Sri Lanka cricket June 15, 2008

Pallakelle unlikely to host 2011 World Cup games

The Pallakelle cricket stadium, owned by Sri Lanka Cricket, is nearing completion but it will require a sum close to Rs 200 million (US$ 1.8 million approx) for the site to be in line to hold games during the 2011 World Cup - a remote possibility at the moment.

Once the first stage of the project is completed, the stadium will be ready to stage domestic matches, mainly inter-provincial games. Bandula Warnapura, SLC's director of operations, had undertaken the task to accelerate the completion of the stadium and was confident of completing the job in three months.

"The bad weather we had in the last six months delayed the completion of Stage 1 by about two months," Warnapura said. "Otherwise we would have finished it by now and played some of the inter-provincial tournament matches there. We are developing that as stage one.

"The bad weather delayed sending out clay for the centre wicket which is not ready yet. The outfield we have planted about 75% of the grass. The underground drainage and sprinkler system is coming up which will take another one month. When I saw it for the first time I thought I must volunteer and develop it to play local matches. I am proud to say that it is almost ready now.

"Stage 2 will be to bring the stadium to international standard for which we need another Rs 200 million with lights coming in. We will develop that because this is a stadium SLC had taken over spending Rs 250 million and which has been neglected for nearly two years."

In October 2003, SLC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dubai-funded Zarara Sports (Pvt) Ltd for the construction of a Rs. 600 million (US$ 5.5 million approx) Pallakelle Sports Complex, which was to be known as the Kandy International Cricket Stadium.

The project was expected to be completed by August 2004. A loan of US$ 1 million was obtained from a foreign bank for this purpose with SLC as the guarantor. But due to financial constraints, and the inability of Zarara Sports (Pvt) Ltd to repay the loan to the bank which threatened to sue them. As guarantor SLC had to undertake payment of the balance money, so they eventually took over the entire project from Zarara Sports (Pvt) Ltd. in 2006. However work on the stadium came to a virtual standstill until it was revived again by Warnapura.

Pallakelle was considered to be an alternative venue for hosting international and Test matches as the Asgiriya International Stadium, not being a property of SLC, was costing them Rs 3-4 million to upgrade each time a Test match was to be hosted there.

Any chance of Pallakelle stadium hosting a cricket World Cup match in 2011 will largely depend on how fast the cash-strapped SLC can find the Rs. 200 million which is required to complete Stage 2 of the project. With not many cricket tours scheduled at home for the next three years, SLC will be hard pressed to pump in so much money towards building a stadium when it has several other areas to develop.

At least for now Pallakelle is not in the picture to host any of the nine 2011 World Cup matches, set to be held in the subcontinent. The provisional venues selected for the matches are the R Premadasa Stadium and the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium, both of which are equipped with lights to hold night matches.