Of course, cricket in Sri Lanka is well over 100 years, but the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka has been in existence for 50 years, it was revealed the press conference held on Friday night regarding the up-coming important event at Hotel Lanka Oberoi.
Cricket Board president Thilanga Sumathipala explained that the use of the word 'Nidahas' instead of the Independence - as was the case in similar cricket tournament conducted by South Asian neighbours India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to commemorate their independence serves two purposes. First, it gives the tourney an indigenous character something Sri Lanka and the other, the feeling of our independence the struggles, the pains and the joy were better preserved in 'Nidahas'.
The three teams will play an equal number of matches at the three venues - R. Premadasa International Stadium, SSC and at the Galle Stadium. There will be three matches each in the early round and the final will be at the Premadasa Stadium on July 7 day/night with the alternate date - July 8.
All matches at the Premadasa Stadium will be day/night games, while the matches at the SSC and at Galle will be day games.
Galle will be the new Test venue of Sri Lanka. Besides the Sri Lanka vs New Zealand second test to be played there from June 3 to 7, it will be a regular venue to stage one-day internationals too. ``An ICC official will be coming here to inspect the facilities at the Galle Stadium and we are confident it will be a fully fledged stadium,'' said Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala.
The Cricket Board boss thanked Singer Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya for all that he (Amarasuriya) has done for the development of the game in the country and said that about three years ago, the Sri Lanka team didn't have a team sponsor. It was with Singer coming in as a sponsor that the players were made to feel that they are a wanted lot.
Answering questions as to why Asgiriya was not taken as a venue for the tri-nation Singer Akai Nidahas Trophy tourney, Sumathipala said: ``There are two main reasons - the Met Department reports about the weather in the region around Kandy during the time of the tournament were not favourable and we couldn't risk playing matches there. The other reason is about the ICC requirements of playing international tournaments and Tests.''
What are the ICC requirements?
Sumathipala: ``First there is the playing controlling team - players have to be looked after, the spectators too have to be looked after and then there is the all-important security. We have to look after the comfort of the players, the media, the umpires and the facilities for the third umpire and a few other aspects have to be looked into. If we fail to satisfy the ICC requirements, we stand to lose international status.''
Asked about the Galle Stadium, the Cricket Board president Sumathipala said that there have been matches played in the centres and only the infrastructure needed improvement and work on the pavilion. Media enclosure etc have started and all should be ready by the time the New Zealand - Sri Lanka Test matches comes round.
England - six Test venues
Thilanga Sumathipala said that Sri Lanka cannot afford to have many Test venues because of the amount of expenditure involved. He also cited the case of England where there are 18 countries involved in cricket, but tests were played in only six centres. He said that it is not possible to have five test venues in a city. 'Colombo has two test venues - R. Premadasa Stadium and SSC. Then Galle Stadium, Asgiriya Stadium will have to be done up and 'we have to speak with the authorities of Trinity College about the Asgiriya ground,'' said Sumathipala.
Singer Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya said that cricket and Singer are synonymous in this part of the world and Singers have been sponsoring eight top tourneys before in the region.
Singer has been sponsoring cricket for 10 years. ``Cricket and cricketers bring a ray of hope to out troubled nation,'' Amarasuriya said.
He said Sri Lanka is hosting two friendly countries - India and New Zealand who have been very supportive of our cricket at the early stages for us to get into the big league.
Saliya Ahangama - the secretary of the Cricket Board said that no Test matches have hitherto been played beyond Moratuwa and it is with great expectation that the Board, the players even the public of Galle are awaiting the Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand scheduled to start on June 3 at the Galle Stadium.
He was appreciative of the fact of the key role played by Singer for the development of the game in the country.
Jaliya Jayasuriya - Business development Manager of Singer, Sri Lanka said that Singer is sponsoring five sports at international, club and school level and they were happy to sponsor the Singer Akai Nidahas Trophy tournament 1998.