor by boys 35 years his junior.

Then Theviyanthan Krishnamohan in his article titled ‘’How Kumar Sangakkara Touched the Hearts of Tamils who Love their Country and Cricket’’ Posted by Administrator on 28 October 2014, came up with following episode –

‘’On the eve of the 1996 World Cup final, a clique of Tamil youths in the war torn Jaffna, stealthy bicycled passed army camps to purchase Kerosene oil. The oil was not supposed to light lamps for study sessions at night. The Kerosene oil would be poured into motors that pumped water out of the deep wells found in Jaffna. The water gushing out of the pump would be directed onto a turbine. A dynamo connected to the turbine would give power, sufficient enough to make a portable TV run. This is how the Jaffna Tamils witnessed the emphatic victory of Sri Lanka in 1996, under the sky that was glistened by rockets, shells and missiles.’’

As a kid in early sixties I still remember how several cricketers from Jaffna schools were given places in Colombo schools to play First XI cricket. One such player was Balasingham (I think) from St. Patrick's College, Jaffna who played for S Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia. He was one of the most feared fast bowlers during that period. School cricket was very competitive in those days.

Since the war ended many efforts were made on peace and reconciliation among the Sri Lankans and international community. Let’s start with children and youths of North and East by encouraging them for sports as they did in South Africa. They did it well and very much successful as one can observe that blacks, whites and other races represent their international teams.
When an international cricket match in the north is played, there will be large crowds not only the Tamils from north but also the spectators from the south. More fully cricket crazy Indians too will be attracted since they have to cross over only 32 kilometers. They will also consider playing few IPL matches. Consider the economic benefits that will accrue to Sri Lanka.

According to Thilanga’s speech at Mandaitivu on January 30th 2018 his intention was to build a sports city which should be seriously considered by the President and new government to be elected.

At the same time political leaders should advice their followers not to sling mud at our sport icons who brought fame to our island nation. Then only Sri Lanka Cricket can achieve its slogan ‘’One team One nation’’ could be realized.

- Asian Tribune -

Cricket Cricket Lovely Cricket – Sri Lankan Style
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