SLPL begins in grand opening ceremony


By Chathura Pinnawala

Sri Lanka Premier League, the franchise based league tournament, was opened with a grand, multicoloured and a traditionally flavoured opening ceremony at Sugathadasa Indoor stadium, Colombo on Friday.

The tournament is scheduled to run from yesterday till August 31 where the final will be staged at a floodlit R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. The ceremony was highlighted by the keynote address given by West Indian legend Brian Lara and included the introduction of teams and its theme songs, performances of various artistes like by the brand ambassadors Bathiya and Santhush, speeches from parties involved and many entertaining items.

One of India’s largest automobile companies, Mahindra and Mahindra (M &M) have joined as the main sponsors and hence the inaugural tournament will be called the ‘Mahindra Sri Lanka Premier League.’

Captains and team owners were introduced to a thumb print symbolising pledge of the Spirit of Cricket and signalling the MCC’s part in the agenda and each team was introduced via the system and the subsequent theme song for the franchise.

Lara during his speech talked at length about how great a cricketing nation Sri Lanka is and he also mentioned several legendary players whom he had played against. His great adversary where he had the better of most of the time, Muttiah Muralitharan, Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka’s explosive opening pair Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas were some of the names Lara remembered fondly.

He rated Muralitharan and Shane Warne as the two best spinners to have ever played the game and edged in favour of current Sri Lanka wicket-keeper Sangakkara as the greatest wicket-keeper batsman the game has produced relegating Adam Gilchrist to the second spot in the comparison.

Sangakkara, who will miss the tournament due to an injury suffered during the Indian series, later gave a speech nothing short of the high standards expected by him and touched on numerous aspects. He received a thunderous applause from the audience for his speech. SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga earlier in the ceremony spoke about the trust they had put into the tournament with Somerset Entertainment Ventures and stressed that it’ll hold the first edition in good stead.

The tournament ran into several dead ends as it was postponed last year and countless concerns were raised from many quarters about the transparency of it. To make matters worse, some foreign players withdrew late and Indian players’ no showing due to BCCI’s stance on the matter further hampered the prospects. Philip Hodson, President of the MCC, addressing the audience said that though they are not the guardians of the game anymore, they still license the rules. The Spirit of Cricket was a key aspect in his speech and he went on to elaborate their full confidence in a smoothly run tournament in Sri Lanka.

The ceremony’s distinctive moment among many other items was the B&N’s ‘Ran Kurahan Mala’ performance. Tillekeratne Dilshan joined the two singers on stage for the song and at the end overseas players such as Dirk Nannes, Cameron Borgas, Imran Nazir, Brian Lara, SEV’s Sandeep Bhammer and M&M’s S. Shukla all flocked to the stage at requests from the performers to sing their own chorus version.

Nagenahira Nagas vs Ruhuna Royals was scheduled for yesterday which was to be the curtain-raiser, to be followed by the night clash between Basnahira Cricket Dundee and Kandurata Warriors. The double headers will continue for today as Utura Rudras take on Wayamba United at 4 p.m. while Basnahira Cricket Dundee welcome Uva Next to the tournament next.

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