Pic of Suraj Dandeniya
For Sri Lanka as a nation the 2011 Cricket World Cup has been a resounding success. Whether our boys will deliver in Mumbai (which we all fervently hope they will) and bring the Cup back home or whether they finish as the bridesmaid for a second consecutive World Cup (they were runner-up to Australia in 2007) is of little consequence. As one of the three nations hosting the 2011 World Cup (India and Bangladesh being the others) Sri Lanka can proudly say that they are up there with the best when it comes to organising and preparing for an event of the magnitude of a World Cup.
Sri Lanka has come a long way since those balmy days when they were just another country playing international cricket. The World Cup win in 1996 transformed the nation overall and cricket in the country became big time not only where the players were concerned but also at the topmost level where even government ministers too have got involved in decision making.
The biggest challenge Sri Lanka faced when they undertook to become a co-host of the 2011 World Cup was whether they would get the three stadiums up and ready in time to stage the matches. It was a race against time for the local organisers headed by the indefatigable Suraj Dandeniya who went through thick and thin to ensure Sri Lanka went through a trouble-free World Cup.
To Dandeniya and his team of officials no matter what his critics had to say, the nation owes him a deep debt of gratitude. He may not be the most popular figure in everyone’s book but then you cannot please each and every human being when you have such a gigantic task to handle. The pressure that he was put through was enormous but he overcame all odds to emerge triumphant. Like Dandeniya says in his interview (see on this page) the foundation has been laid (by the construction of the three World Cup venues at Hambantota, Pallakele and R Premadasa Stadium) for Sri Lanka to host any cricket world event. The infrastructure has been put in place so that there is no need for any further cricket stadiums to be built in the country for the next 25 years or so. It is a question of making maximum use of what we already have built at enormous cost to the Sri Lanka Cricket treasury instead of turning them into white elephants.
According to Dandeniya Sri Lanka clinched the hosting of the ICC Twenty20 in 2012 because they had the minimum of four floodlit international cricket stadiums (Dambulla being the fourth). Having completed a successful job as World Cup director Dandeniya feels the time is up for him to step down, but it won’t be a surprise if, judging by his capabilities to handle big events, he is retained in the same position to ensure Sri Lanka conducts a successful World T20 too.
Sri Lanka also owes a debt of gratitude to Sri Lanka Cricket chairman DS de Silva who against all adversity has made the right appointments and personally supervised the construction of the three stadiums to ensure that no stone was left unturned. Even during his playing days De Silva had this knack of completing whatever task he undertakes efficiently.
The World Cup in its entirety has been a success for the ICC who were criticised wholesale for what happened in the Caribbean four years ago when the final between Australia and Sri Lanka ended in a farce. Malcolm Speed, the former ICC chief executive admitted that it was one of the more disappointing episodes of his seven-year tenure in charge. The 2007 World Cup in the West Indies failed to attract full houses at newly-built stadia for the event, with overpriced tickets largely keeping out locals. The tournament also ended in a farce; Australia secured the trophy for the third time in a row, but the final in Barbados ended in near-pitch darkness after the umpires misinterpreted the rules regarding bad light.