Not so long ago, a new hot topic was brought to Sri Lanka’s social media platforms by Prime Minister himself, Mahinda Rajapakse. Another international cricket stadium is proposed to be built. While this became quite a controversy among many parties related to cricket and not to mention the die-hard fanbase, the question is, “Is it really necessary to build another stadium?” “Don’t we have enough?” “Why can’t we develop the facilities provided to already existing stadiums and clubs, as well as encourage cricketers and bring the old glory back?” The conversations went on and on, but apparently, another member will join the family, sooner or later.
While this controversy was already scratching the social media platforms, renowned cricket journalist Jarrod Kimber organized a twitter poll named “Cricket Ground World Cup”. Defeating Lord’s Cricket Ground in England where cricket was born and baptized aesthetically, historically and traditionally, a beautiful ground located on the south coast of Sri Lanka, crowned as “The Cricket Stadium”. Galle International Cricket Stadium didn’t win the competition with ease but amidst the heavy competition against significant arenas such as Wankhede and Dharmasala in India.
Isn’t this the most wonderful time to talk about intenational cricket Stadiums in Sri Lanka?
“The Winner” – Galle International Cricket Stadium
With the famous Dutch clocktower of 16th century towering above and the beautiful Indian Ocean visible on two sides of the stadium, Galle is one of the most scenic stadiums in Sri Lanka. It was completely destructed by the tsunami in 2004 but was completely built again by the 2008 England tour. During the reconstruction, international support from such luminaries as Ian Botham and Shane Warne, who had taken his 500th Test wicket on the ground earlier in 2004 were taken place so that the ground was rebuilt to its former glory. Galle is considered one of the most picturesque grounds until this day.
The ground was built as a racecourse in 1876 and officially declared as a cricket stadium in 1924. Back in times when the ground was the home to Galle Cricket Club, it was called “The Esplanade”. The maiden first-class cricket match was held 0n 29th February 1984.
The ground was later upgraded to international cricket standards and became the seventh international cricket stadium in Sri Lanka able to host Test matches. The first test match was played on the ground on 3 June 1998, between Sri Lanka and New Zealand and Sri Lanka winning by an innings and 16 runs. From that day onwards, until today, Galle is considered a stronghold for Sri Lanka Cricket, with six wins and two defeats in 11 matches (as per records till 2004), the majority of these engineered by Muttiah Muralitharan, who had taken 87 wickets in those games. The ground hosted the last cricket match for Muralitharan as well.
“The Retired Kandyan Beauty” – Asgiriya International Cricket Stadium
This fabulous natural beauty located in the heart of hill- country, being the home ground for Trinity College for decades. Given the lack of flat space in central Sri Lanka, the ground was carved straight out of the hill behind the pavilion before being leveled by ten feet, and so the result is one of the most beautiful venues on earth. The stadium broke ground in 1909 and was built until 1915. In 1981 the former Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket, Gamini Dissanayake, an old Trinitarian, took charge of upgrading Asgiriya into an international cricket stadium, which he did in 150 days. On 5 January 1982 President J. R. Jayewardene ceremonially opened the stadium. Jayewardene also opened the pavilion in 1982. The 1982-83 Australia tour of Sri Lanka baptized the venue as the second test cricket ground in Sri Lanka.
The ground has an excellent pavilion consists of three floors, the ground floor exclusively for players, umpires and officials, with all the facilities. The other two floors accommodate over 1500 spectators. The pitch, with its extra bounce, can offer more assistance to the pace bowlers than any other pitch in Sri Lanka, especially when clouds hug the surrounding hills. This stadium has two ends, namely Hunnasgiriya End and Hanthana End. The ground is just a 10 minutes’ walk from the heart of the city of Kandy.
In 2002, Muttiah Muralitharan claimed his 709th test wicket to go past Shane Warne, becoming the highest test wicket-taker, against England. Asgiriya has also hosted a 1996 Cricket World Cup fixture between Sri Lanka and Kenya when Sri Lanka made 398, the highest World Cup score at the time, and the highest ODI team total until 400 passed.
“The First” – P. Sara Oval Stadium
Being home for Tamil Union Cricket Club, P. Sara Oval marks one of the greatest events in Sri Lankan cricket history. This ground hosted the first test match held in Sri Lanka, against England in 1982. This old soul carries some golden memories of Sri Lanka Cricket as well as world cricket. In 1985, Sri Lanka won their first Test match at this ground, against India. It is a relatively small ground, half surrounded by lower-level stands and half by grass banks. The most famous feature is the ivy-covered scoreboard.
In 1948 Sir Donald Bradman brought his Australian side to the ground en route to England. P Sara Oval is the only Asian ground where he played.
The highest test score record for this ground is held by Stephen Fleming, 274 not out. Best bowling figures goes to one and only Shane Warne, 7/94 against Pakistan in 2002.
The ground was named after Mr. Paikiasothi Saravanamuttu, a renowned civil servant in Sri Lanka.
Despite being the oldest test cricket ground in Sri Lanka, this ground can hold 15 000 spectators and still kicking by hosting at least one test match per year.
