New International cricket ground project withdrawn

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The proposed new international cricket ground project at Homagama, that was to cost Sri Lanka Cricket US$ 40 million, has been withdrawn following a meeting called by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees.

The meeting was attended by SLC office bearers, former cricket captains – Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Roshan Mahanama and current T-20 skipper Lasith Malinga.

After SLC officials and Minister Bandula Gunawardene went on an inspection tour to the site of the proposed new ground last week, it emerged that the project has been fast-tracked. There was a storm of protest with several ex-players voicing their concerns. Following the public outcry, SLC has been made to withdraw the plan.

The former players present highlighted the need to look after school cricket that has over the years produced some quality players. The provinces taking an active role in running the game was also highlighted by past players along with developing infrastructure at existing cricket grounds.

Another feature highlighted was how cost of cricket is going to be high when cricket resumes post COVID-19 due to the involvement of quarantine and bio-security measures. It was agreed upon by all parties that this wasn’t the time to invest on a cricket ground.

Former Presidents of SLC, Thilanga Sumathipala and Jayantha Dharmadasa were also present for the meeting alongside former Sports Ministers Johnston Fernando, Gamini Lokuge and Ministry officials.

Since the announcement of the mega project was reported by media, Sports Minister Dallas Alahapperuma had distanced himself claiming that he hadn’t been consulted on the project.

This project had gained momentum during the tenure of the previous government but last week’s announcement that SLC was going to spend US$ 40 million at a time most organizations globally were struggling to make ends meet was ill timed.

As of now, SLC will hold onto the 26-acre land that the government had given away but there will be no investment made.

SLC had initially defended the decision to build the new ground indicating that the board was going to bid for future ICC events. Former captain Mahela Jayawardene argued that SLC should first win the bid before thinking of spending mega bucks on a stadium. SLC was going to borrow a bank loan to build the new stadium. The venue was going to cater to 40,000 fans, the biggest in the country.