Pallakele Stadium adds colour

Chris Dhambarage, Courtesy of the Daily News, 11 December 2010


International cricket returned to the Central Province in all it splendor when the Pallekelle Stadium hosted the third and final Test match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies last week.

It has been some time that Test cricket was played in the hill capital after the abandonment of the Asgiriya International Stadium. But the Pallekele Stadium proved that it has all the ingredients to become one of the most picturesque grounds in world cricket.

And quite appropriately this historic venue was baptized in the most spectacular manner when Sri Lanka’s new pace sensation Suranga Lakmal trapped West Indies opening batsman Chris Gayle in the very first delivery of the match. That may have been the perfect start for the Sri Lankan team but it also marked a new chapter as the country added another Test venue which will be the eighth in the list of stadiums.

Even then the Pallekelle Stadium is quite unique unlike some of the other major cricket grounds simply for its location where it is surrounded by the splendid Hunnasgiriya and Rikillagaskada mountains. The Southern Coastal Galle International Stadium and the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium are no doubt special in their own ways but the Pallekele Stadium in Kandy has something extra ordinary with a combination of natural beauty.

Adding more colour to its splendor is the perfect outfield, giant grand stand, pavilions, mega scoreboard modern facilities and of course the floodlights which will be one of the main features at this venue.

The playing surface will also be equally good considering the amount of effort that has been bestowed to upgrade the facilities despite the tough weather conditions prevailing in the region.

With a playing area of 80 metres long and 75 metres wide the Pallekelle Stadium could hold its own in any standard having already made an impact as Sri Lanka’s most picturesque cricket ground.

The international cricket commentary team from the world renowned Ten Sports Channel showered a great amount of praises on the Pallekele Stadium as they look forward towards making their way back to this venue during the ICC World Cup.

In fact in March next year the Pallekelle Stadium will enter the World map when it play host to three ICC World Cup matches with four international teams competing each other for the biggest prize in the cricketing scene.

New Zealand and Pakistan will set the pace with a group ‘A’ fixture on March 8 which will be followed by another group ‘A’ match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe on March 10. Pakistan will then take on Zimbabwe at the same venue on March 14.

With the stadium capable of accommodating a capacity of nearly 35,000 spectators and many top international stars set to flock to this venue the entire Central Province will be a hub of tourism during this period.

Even then the biggest concern about a new stadium is always the manner in which the pitch would behave. No doubt preparing a new turf pitch is a complicated art, but unlike the other two venues developed for the World Cup the surface at Pallekelle have had matches since November 2009. In fact a major part of last season’s domestic Twenty20 matches took place in February and there has been a first-class and List ‘A’ game as well, and touring international teams, have also played matches.

However there have not been any pitch-behaviour complaints during these matches while leaving the organizers extremely confident about the venue. The stadium is being built by the government-owned State Engineering Corporation of Sri Lanka and is designed along the lines of Super Sport Park in Centurion, South Africa.

The grass banks are part of a plan to ensure watching cricket at the stadium, nestled amid a ring of trees while providing a unique experience unlike the concrete semblance that blights some of the World’s larger cricket venues.

Access to the stadium involves a lovely half-hour drive from the city of Kandy moving through the two-century old man-made Kandy Lake, which is the centerpiece of the hill capital. Next up on the ride is the bridge across the majestic Mahaweli river, the largest in the country, followed by a canopied stretch past the Sri Lankan International Buddhist Academy before turning into the plush-looking Kandy Industrial Park a few kilometers ahead where the ground is located.

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Note by Michael Roberts:  Though close to Kandy Pallakälay[correct transliteration] is in the Dumbara valley and said to have dry zone rainfall patterns. I would like to see a rainfall chart but if one accepts this point, then, it follows that Paalkay shares with Rangiri and Sooriayawäwa the plus aspect of providing us with grounds when the best window of opportunity for touring teams, namely, the southern hemisphere winter of May-September, occurs. The corollary is that they will be problematic venues during the north-eastern monsoon, especially in November-December. When I saw the venues selected for the Windies tour, therefore, I was surprised. I considered both Pallakälay and Sooriyawäwa  to be bad choice s…. and events have proved me correct.

The SLC needs to review their thinking by attending to basics. The inter-monsoonal trains in the south-west this year seem  to have been more severe than normal, so I would not blame them for scheduling the tour matches in this area. The outcome was just unfortunate and is the sort of unpredictability that affects the game of cricket in many places — not least in Guyana and Australia. I recall one whole Test Match vs Australia scheduled for the SSC in the August season — which can be wet but is not always heavy wet — being totally washed out. Again, when I was in Lanka in July-August 2006 the triangular ODI series (already strangulated by the Safs running away because of LTTE bomb scares) was simply deluged out.

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