International Cricket returns to Galle

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In one of world’s most heritage sites ‘the Galle fortress’’ embarking it is one of the picturesque cricketing venues in the world, as for the cricketers who are playing there and the spectators who are watching it is a  unique yet magnificent experience having the Dutch fortress and the beach behind, it is truly a delightful experience being there yet again for a test match Sri Lanka against Australia.

By Osanda Gunaratna

Galle In one of world’s most heritage sites ‘the Galle fortress’’ embarking it is one of the picturesque cricketing venues in the world, as for the cricketers who are playing there and the spectators who are watching it is a  unique yet magnificent experience having the Dutch fortress and the beach behind, it is truly a delightful experience being there yet again for a test match Sri Lanka against Australia.

Formally known as The Esplanade, the Galle International Cricket stadium is a historic and important landscape in the Galle town, as it host many International matches there, number of tourist flock in to the Southern Town ,not by knowing the Galle-Town but its magnificent cricket Stadium which  have brought such pride not just to Sri Lankan cricket but also to International cricket where as Shane Warne achieved his 500th test wicket at this very venue, Chris Gayle’s 333 and Virender Sehwag scoring a double hundred.

In a Sri Lankan Cricket point of view this venue which is situated in the heart of Galle, has given Sri Lanka more test winning ratio than any other test venue in 16 matches played here 8 have been won by Sri Lanka with 5 draws and 3 losses. It has been a very lucky stadium for Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara as they have scored 1816 runs and 973 runs respectively.
While Sri Lanka’s recently retired star off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan have bagged 111 wickets , along with his 800th wicket in his final test apperance at Galle.

History of the Galle International Stadium

The stadium was built as a race course in 1876, . There was no permanent pavilion until 1892, when a ‘grand stand’ was built according to a suggestion of Mr. P A Templer, the then Secretary of the Galle Municipality Council. Later on the racing ceased and the ground was used for cricket matches more than races. In 1927, the ground was officially declared as a cricket stadium.

The ground hosted its first first-class match on 29 February 1984. A turf wicket was introduced to the stadium in 1945 under the guidance of Mr. Dhanapala Lorensu Hewa who was then secretary of the Galle Cricket Ground. The assistance of the Colombo Cricket Club was also taken for this.The ground was upgraded to the standard of a test venue to host international matches, making it the 7th test venue in Sri Lanka. Galle International Stadium hosted its inaugural Test match on June 3rd 1998 and featured Sri Lanka and New Zealand, resulting a Sri Lankan win by an innings and 16 runs.

The stadium hosted ODIs from 1998, which the Sri Lanka vs. India match rained out   and subsequently hosted its 1st ODI in 1999 in a ‘Sri Lanka vs. Australia’ game where the Aussies emerged winners by 50 runs, but since 2000 it has never hosted a ODI game, which is  quite strange for a popular tourist destination.

2004 Tsunami Demolition of the Stadium  
In 2004 December 26th, the terror waves of Tsunami swept away not just properties, vehicles, valuables but  also 40,000 important human lives in Sri Lanka. The massive waves swam away directly through the Galle International Cricket Stadium destroying each and everything it its way with rough dark sea water completely destroying the stadiums pitch surface and its pavilions along with the whole town of Galle.

Jayananda Waranaweera, the curator of the stadium was devastated with the loss as he took care of the stadium as if his own flesh and blood. It looked very bleak that the stadium would be reconstructed again as they were reports that it will be relocated in to another location.

Reconstruction of the Galle International Cricket Stadium

With politics of Sri Lankan Cricket casting a dark cloud over the stadium’s future it took donations from the likes of Ian Botham and Shane Warne - who had taken his 500th Test wicket here - to get the stadium's redevelopment back on track.Political backing was needed for the survival of the stadium and the president of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakse gave full support and clearance in rebuilding this stadium to its past glory. The main pavilion a new addition to the stadium was named later on as Mahinda Rajapakse pavilion.

This pavilion can provide seating for up to 500 VIP guests and also has VIP restaurant with buffet setting facilities. It also contains a media centre that can hold 150 media personnel, and is equipped with two TV control rooms and a radio commentators’ room. The dressing rooms of the two teams are also within this pavilion.

The former main pavilion, the Galle Cricket Club pavilion also has been rebuilt. This was constructed with the money collected from a lottery organized by the Galle Cricket Club. The Galle Gymkhana Club also made a significant contribution to the construction of this pavilion.

SLC had reconsidered rebuilding but the stadium faces yet another problem that threatened to stop the construction, as one of the new buildings blocked the view of the adjacent Galle Fort from the town which is a UNESCO world heritage. Galle Heritage Organization expressed their concern in  this citing that the UNESCO  might remove the Galle Fort from their list. The issue was resolved as there were no buildings blocking the view of it and reconstruction completed in time to host the test match featuring England and Sri Lanka in 2007.

Test match against Australia at Galle

Australia will be well prepared while Sri Lanka needs to get into a winning start to a series that they will be desperate to capitalize from the start. It is likely Sri Lanka will field two spinners with 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers which is an ideal choice at Galle.

As the weather has remained sunny, dry with lesser chances of showers it will be crucial to win the toss and idyllically bat first as the 4th and 5th day of the test is bound to produce a lot of spin as it have in the Galle Cricket Stadium.

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