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How Sri Lanka's World Cup venues were chosen

Interview by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

November 13, 2009

Comments: 14 | Text size: A | A

When the schedule for the 2011 World Cup was announced last Monday, eyebrows were raised about two of the venues in Sri Lanka that were allotted matches. The venues in question were Hambantota in the South and Pallakele in the Central Province. The third venue was, as expected, the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. How did the two new venues get the nod ahead of such renowned stadiums as Galle, Asgiriya, Dambulla and SSC? Cricinfo spoke to Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga who is also a member of the 2011 World Cup Central Organising Committee (COC) and the tournament's Operational and Ground Inspection Committee.


Groundsmen prepare the ground at the Galle Stadium ahead of the third Test, December 16, 2007
No World Cup matches at the picturesque Galle Stadium © Getty Images
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Can you justify the choosing of Hambantota and Pallakele as World Cup venues ahead of other reputed grounds?

The project to build an international cricket stadium in Hambantota with lights was taken three to four years ago and its ownership is with SLC. As Hambantota is a rapidly developing city, with a port and airport to be constructed in the near future, having an international stadium with a capacity of 25,000 would be beneficial for schools around the area and for international cricket. SLC will also accrue tax-free benefits as the cricket stadium is part of the massive Hambantota project (to develop a new sea port in the city). The entire cost of the stadium is Rs 900 million (US$7.86m) and we have already invested Rs 600 million (US$5.24m) on it. It will be ready by August 2010.

Pallakele was acquired by SLC three years ago and as the ownership is with us we thought of investing into it and developing it into an international venue with lights so that international cricket matches can be hosted. The Asgiriya Stadium belongs to Trinity College and there was a crying need for a stadium in Kandy so that schools in and around the area can benefit. The capacity of the Pallakele Stadium is 25,000 and the entire cost of the project is Rs 450 million (US$3.93m). We will play the first international matches at this venue later this month when we host the Under-19 one-day tri-series with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Why were venues like Galle, Dambulla, SSC and P Sara Oval not considered as World Cup venues?

The problem with venues as Galle, SSC and P Sara Oval is that the capacity of these grounds is less than 20,000. If we are to develop SSC and P Sara Oval with a larger capacity, lights and a bigger media box it will cost us at least Rs. 750-800 million (US$6.55m to 7m) for each venue. We cannot invest such a large amount of money at venues where SLC don't have any ownership. The ICC requirement for a media box is for a minimum of 200 journalists. With Galle we cannot increase the crowd capacity and fit lights because of the constraints of erecting buildings in front of the Galle Fort which is a world heritage site. At Dambulla there are a few technical issues to overcome like lights, and increasing the media box capacity to 200 and the spectators' capacity from the present 17,000 to 25,000. We plan to have Dambulla ready by 2012 when we host the ICC World Twenty20.

Does the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo measure up to the World Cup requirements?
Not quite but the improvements are minimal compared to the other venues. We have to increase the media box capacity from 80 to 200 and the spectator capacity from 14,000 to 35,000. We intend doing this by increasing the seating capacity of spectators in stands 'C' and 'D'. The wiring in the lighting system also needs to be redone.

Ranatunga said ICC officials would arrive later this month for an initial inspection of the venues. Premadasa Stadium will host seven World Cup matches (including a semi-final), Pallakele three matches and Hambantota two.

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Posted by Nigel-P on (November 17, 2009, 3:00 GMT)

It is a priviledge to host an event of this magnitude and Sri Lanka is greatful. The cricket team are true gentlemen and geat ambassadors to the sport. However The decision to experiment with new venues is potentially a disaster. The unwanted publicity has already started without a ball being bowled. The SLCB should have gone with the more established and world renowned venues, not to mention the established infrastructure such as accomodation etc. Any minor issue will be blown out of proportion. Dont get me wrong I am all for development and introducing the sport to rural areas. But experience will tell you that one does not experiment on the biggest stage. I think we will need a video replay of this decision!! I absolutely adore the SLC Team. As for the SLC Board I may have to give you OUT this time as it is a Bad Decision. It is just not cricket.

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 14, 2009, 23:16 GMT)

It is good that Asgiriya was abandoned as Trinity College owns it and also rain is an issue. I am surprised that SLC does not own SSC. Only thing is will Hambantota get a good crowd. Galle did get a good crowd when test matches were played there against Pakistan and NZ this year. But if Galle cannot be expanded due to the fort factor, then Hambantota is ok but I hope test cricket will be played there later on. I cant rule out Galle fans showing up at Hambantota. As far as time is concerned, I am sure they will be all complete by August next year.

