By Shehan Daniel
A communique between Cricket Australia (CA) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has brought into question the nature of a payment made by SLC to the Gymkhana Club, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest sports clubs, and clears any doubt of whether the Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) Grounds was ever under consideration to host a practice match – as claimed was the case by SLC – during the recent Australian tour to Sri Lanka.
Documents in the possession of the Daily Mirror show that this payment was made despite CA stating in no uncertain terms, in a strongly worded email, that it would not allow its players to play at the CCC grounds, as its pre-tour recce, or reconnaissance, team sent in February had found the grounds to be of an unsatisfactory standard for an international team, even deeming it unsafe.
An email sent on March 11 by Sean Cary, the Head of Cricket Operations at CA, to SLC’s Chandima Mapatuna states, “…as discussed with you whilst we were in Sri Lanka, CA formally expresses serious concerns around the two proposed warm up matches being played at Colombo Cricket Club Stadium, Colombo and Trinity College International Stadium in Asgiriya, Kandy. The views of the CA recce team was that both Stadiums were totally unsatisfactory to host an international cricket team, especially for such an important Test Series.”
Cary went on to state, “In addition, I have received communication from the Australian Cricketers’ Association representative Graham Manou, with regards to the proposed warm up venues who stated: “The Trinity College Ground in Kandy and the Colombo Cricket Stadium are not satisfactory warm-up venues for the Australian Cricket Team and for occupational, health and safety reasons the CA will not allow the players to play on these grounds during the Tour to Sri Lanka” – a clear enough statement as any that the ground would not be considered for use by the touring team.
It is in spite of this clear intimation that CA will not allow its players to feature in a warm-up game at CCC, in March this year, that SLC had decided to disburse funds to CCC in April, for upgrading the venue for a warm-up match.
The email also reminded SLC of the facilities afforded to the Sri Lanka Team when it last visited Australia.
“I would also like to point out that the last time Sri Lanka toured Australia the 3-day warm-up match was played at Manuka Oval in Canberra, which is an exceptional cricket stadium and is a fully accredited ICC international venue,” the email said.
SLC, on April 22, made a payment of Rs. 3,970,000 to the Gymkhana Club, that houses the CCC, ‘…for development and upgrading of infrastructure facilities in view of Australian tour of Sri Lanka’, as stated on Sri Lanka Cricket Cheque Payment Voucher number 1466.
Daily Mirror, on August 30, reported an alleged misuse of funds at the Gymkhana Club in regards to this payment made by SLC to the club, with a club source claiming that the money had been used for purposes other than what it was allocated for. Bank records showed that the balance at the club’s Sampath Bank account had dwindled to Rs. 710,464.30 by May 6 with allegedly no development work being done.
Daily Mirror received a clarification, not from Gymkhana Club officials but from SLC, stating the following, which was published on September 1 with comments from the Sports Editor.
“During the Australia Tour to Sri Lanka, four stadiums had been identified to host two practice matches for the Australian Team and the identified venues were Moratuwa Stadium, CCC Grounds, P. Saravanamuttu Stadium and Asgiriya Kandy. Scope of work at Moratuwa Stadium and Asgiriya Stadium were considerably high and completion of these repairs and development were not possible due to time constraint. Due to these reasons, SLC had to decide on the remaining stadiums. Though the Australians were to play two warm up games originally, after arriving here opted to play just one warm up game and preferred the Saravanamuttu stadium. By that time SLC had already committed to carry out the development work and had released funds to CCC Grounds for preliminary development work. However, SLC will honour its commitment to CCC and settle remaining cost incurred,” the clarification stated, which ostensibly implies that the ground was still considered as an option by SLC.