What’s the story?
The excitement is building up for the series opener between Sri Lanka and India at the iconic Galle International Stadium but few of the cricket loving public were left disappointed with the exterior periphery of the stadium set to be closed for the first time since 2012.
Corrugated iron sheets with the branding of Sri Lanka Cricket have come up on the exterior, thus preventing the view from the roads which was otherwise a common feature at the stadium, allowing passersby to get a free view of the action on the field.
While the Galle public feels that the move is aimed at ensuring that they bought tickets in order to watch the match, SLC insisted that it was necessary as the players were getting distracted due to the movement of vehicles – a sight which was left unobstructed previously.
“The reason is that when you’re playing the match, everyone can see the movement of vehicles going past, and the players get disturbed,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said. “So we thought the best thing is to cover it up.”
In case you didn’t know…
Constructed in 1876, the Galle International Stadium was previously known as The Espalande and is considered one of the most historic and picturesque cricket venues in the world.
Sitting charmingly amidst the centuries-old Galle Fort, bordered by the vast Indian Ocean on two sides, the stadium was damaged heavily during the 2004 Tsunami before being restored to its past glory.
Discontentment was evident from the Galle public who call on the historic importance of the venue as a free-to-use public park before the stadium was built.
While the view from sections of the fort ramparts remains unaffected, the general feeling is that SLC wants to cut down on the free access the public has been enjoying at the venue, especially as they seek to bring in more revenue amidst the dwindling popularity of Test cricket.
While the official version from the SLC CEO was that the movement of vehicles was causing difficulty to the players, a bizarre claim that new transmission technology could be affected due to the noise and visual disturbances caused due to vehicular traffic was refuted by a technician of the official broadcaster of the series, Ten Sony.
The first Test between India and Sri Lanka begins at Galle on Wednesday with both sides having injury concerns to deal with.
Dinesh Chandimal, who replaced Angelo Mathews as the new Sri Lankan Test skipper after the latter stepped down, has been ruled out of the first two matches with veteran spinner Rangana Herath leading the side.
India meanwhile has seen KL Rahul being ruled out of the first Test with Abhinav Mukund set to replace him as the opener.
While the frustration of the public is understandable, it is imperative that the players’ concentration is not affected due to external influences.
Sri Lanka Cricket is well within their right in getting the exterior covered and though it does affect the beauty of the venue, the players need to be given first priority and no compromise can be made on that front.