World Cup venue blunder: SLC chief stripping in public

It was just a few days ago that the Chairman of the Interim Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket – D.S. de Silva – during an interview with the BBC launched a tirade against local newspapers on reports that have appeared about the preparations of the three 2011 World Cup venues.

The BBC report said: “Sri Lanka Cricket chairman D.S. de Silva has accused the Sri Lankan media of publishing false reports over the delay in constructing World Cup venues. The International Cricket Council has raised concerns over some venues.

"Can you take seriously what those newspapers say? Have those newspapers ever said anything good?" De Silva told the BBC's Sinhala Service.

He was commenting over the reports claiming that the progress of building Sri Lanka's three World Cup venues were lagging behind the ICC deadlines. Yes, the ICC representatives visited the venues from January 18-20 and took charge of the three venues at Hambantota, Pallekelle and Colombo. Yes, they passed the three venues on condition that the rest of the work be completed within 14 days.

Just a while man!!! We now learn that when the SLC chairman went on his tirade, the grounds were not fully completed. In reality can the rest of the Sri Lankan public take D.S. de Silva and company seriously? No many people were aware that the SLC could not host the visiting West Indians in the three ODIs at Hambantota and R. Premadasa Stadiums as earlier scheduled without prior permission from the ICC after the grounds were taken over. When the ICC very politely pointed out that there is an exclusivity period during which the ICC’s writ holds sway, the Lankan authorities hurriedly shifted the matches to the Sinhalese Sports Club Grounds.

Now comes the million dollar question. Are the newly-laid pitches ready to host a World Cup game in the magnitude of a Sri Lanka-Australia clash that would eventually point to a placement in the quarter-finals?

The buildings may have been erected and the rest of the paraphernalia where the buildings are concerned may be in place or will be ready by the date that the matches start, yet, we ask, ‘are the playing wickets ready to host games of this magnitude?’

Our staff cameraman Shantha Ratnayake captured this picture when the SLC Interim Committee Chairman D. Somachandra de Silva is in another plane talking on his cellular phone while – Aravinda de Silva ( Chairman selectors, Ranjith Fernando (selector), Anuruddha Polonnowita (Chief Curator – SLC) along with SLC Director Cricket Operations – Ashley De Silva has a close look at the Premadasa Stadium Wicket during innings break of the Premier Provincial Limited Tournament final.

In their run up to the quarter finals (if they can get there due to the reasons stated above), Sri Lanka will open their 2011 quest against Canada at the Hambantota Stadium before moving on to the R. Premadasa Stadium for the rest of their engagements barring one game against Zimbabwe at the Pallekelle Stadium. Their match against New Zealand will be played at Wankhede Stadium on March 18.

At the R. Premadasa Stadium, Sri Lanka will play Pakistan on February 26, Kenya on March 1 and Australia on March 5. Then like Julius Caesar gracing the Colosseum in ancient Rome, Chairman D.S. de Silva and his entourage will grace the venues at Hambantota, Pallekelle and Colombo from February 20, but what about the brave gladiators who are putting their life line on target down below, in the arena. What assurances are there to say that the wicket provided would be of World Cup standard? Or else, would they be exposed to the unknown to fight blindly just for survival?

The Lankan players who were engaged in the Premier League Club Tournament and the Premier League Provincial Tournament were not satisfied with the wickets provided for them by the authorities at the R. Premadasa Stadium, in spite of much bellowing by the SLC Interim Committee Chairman that the playing strips are hunky-dory.

Especially during the Provincial semi-finals some of the most senior players in the Lankan team had shown their disappointment to the authorities on the poor quality of the wickets provided for the matches. When queried, the explanation given was that the wickets that were used were not the ones that were prepared for the World Cup.

Then when the players said what they really expected was to play on the proper World Cup wickets the answer had been that the top dressing of the World Cup wickets was not over so they were not quite ready.

That meant that the Lankan players did not get a chance of playing on the proper World Cup wickets during those two tournaments. Then they waited for the West Indian tour, to get some first hand information about the surfaces at Hambantota and the R. Premadasa Stadium, but the SLC faux pas had deprived them of that opportunity too.

An exasperated player took time to explain. He said they would have liked to play on the Hambantota surface in a bid to learn about that virgin strip. “First we must know the quantity of the wicket, because we have to get prepared for it. If it is a 200-run wicket, we have to be ready with a combination akin to that. If it is a 300-run wicket the combination surely is going to be different. To learn about the wicket, we have to play on the strip and experience it, which is why we wanted to play on the proper World Cup wickets during this tournament,” he said.

Then he charged: “When you play a game on an unknown wicket, you are down on even keel against the lowest side in the tournament because you do not know the qualities of the wickets and automatically lower the level of your game to suit the situation, because it unknown territory”.

Maybe the delay in putting up buildings could have been excused to some extent. But, the strips they knew they had to prepare and there could have been one department concentrating only on one job. We at this end feel that the Lankan team should have been exposed to those World Cup strips before the World Cup proper began so that they can make the maximum out of the home advantage. Now do you know where we are standing?

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