Cricket board shouldn’t grant matches to Moratuwa

by Mahinda Wijesinghe
As at 29th December 2001, Sri Lanka was placed third, behind Australia and South Africa, in the I.C.C. Test championship table. This is a remarkable achievement, and a tremendous improvement from where our country’s cricket status stood a couple of years ago. Thus the publicity Sri Lanka receives from the achievements of our cricketers cannot be quantified. It actually defies description. Today the free world, and that means not only those who are directly interested in cricket, are watching us even more closely. The country’s reputation is at stake.

Now comes the distressing news that obviously as an aftermath of the recently concluded general elections, the international cricket ground at Moratuwa is to be renamed. Originally, this land was gifted by the philanthropic De Soysa family to the people of Moratuwa and was, rightfully, known as De Soysa Park. Then it was refurbished and a stadium but it with public funds, and christened Tyronne Fernando stadium. Subsequently, a change in government took place and then it became the Moratuwa Stadium. Now we are told the name will revert to Tyronne Fernando stadium! Sure makes one head swirl. To the eternal credit of the De Soysa family not once did they raise a murmur of protest during any of these shenanigans. Not too long ago the project of a Cricket Academy too fell by the wayside because objections were raised by the incumbent Minister of Sports that the Academy was to be named after a politician from another party! On the other hand, President Premadasa declined the offer of Khettarama stadium being named after him (though it was done posthumously), thus displaying the quality of the man.

The Wisden Almanack and statisticians the world over have problems about the name changes at Moratuwa since the two names - Tyronne Fernando stadium and Moratuwa Stadium - are quite different but in fact the same venue. In England there was a big outcry when The Oval in London was to be re-named as Foster’s Oval, though Foster’s, the brewery company was pumping in money for the upkeep of the ground. I am not aware whether Mr. Tyronne Fernando is doing something similar here but am fairly certain that the latest move by his ‘supporters’ must be causing much embarrassment to him. After all, Mr. Fernando was not only a former President of the Cricket Board but currently, Minister of Foreign Affairs and would be aware of the damage this type of act would cause his image and that of the nation both to call and internationally. This must stop. Otherwise the Cricket Board should refuse to grant any International games to Moratuwa in future.

Perhaps Mr. Fernando himself, at the first available opportunity, will take suitable steps to annul this move. Foreigners have a hearty guffaw when recalling how they landed at the Katunayake International airport but left Sri Lanka from the Bandaranaike International airport! Or take the ground situation (pardon the pun) at Moratuwa.

Isn’t is possible with these changes in names for one player to hold the ground record for the highest individual score at Tyronne Fernando stadium while another holds the same record at Moratuwa Stadium? As a top-level Test-playing nation we should not become the laughing stock in the cricket world.