Business tycoon and former Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Upali Dharmadasa has thoroughly rejected board’s plan to build an International Cricket Stadium in Homagama with a cost of $40 MN, saying that it’s a total waste of money.
On May 17, the Government had announced that Sri Lanka’s biggest cricket stadium to be constructed in Homagama. However, The announcement was widely criticized, not only by the cricket fans, but also by the legendary former Sri Lanka players Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama and Mahela Jayawardene, who questioned the decision to construct another international cricket stadium in the country.
Succumbing to the outrage, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 21 suspended proposed International Cricket Stadium project following the discussion with former players Sanath Jayasuriya, Roshan Mahanama, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga.
Upali, a prominent industrialist who headed SLC two times (first in 1996-98, then in 2011-12), echoed former players sentiments on the proposed Homagama Stadium.
“In my opinion, Projects like Homagama are total waste of money. We have already three international venues in Colombo itself and total 10 stadiums in entire country. It’s already too much, as we are a small nation. Now, we don’t need any other International stadium in near future” Upali told Cricket Age in an exclusive interview.
He gives more reasons to back his opinion on the International Cricket Stadium in Homagama.
“Until last year, SLC were using aerial route for outstation matches like Hambantota. Now, as the highway has declared open, the teams can travel easily in any part of the country. So, now the SLC can utilize all the outstation stadiums for International matches” he added further.
He further opines that instead of focusing on International Cricket Stadiums, the SLC must concentrate on upgrading the existing grounds.
“Even the national contracted players don’t have the swimming pool facility, even at Khetteragama. The curators of the International Cricket venues lacks modern day skills and are just the catchers of powerful people. The facilities at majority of these venues remains poor. So, SLC should look after these issues and plan for upgrading these venues” he opined.
He recalls another incident of how his administration in 2011-12 stood firm against senior players including Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara’s demand for 70% share in board revenue.
“I was the president at that time, while Nishantha Ranatunga was serving as board secretary. We firmly opposed senior players demand and told loud and clear – play on our terms or we will select another team.”
At the same time, Upali is agree with Mahela Jayawardene’s statement that the school cricket in the Island is in bad shape and trailing behind other countries.
“I can still remember, during one of the homes series against India, Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar asked me that how is it possible that Sri Lanka, with a population of few millions is able to produce world class players, when even our country (India) could not do it. Then, I proudly told them that it is due to our school cricket system, which is the best in the world. Those were the golden days of Sri Lanka cricket. Now, our school cricket has been completely ruined” he added.
Upali, however, is still optimistic that the things will change in near future, as Mahinda Rajapaksa has returned as country’s Prime Minister.
“Our Prime Minister loves the game of cricket. After his return, the things are heading in right direction in the country and I am confident that he will not allow people to ruin our beloved game. Trust me, after the general election, a lot of things will change at Maitland Place” the iconic businessman concluded.