Posted by Nisar.Ahmed on (November 14, 2009, 19:05 GMT)

I am Pakistani but really like Sri Lankan Cricket Team. We would be more than happy to play in any venue in Sri Lanka.We being a nation still rememberer the patience and understanding SL shown while having terrorist attack on SL Cricket Team in lahore. I love Sri Lankan Team.

Posted by randikaayya on (November 14, 2009, 18:04 GMT)

@yohandf1984: We have to wait and see whether this stunt attempted by SLC cound be pulled off or not. Its just that not everyday do we get to host a world cup and we are looking to take a huge gamble by introducing some brand new cricket grounds to host this historic event. Why not use the far more established and celebrated venues, we got some of the most picturesque cricket grounds in teh world and there's really no excuse for over looking them to host a land mark event. A cricket ground is not like a soccer ground, it takes time and effort to season properly. Even still the Dambulla pitch hasn't tempered properly enough as evidenced by the really really low average totals there! How will Hambantota and Pallekele behave in a crucial game? In addition the selection reeks of political involvement and that is one thing I prefer to keep out of the game we love!

Posted by SPGUN on (November 14, 2009, 17:54 GMT)

Seems like the name of the game in the country is going for more and more new projects in the name of development it's always good to take the game to the rural parts. However, it's interesting to know how many school matches or club matches are currently held in Dambulla ? would the same fate befall Hambanthota, Pallekele only time we'll tell. Since SLC is more interested in moving towards ownership and returns interesting to know what the payback periods if any are of these projects ?or their are more interested we all know what ?

If the ICC has at least taken a leaf out of their last world cup debacle in the carribean where it was a case of huge stadiums and empty seats was a common occurance for most of the games strange to see why there are so rigid restrictions in terms of seating capacity. Isn't it better to have a match with 15000 spectators fullstadium than 30000 half full stadium.

So only time we'll tell whether the WC in the Sub cont. would be another carribean 2007

Posted by yohandf1984 on (November 14, 2009, 14:58 GMT)

I m so disappointed to see most of the comments against selection of Hambantota and Pallekele grounds. Its a huge step to promote games in rural areas. Apart of that it ll assist to upgrade economy of people over there.(unless SLC forget these after WC). Shouldnt forget that Dambulla stadium was constructed within 180 days. So why not these ones? @ramesh-roy , its only few month since re- stablishment of democracy in North & East. Accordingly cricketting facilities will devolop there. but SSC deserves atleast 2 games and authotity should consider that.

Posted by Shen_Mark on (November 14, 2009, 13:10 GMT)

On a serious note, I think this signifies the aim of SLC to bring cricket to all parts of the country not just limited to Colombo. The downside of this will be regular fans will find it difficult. However the outstation fans too deseve a chance, dont they?

Posted by 9ST9 on (November 14, 2009, 10:26 GMT)

im nt sure whether these grounds will be completed in time, therefore keep your fingers crossed we may still see some action at SSC. Anyway its really bad that the SSC , the ''home'' of SL Cricket is being given the cold-shoulder. And how can you expect the same amt of spectators in an out-of-the-way place like h'tota?

Posted by Mr.niceguy on (November 14, 2009, 8:20 GMT)

Well 1st of all SLC must make sure that sri lankan cricketers do get plenty of practice in these two grounds prior to the world cup. Because one main advantage that the host nation gets playing at home soil is that they are use to the ground condition. But these two grounds will alienate srilankan players as well. Are they taking a gamble here with these two venues ?

Posted by ramesh-roy on (November 14, 2009, 8:04 GMT)

SLC should answer some questions that wernt asked. 1) If SLC represents all Sri Lanka ie the East and North, it CANNOT be a cricketing reason to spend all this money in H'tota and not near the east or north. 2)SLC was ordered to do this no? 3) Then SLC should not spend a penny of our cricket money - let the promoters fund it themselves.ok? 4) Why is the H'tota stadium cost double that of Pallekelle? It should be similar or lower. Nudge nudge we know why!!! 5) Who will fill the 25k seats at H'tota? Galle fans wouldnt- they've been badly treated& their schools are denied use of Galle ground. How will the W.Prov, Jaffna and Trico fans go there? 6) Not only the stadium has to develop for intl cricket- hotels, restaurants, roads, entertainment - offshore ships? haha. 7) What will SLC do with this white elephant after the World Cup? A few Schools matches? All premier matches are in Cmbo, & Provincial matches in Galle. 8) How can SLC fund 2 intl grounds in the south? Transparency please.

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