Harry Solomons,in www.ozlanka.com, late February 2011, original title: “Sri Lanka needs another International Cricket Stadium as much as you and I need a toothache or a hole in the head.”
As the cricket powers of the Sub Continent, India & Sri Lanka flexed their cricket muscle against weaker opposition, we witnessed a slaughter of sorts when Sri Lanka dominated easy beats Canada in the President’s new International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota on Sunday. Besides the scintillating innings from Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and, to a lesser degree, from Dilshan and others, I was impressed with the contributions to the game from Tissara Perera, Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekera . . three all rounders who are so important to Sri Lanka’s success in this World Cup. Not much value in being too judgemental about these matches. After all it has been just a hit out for India and Sri Lanka, and for Australia yesterday.
During his media interview Sri Lanka Captain, Kumar Sangakkara, highlighted the importance of His Excellency’s cricket stadium and what a great day it was to be playing in this new venue. This statement intrigued me. He must know something that I am not aware of!
I was in Sri Lanka in late January when the three ODIs against the West Indies were moved back to Colombo due to unfinished work in the stadium being built in Hambantota. Thank god they had the work completed in time for the World Cup match against Canada . . or Sri Lanka would have been a right royal laughing stock.
What were the people who approved the International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota thinking when approval was given for it to be built? There is not a 4-Star or 5-Star hotel within cooee of the stadium to house the players and officials of either side! Can you imagine two international teams being transferred from Kogalla or Galle to Hambantota by road on the day of the match? That’s a two hour journey by road, the time taken for an international team to warm up and have a hit before a game. With due respect to His Excellency, The President, and to his Cricket Board and Captain, try as I might I cannot for the life of me think of one good reason for Sri Lanka to have yet another International Cricket Stadium.
We are talking about a country the size of Tasmania and many times smaller than the state of NSW, where we have just one traditional international cricket ground– the SCG in Sydney. Then we have the MCG in Melbourne, the Gabba in Brisbane, WACA in Perth, and SACA in Adelaide.
In Sri Lanka there are two major international cricket grounds in Colombo, one in Galle (120 k away), one in Kandy (130 k) and another in Dambulla towards the north east of the country (four hours from Colombo at the most).
Now think as hard as I might, unless it was to fulfil some massive egos, I cannot justify why millions of dollars have been spent on yet another international cricket venue in Hambantota. – just two hours drive from a beautiful ground such as the Galle Stadium. Is it that difficult for the people of Hambantota to jump a bus and travel down to an often empty stadium in Galle when a Test match is being played? And to add to these miserable decisions, remember there is the Colombo Oval (Tamil Union Ground) and the Moratuwa Stadium rotting away by the day, not to mention the CCC and NCC, where Tests have been played in the past.
Would not the money (we are talking millions of dollars here) have been better spent opening 10-15 new, decent sized but smaller grounds for junior, school or Club cricket in the outer suburbs and country areas crying out for such facilities?
This would go toward assisting and promoting the growth of cricket in Sri Lanka. This strategy would have assisted thousands of junior cricketers and even other sports such as soccer, rugby, hockey and athletics.
Would not have some of the money been better spent repairing existing grounds and building more grandstands or sunshades at the existing facilities in Galle, Kandy & Dambulla? Or even more turf wickets for schools and clubs around the country?
Would not have some of the money been better spent on facilities such as Club Houses and Gymnasiums in the smaller existing grounds in the remote areas of Sri Lanka?
A little bird whispered in my ear that after the World Cup is over Sri Lanka Cricket will be so much the poorer due to the monies spent on the new stadium in Hambantota,. In other words, the monies that come from hosting the World Cup have basically been already spent.
Did they put the horse before the cart?