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Matara is no different from the usual coastal towns in Sri Lanka, be it the sun, the curved coconut trees, the humid air or the recovery from the 2004 tsunami destruction. The delightful little town has several fishing villages lined up side-by-side, giving it a slightly more rounded appeal. On the sports side, the recovery from the large-scale damages from the tsunami is almost complete - Bangladesh is the first international team to play here since 2001-02 . But the team is staying 26km away in Dikwella. There are not many resorts or five-star facilities yet in central Matara, but the roads from the west or to the east (towards Dickwella) are excellent.
Bangladesh's cricketers will find Matara familiar - it is very similar to Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh's most visited tourist destination. The difference is in the cricket. Though Cox's Bazar has better beaches and more hotels than Matara, and an airport, it lacks a proper cricket stadium and, indeed, a cricket culture. The only international cricketer from Cox's Bazar, Mominul Haque, is a product of BKSP, the country's biggest sporting institute where he has been studying since he was 13. Things may change for Cox's Bazar since the government has recently granted land to the BCB to build an international cricket venue there; this should make it Bangladesh's most attractive sporting destination, and could be a launchpad for the region's cricketers.
In Matara, however, things are already in place. Cricket is not only well followed but taken quite seriously by the schools, the country's main source of cricket talent. The importance of the age-level tournaments is such that the Uyanwatta Stadium is booked months in advance to host these matches. There is a large following and the alumni take detailed care of the various teams within the school, down to the appointment of trainers and physios.
Cricket doesn't come down to the number of academies, in fact the thrill is to find a rare talent out of nowhere. So if that "nowhere" provides basic practice facilities, the search becomes a lot narrower and more accessible. Down to its southern tip, Sri Lanka's schools have kept its cricketers close to the game.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondentFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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