Galle stadium redevelopment on schedule for England tour
The Sri Lankan cricket authorities are confident that the Galle International Stadium, one of the world's most picturesque cricket venues, will be ready to host thousands of English cricket supporters later this year.
Flanked by the 400-year-old Dutch fort, the stadium was severely damaged during the Asian tsunami and, although the match has since hosted a first-class match, renovations have been held up by planning problems. However, the direct intervention of Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse solved disputes helped address the concerns of the Department of Archaeology, who were keen to protect Galle Fort, a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site.
"Galle will be ready in time to stage the first test against England," K. Mathivanan, the secretary of Sri Lanka, told the media last week. "We experienced some delays on the construction of spectator stands on the Fort side due to the concerns of the Department of Archaeology, but with the help of the President of Sri Lanka we finally managed to get the necessary approval to go ahead with work on that side of the ground."
The entire outfield has already been dug up and re-sowed, the practice nets are finished and an indoor training centre is back in operation. The redevelopment, estimated to now cost £1.25 million, will also include a new pavilion with extra seating and corporate boxes, new dressing rooms and a modern media centre.
Tourism authorities are hopeful that up to 5000 English cricket fans will travel to Sri Lanka to celebrate the venue's reopening and watch the first Test starting on December 1, the start of the main holiday season. "The Barmy Army and England's fun-loving cricket fans are always welcome in Sri Lanka and we are expecting record numbers to come this year," a tourist board official said. "Interest is already high and rooms are selling fast."
The tour has been spilt into two legs with a five-match ODI series in October followed by a six-week break and then the Test series in December. In between the two tours, Sri Lanka will travel to Australia.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent