ICC officials here on November 30 for final inspection

We can look forward to a fantastic World Cup – Dandeniya

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
When the first ball is bowled at one of Sri Lanka’s three 2011 World Cup Cricket venues the happiest person will be Suraj Dandeniya, the tournament director of the World Cup Secretariat Sri Lanka. The big event is only 84 days away and Dandeniya is very confident that the deadlines for completion of the three international cricket stadiums at R Premadasa Stadium Colombo, Pallakele Kandy and Sooriyawewa Hambantota will be met.
“When interim chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket DS de Silva handed over the responsibility of building these three stadiums to me I knew it was an enormous task but I was one hundred percent confident that it could be done,” Dandeniya told The Nation.

“I have played cricket and have virtual experience in undertaking enormous tasks like this as CEO at the BOI (Board of Investment Sri Lanka). I have lived in the States and I am a taskmaster - ‘when things get tough the tough get going’. We are happy we have fulfilled it with the necessary support the country’s President has given us.”
An International Cricket Council (ICC) delegation of 20 officials is due in Sri Lanka from November 30 to December 3 to inspect the three World Cup venues and according to Dandeniya, “their task will be to see that the grounds have the potential and that we are ready”.

“Maybe some infrastructure still has to be done but in their eyes they will have to satisfy themselves with the nitty-gritty. We have preplanned all these things and when they come we will show them the necessary areas. Actually they will go through 750 items at each of the three stadiums,” said Dandeniya.
“This team of ICC officials is not coming to Sri Lanka to give accreditation to the venues but to see whether the venues are ready for the World Cup. When you say venue it is not only the playing surface, it is the grandstand, the sponsors’ areas, the vendors’ areas, security, logistics etc that they will look for. They want to make sure that everything is in order. For the past one and a half years every month we have met in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh and the ICC is very happy with what we have done. It is not only Sri Lanka they are visiting but all the venues that the World Cup matches are going to be played in India and Bangladesh also,” he said.
“As far as accreditation goes Clive Lloyd was in Sri Lanka recently sent by the ICC because Hambantota and Pallakele have never played any international ICC recognised matches. So before you play the first match accreditation has to be granted. That is why Lloyd was here. He has granted accreditation for both venues Hambantota and Pallakele otherwise, without it, you cannot play.”

Pallakele is due to host the third Test between Sri Lanka and West Indies from December 1-5 and Hambantota the first two One-Day Internationals between the two countries on December 9 and 11.
“When Lloyd was here we explained the situation to him and told him about Premadasa Stadium also. He said as far as the ICC was concerned accreditation has already been granted. We had no problem with that. Premadasa Stadium has been playing so many Tests and ODIs the refurbishment was not a matter of concern. But we told him that the ground was newly laid and he was very confident of it. Though we invited him to come to Premadasa Stadium he told us that it was not his mandate and was not necessary,” said Dandeniya.
Explaining the reasons why the three World Cup venues have been picked to host matches against the touring West Indies, Dandeniya stated, “There were some reasons why we want to play at Premadasa Stadium, Pallakele and Hambantota because all these grounds are brand new, even Premadasa Stadium is almost a brand new stadium. As Sri Lanka is preparing for the World Cup we thought it is best that we give maximum opportunity to the Sri Lankan cricketers to play on our home wickets.

“The most important people in cricket are the players. We want to somehow win this World Cup. In order to do so we also have a home team advantage. When you talk of home team advantage the players must be playing on these wickets as much as possible. We knew the wickets were in perfect condition, the players’ dressing rooms were complete and the media facilities though are not what we expect for the World Cup but are as good as at any other Test venue. Therefore we thought we will host the Test against West Indies at Premadasa Stadium,” he said.

“We have improved the entire ground facilities at Premadasa Stadium the drainage, sprinkler system, the grass; even the soil is brand new. Actually it’s a new playing surface. All these things are state of the art. It is not like playing a one-day match, when you play a Test match you are in the game. For a one-day match you are there for 2½ - 3 hours it is played at a very fast pace. This is the only Test match that we can play before the World Cup. We have spoken to the necessary people and they have said okay and we went ahead and played the match. It was a good challenge for everybody to see that this ground is ready to play a Test match.
“Even if we don’t put the roof but if we put the chairs we can still play the match. There is no hard and fast rule that there has to be a roof. In these days everything is done so quickly. If we do the other few tiers there’s about another 50 of them that should come. Those tiers can be done in two days. The State Engineering Corporation (SEC) has all the materials that are required to complete the job. We have to only put the roof. We will put it in probably 15-20 days with modern technology.

“There was a reason why we gave it to State Engineering Corporation (SEC). No one can accuse us of corruption. Once we give it to a state institution we do not know of one single sub-contract. We only talk with their hierarchy and they have fulfilled the job. Though people say that SEC has delayed, the reason why they have been able to do it is that every single payment they have told us to be paid we have paid on time. We have looked at the finances and we are not doing it on an ad hoc basis. Also people forget that the Premadasa Stadium was built on muddy land. This is a stadium that was built within six months and has withstood for 21 years without any cracks. It is the same SEC who did it. The SEC has all the master plans of this stadium so it was an added advantage.

“We know what finances will come from the World Cup and we are staying within the budget. That is how we are doing it. We have advanced money which is due to Sri Lanka Cricket from the World Cup. Sri Lanka Cricket already has a budget for about 3 - 4 years. We know what monies are there to come and based on those only we have done our budgets. Almost 80 percent of the money we get from the World Cup we are using on the infrastructure of the stadiums. It is a tribute to Sri Lanka Cricket because it doesn’t get one cent from anyone else. It is our marketing abilities that have brought these monies and luckily we were able to get some matches from Pakistan also.

Dandeniya said the decision to play the second Test at the Premadasa Stadium was an interim committee decision. “Before this Test was scheduled the players were informed about it. They okayed it and that’s how we came to play the Test. It was not a one man’s decision or a Sri Lanka Cricket decision. When Sri Lanka Cricket does something we always consult the players, without their consultation we will never take any decisions.
“We looked at the safety side and we were 100 percent sure we had one stand where almost 3000 - 3500 people could come and watch the match, Test matches not many people come. In spite of the rain we are fortunate to have play going. If we had played this Test match at the SSC or the P Sara Oval we would have never been able to start it. With so much rain within 1½ - 2 hours we were able to start the match. That’s the testimony that Sri Lanka is now ready with world class stadiums,” he said.

Explaining further Dandeniya said, “If you look at the Premadasa Stadium right now there is a lot of building to be done most of it is on the construction part. Eighty percent is over we have only to do the tiers and the roofs. We are very confident that by December 30 we will finish all these things as per the ICC rules and regulations even though some sections of the media have said that it has to be completed by November 30. We have agreed with the ICC that the grounds will be completed and that we will start playing our matches. We also have time to do the finishing touches even till the end of February. We are very confident that the ICC will give us permission. We are not worried about the media critics I know why they do that. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned I will assure you the stadiums will be ready,” he said.

“Pallakele is a magnificent stadium there is no construction to be done, the grounds and pitch is ready. Hambantota, the media box is almost complete and we have to do some finishing touches to the stadium. The grandstand has come up which is seven storey’s high and it is going to be one of the largest grounds in the world. Sri Lanka can be proud that within one year an enormous task has been given to us by our chairman and we have fulfilled three brand new world class stadiums. All the floodlights are brand new even at the Premadasa Stadium the entire lighting system has been totally done. The lux levels have been improved and all the stadiums have ICC requirement lux levels.”

Dandeniya said the capacity at the Premadasa Stadium has been increased from around 18,000 to 28,000 seating capacity and it can take a maximum of 30,000-32,000 with standing capacity. Pallakele he said could accommodate about 25,000 and Hambantota the capacity was 30,000. “If it is with standing capacity it can go up to 40,000 and even 50,000. That is how we have built these stadiums. We have looked at the future. Sri Lanka is growing and there are a lot of opportunities that are coming up in the world. Cricket itself is changing. We have given in the last one year for Sri Lanka cricket an infrastructure they don’t have to worry about for another 30 years. Sri Lanka can look forward to a fantastic World Cup.
“Also when you have a World Cup which is the third largest event in the world you have to have a legacy behind it. The legacy is that we have taken cricket to the villages and with this infrastructure we have built I am 100 percent sure all what we need in cricket is to find another Muralitharan or another Sanath Jayasuriya,” said Dandeniya.

“There is so much talent in the villages and with the new systems we have brought in especially increasing the contracted players from 20 to 100 we see the results now. There is enough young blood to replace the current players. I will assure that within the next three years Sri Lanka will have the best cricketing nation in the world. Australia probably will have all the scientific technology but with our natural talent and with the infrastructure that Sri Lanka Cricket has given them within the last one year we will boast of the best Test and ODI players in the world,” he said.


Nalanda invitation squash tournament

Barely a year since taking up squash as a sport, Nalanda College Colombo is coming up with a Schools invitation Squash Tournament in the first week of December. The tournament will be played at the newly built squash court of Nalanda from December 3 to 8 with top six schools in participation.
“We have invited almost all the squash playing schools in the island. But so far only six schools including Nalanda have confirmed their participation. The opportunity will be open for schools who wish to take part in this tournament which is a first of its kind conducted by a school,” said the principal of Nalanda Ranjith Jayasundera at a press briefing held at the College auditorium last Thursday (November 25).
The tournament will be conducted in six different age categories beginning from the under-9 to 19 for novices. However, according to the organisers who had earlier planned the event for both genders, the girls’ tournament was withdrawn due to poor participation.

The boys’ tournament is expected to be a tough challenge with S. Thomas’, St. Joseph’s, DS Senanayake, St. Peter’s, St. Sylvester’s and Nalanda competing in all age categories. The tournament is expected to accommodate over 150 participants.
The president of Sri Lanka Squash Federation, Oliver Guruge also endorsed the tournament welcoming the attempt of Nalanda Old Boys in promoting squash among schools.
“This is a very good sign from a school like Nalanda which is mostly known for the number of international cricketers they have produced. Nalanda taking up squash is a giant stride and we as the governing body of the sport in the country will willingly support their cause,” Guruge who presented the squash balls for the tournament said.

The organisers consider this event as an initial step towards uplifting squash within schools in the Colombo district. This will be the inaugural tournament to be played at the Nalanda Squash Court which was built solely by the donations of their distinguished old boy Kassapa Mahendra de Silva at the cost of seven million Sri Lankan rupees. The event is jointly organised by the College staff, Old Boys Association, Junior Old Boys Association, Old Nalandians Sports Club and Sri Lanka Squash Federation. Main sponsor for the event is Stafford Motors. [MNA]


Dias and Jayasinghe

Former Ceylon cricketer Sylvester Dias who was featured in our series Living Legends writes with reference to an interview with him which appeared in these columns on September 19, 2010 that he has been misquoted stating that “Mr DD Jayasinghe (former Ceylon cricketer) would give Rs. 10 to the umpire to get a good batsman out”.
Mr Dias writes to emphasize that what he meant was that “anyone would give Rs. 10 to get Mr DD Jayasinghe out”.
He further states that “the late Mr DD Jayasinghe was a gentleman to his fingers tips as would be endorsed by all who knew him”.


Otters 5 on 5 ‘Net 2 Win’ Basketball Tournament

The Colombo Men’s ‘A’ team won the recently concluded 5 on 5 ‘Net 2 Win’ Basketball Tournament organised by the Otter Aquatic Club (OAC) which was worked out on the Club Courts.
The victorious team is pictured receiving the champion’s trophy from the President OAC, Sisil de Silva. Also present is the General Secretary OAC, Mayura Amarasinghe. The main sponsor for the event was Elephant House


Bloomfield AGM

Active member Hirantha Perera was elected as the president of Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club while Rohan de Alwis was elected to the secretary post at their Annual General Meeting recently.
Following are the newly elected office bearers:
Joint Patrons: Shelley Wickramasinghe, Upali Dharmadasa
Vice Patrons: Bandula Warnapura, Thilak Hewakapuge, Danny Liyanasuriya, Upali Premadasa, DP Wickramarachchi
President: Hirantha Perera
Secretary: Rohan de Alwis
Treasurer: Nihal Marasinghe
Asst. Secretary: Yoosuf Khan
Asst. Treasurer: Prince Thomas
Vice Presidents: Jayantha Seneviratna, Lalith Kaluperuma, Rohan de Alwis, Nihal Marasinghe, W D Quintus
Bar Secretary: Rohit Nagarajah
Ground Secretary: Jayantha Seneviratna
Cricket Secretary: Sanoj Cyril
Club Captain: Ashroff Ghany
Social Secretary: Ranjith Fernando
Committee: J Galassage, Sarath Liyanage, Sumith Fonseka, Sarath Mandawela, Ravi Athulathmudali, Kithsiri Lankatilake, Ajith Dharmawardena, Christy Perera