New SLC board suspends work on indoor nets
The recently elected Sri Lanka Cricket board has suspended work on indoor nets at the Khettarama, Pallekele and Dambulla stadiums, citing the previous board's failure to obtain government approval for the projects.
That claim has since been strongly disputed, however, by former SLC head Sidath Wettimuny, under whose leadership construction had begun.
The new board, headed by Thilanga Sumathipala, said in a release that it had decided to "re-assess the projects based on the high cost in construction (Rs.248 million or approx. USD $1.72 million) and the space allocation at the respective venues". It also said SLC would get "the proper approvals from the relevant authorities" and would request a new proposal from the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau, before deciding on a course of action "which should not be too much of a strain for the finances of SLC".
The suspension drew the ire of Wettimuny, whose interim committee had made the indoor nets a priority of their nine-month tenure. He said space had been made in the board budget for the construction of the nets, and that permission had been sought - and in most cases - received.
"I am totally disappointed that such a project has been stopped," he told Daily News. "These are projects which the cricket committee came up with, because we felt it was vital for the overall plan in developing our cricket, and to bring in the youth to train and develop in these areas. It is a huge blow for cricket."
Wettimuny conceded SLC had not received Colombo Municipal Council permission for the Khettarama nets, despite having applied for it. But neither was SLC's application rejected - the Council, he said, simply did not respond. Applications to previous renovations to the stadium had similarly been ignored by the council, but those projects had gone ahead anyway, in 2010 and 2006, he said.
According to Wettimuny, work at Pallekele and Dambulla had received full approval, however. "Pallekele belongs to the Board of Investment (BOI) and we have got BOI approval. It was on a BOI project that the stadium was built - even the BOI board guys came to the foundation ceremony.
"Dambulla we had to get permission from the chief monk who owns the land. We obtained permission from him and he was even invited for the opening ceremony. He gave a speech saying that after so many years some good has been done for this area where thousands of children will benefit because they don't have any place to go and hire and practice.
"The sports minister himself came for both opening ceremonies at Pallekele and Dambulla and said virtually the same thing."
Several cricketers have advocated for the development of indoor facilities at the Khettarama ground in particular. Sri Lanka's major cricket academies are run at that venue, but teams - including touring international sides - must travel to indoor nets at Nondescripts Cricket Club, when the weather is bad.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando