Shoddy Sri Lanka Cricket exposed over venues fiasco

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By Trevor Chesterfield | January 28, 2011

Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium
In this picture taken last month, construction workers attend to the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in the southern district of Hambantota. AFP PHOTO/Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI.

Believing anything that comes out of Maitland Place these days is a matter of who you are talking to and the subject. If the discussion is about the World Cup and the venue fiasco, or the television rights issue and the West Indies tour, it becomes so hilarious it is no longer funny.

Now the international TV plug has been pulled on the three-match ODI series between Sri Lanka and West Indies because those running that shoddy ad-hoc government appoint interim committee, were too greedy. So far, there has been no media communiqué to explain why the Dubai based Ten Sports, the SLC visual media partner, quit negotiations.

On Friday evening, top SLC officials headed by Somachandra de Silva with his sidekick Nishantha Ranatunga as secretary, failed to attend a media conference to welcome the West Indies team. Reasons why disgruntled interim committee members ducked the meeting is because they didn’t want to face a barrage of prickly questions of why there will be no international television of the rearranged limited overs series starting on Monday.

Exposed for their distorted explanation to the public over reasons the International Cricket Council’s refusal to release two of the three World Cup venues for the games, SLC wanted to squeeze more money out of their TV media partner Taj Television over a new contract deal.

This is after SLC complained they had lost money on the abandoned five-match ODIs and T20 games in December because of heavy rains over the island.

It now means the new series will be downgraded to what is little more than a pre-World Cup sideshow with a local government station screening the games, which have been turned into all-day outings, as Sinhalese Sports Club doesn’t have lights.

Somachandra de SilvaAs it is top SLC hierarchy face embarrassing questions from the ICC over their response of why they deliberately misrepresented the facts when giving reasons for the ICC’s refusal to allow the Sooriyawewa venue in Hambantota and Premadasa Stadium, in Khettarama, to be used for the games.

Warnings were issued almost four weeks ago by the International Cricket Council that the venues at Hambantota and Khettarama could not be used for the West Indies tour as there were construction issues still to be sorted out.

This flies in the face of De Silva’s claims made on the Sinhala service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, attacking the media over the readiness of the venues, and later an SLC media release attempting to shift the blame on to the ICC for not allowing the games to be played in Hambantota and at Premadasa Stadium.

James Fitzgerald, the ICC media manager, in clarifying comments made to the Sinhalese service of the BBC, said although the three venues had been passed, there was still construction work being carried out.

“We informed Sri Lanka Cricket in the first week in January that according to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 host agreement approved by all parties (signed in 2006), there is an exclusivity period around the event whereby no non-event-related activities can take place on the ground, 21 days prior to the first tournament match or 14 days prior to first (practice) game (whichever is earlier), except with the express approval of the ICC.

“In this case, the ICC insisted on this exclusivity period due to the fact that there is still some work required to be carried out on the venues, so clearly it’s what’s best for the tournament (that we now withdraw permission to play the West Indies games).”

The ICC monitoring team gave the three Sri Lankan venues a fourteen-day extension to get the venues in order, this also includes Wankhede, where Sri Lanka play New Zealand in late March and which is scheduled to host the final on April 2.

Displaying typical hubris in their media release, SLC did not mention the key phrase “host agreement approved by all parties,” and in not doing so were deliberately attempting to shift the blame on the ICC. As usual, it is a matter of SLC hierarchy twisting the lines of communication.

It is not that the ICC have “no-balled” the subject of the matches between West Indies and Sri Lanka, but the ICC are adhering to the protocols involved and which SLC have clearly not followed. This has resulted in the three ODI games being turned into all day events at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Naturally, none of this appears in any Lake House publication, they are too busy covering the exposed coattails of the interim committee and their distorted comments.

Sources in Dubai have pointed a finger directly at SLC officials for the breakdown in the plans to screen the three games internationally. They pointed out that as the three games are not part of the FTP (future tours programme) a new contract needed to be signed. SLC, however, were unhappy with the offer on the table, said to be far less than the US$3-million demanded by SLC.

“This is the West Indies we are talking about, not India,” the sources said. “Already, selling the tour to sponsors was proving to be a problem.”

In the previous contract covering the West Indies tour, which was part of the FTP, the television company had already paid SLC for the screening of the three Tests, T20 game and five ODIs as part of the tour deal. Because of heavy December rains, which resulted in floods in the eastern areas of the island, the games then scheduled for Hambantota and Khettarama were cancelled resulting in loses to Ten Sports as well.

The outfield at Sooiryawewa has been turfed by sods taken from the now disused golf course at Waters Edge, on the outskirts of Colombo. Although A-team matches were played in August and September last year, the World Cup squad has not had a chance to test conditions, which has annoyed the Sri Lankans players who were promised they would get to play at the three venues before the World Cup began.

As it is, Premadasa Stadium in Khettarama has been used for domestic matches and there have been complaints about the playing surface being of low quality and poor drainage. The ground at Pallakele was played on during the third rain-off Test involving the West Indies.

© Trevor Chesterfield/Island Cricket.
(For reasons of copyright, permission is required from the author and/or webmaster/editor of islandcricket.lk for publication).

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