The government’s decision to build an international cricket stadium in Homagama has come in for criticism more than praise. The latest is that the regime has decided to halt construction of the sports facility in the face of objections raised by senior players.
The regime promised that the facility would be the first to come up in the area in a drive to turn it into a ‘sports city’.
However retired senior cricketers have underscored the fact that the island nation doesn’t need anymore cricket stadiums.
There is also a backlash from the people in the area regarding the building of such a sports facility. Hence Mahinda Rajapaksa, the premier of the present caretaker government, was forced to consider the views of prominent sports figures and experts regarding the building of the cricket stadium.
The planning of the new stadium any way came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cricket is a crowd puller in Sri Lanka and is played in every nook and corner of the island. But much of the sport’s activities and the administration arm of the discipline-Sri Lanka Cricket- are centred around Colombo.
This begs an answer from the government to the question ‘what good can be obtained by building a cricket stadium in remote Homagama?’
The cost of building this new stadium is estimated as US $ 30 million. The sports facility will be funded by the International Cricket Council and SLC.
One of the biggest critics of the regime is former national captain ex-minister Arjuna Ranatunga. The World Cup winning captain has said that the funds allocated for the new stadium should be used for the ‘real development of cricket’.
Another cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene critisises the regime’s plans for a cricket stadium while underscoring the fact that the islanders aren’t playing enough domestic matches in existing cricket stadiums.
If this cricket stadium comes up in Homagama it might experience the same fate of the already existing Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium which is situated at Sooriyawewa, Hambantota. For the record the stadium at Sooriyawewa is idling and is in a condition of neglect after having been hardly used; the venue only hosted a few matches during the 2011 World Cup and three matches during the 2012 ICC World T-20 Cricket Tournament.
Critics point out that lawmakers during the past promoted cricket in areas which they wish to gain political mileage. Lawmaker Tyrone Fernando promoted Test matches in Moratuwa, but cricket fans from this area have been starved of such entertainment and the once famous Tyrone Fernando Stadium is not on the list of favoured venues to host international cricket.
The same can be said about the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium and the Asgiriya
The opinion aired that more cricket must be played at existing stadiums must be given serious thought. For this these existing stadiums must be upgraded and promoted for cricket activities.
Cricketer turned lawmaker Ranatunga is often the thorn in the flesh for most lawmakers who air different views on cricket. He plays the role of watchdog when someone starts working contrary to his views on cricket. Most of the time Ranatunga agitates for nothing in cricket related activities. But his opposition with regard to a new stadium to be built in remote Homagama this time around was backed by community support.
SLC is a highly politisised institute; hence its administrators might never oppose plans of the regime to build this stadium. This is a time when past cricketers did well to air their voices and shoot down this idea to have a new cricket stadium in Homagama because they felt it would not help the sport.