“Kheththarama” – R. Premadasa Stadium
As for the idea by late president Ranasinghe Premadasa, this ground was started to develop in the early 1980s and opened on 2 February 1986 with a match between a Sri Lanka ‘B’ side and an England ‘B’ team. The stadium was built on swampland previously used by monks ferrying across to the Khettarama temple adjacent to it. Unlike other stadiums, this ground hosted an ODI before hosting a test match, which is in 1986 between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. On August 28, 1992, it hosted its first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia. On 10 February 2009, the first T20I match between Sri Lanka & India held in this ground became the first T20I ever to be played in Sri Lanka.
In 1996 and 2011 ICC cricket world cups R. Premadasa Stadium hosted nine matches including a quarter-final match and a semi-final match. It has hosted the highest number of cricket world cup matches in Sri Lanka.
A renovation took place in 2009, before ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. The ground became the first ever to host 100 ODI matches in Sri Lanka.
Being the pioneer in Sri Lankan cricket Keththarama witnessed many ground records, as well as Cricket World Records.
- The highest Test total of all time in the ground– 952/6 (Sri Lanka against India in 1997)
- The lowest Test total– 87 (Bangladesh against Sri Lanka in 2005)
- The highest score at R Premadasa stadium – 340 by Sanath Jayasuriya against India in 1997
- The greatest number of wickets – 36 by Muttiah Muralitharan
- The best bowling figures in an inning – 7/89 by Rangana Herath against Bangladesh
- The best bowling figures in a match – 9/60 by Muttiah Muralitharan
- The highest ODI total – 375/5 by India against Sri Lanka (31 August 2017)
- The greatest number of wickets – 75 by Muttiah Muralitharan
- The highest individual score – 169 by Kumar Sangakkara against South Africa
- The highest team total – 215/5 by Bangladesh against Sri Lanka
- The lowest total – 80 by Afghanistan against England
“The Wonder Next to Sigiriya?” – Dambulla International Cricket Stadium
Not only being near to Sigiriya, but Dambulla International Cricket Stadium is also in the heart of Dambulla, where UNESCO protected Buddhist Cave Temples which date back to 85 B.C. are located. The ground is built in a stunning location, looking out over the Dambulla Tank (reservoir) and the Dambulla Rock. Surprisingly, the ground was built in 167 days. This was the one and only dry- zone cricket ground in Sri Lanka, until the Hambantota Suriyavewa International Cricket Stadium took over the crown. The pitch is bowler friendly – for the seamers in the morning because of the high-water table and heavy sweating and in the afternoon for the spinners when the pitch can crumble. Floodlights were installed in 2003.
- The highest ODI total – 385/7 by Pakistan against Bangladesh (June 21, 2010)
- The lowest ODI total – 88 by England against Sri Lanka (November 18, 2003), India against New Zealand (August 10, 2010)
- The highest by a single player– Mahela Jayawardene (1148 runs)
- The highest individual score – 132 not out by Shikhar Dhawan against Sri Lanka in 2017
- The greatest number of wickets- Muttiah Muralitharan (42 scalps)
- The best bowling figures – 6/42 by John Hastings
- On 20 August 2017, Lasith Malinga played his 200th ODI match for Sri Lanka against India
“The Headquarters” – Sinhalese Sports Club Grounds (SSC)
Long before the ground was baptized to the international level, this ground was the home for Sinhalese Sports Club. The club was formed in 1889, a few months before the formation of the Tamil Union C&AC. The SSC boasts one of the finest cricket grounds in the Indian Sub-Continent and regularly hosts Test Cricket on its grounds, which has a spectator capacity of over 15,000, in stands and open hillsides. Our Cricket Ground is the headquarters of Sri Lanka Cricket and is the venue for Test matches for virtually every tour.
Sri Lanka recorded their first-ever ODI win, here, against a Test-playing country during the Asia Cup 1986, when they defeated Pakistan by five wickets.
The ground witnessed one of the most beautiful, heartwarming, glorious, and magnificent events of Sri Lanka Cricket up to this day, in 2006. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena made history by creating the highest partnership for any wicket with 624 runs, Sangakkara scoring 287 runs and Jayawardena scoring 324 runs against South Africa: which is unbroken to this very day! Muttiah Muralitharan gained 187 wickets in this ground, making it the record for the highest number of wickets taken by any bowler at any test venue around the world.
Needless to say, SSC is most certainly the greatest pillar of strength in Sri Lanka Cricket.
“The New Sheriff in Town” – Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
This beauty is the latest ground to be a part of hill- country cricket, officially putting Asgiriya into retirement. It was specifically built to take over test matches from Asgiriya and being in service from 2009. The first test match was played between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2010. The ODIs first ever to hold in this ground were scheduled as 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup matches. Again in 2012, the ground hosted ICC World T20 matches.
It was at this very venue that Sri Lanka’s Suranga Lakmal joined the likes of Kapil Dev and Imran Khan in becoming the third bowler to take a Test wicket off the first ball at a new venue.
“The Lonely”- Hambantota Mahinda Rajapakse International Cricket Stadium
The proposal for a new International Cricket Stadium at Sooriyawewa was part of the government’s program to develop sports in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. It is built for the 2011 Cricket World Cup and host two matches, the first match is Sri Lanka against Canada, on 20 February 2011. The stadium has a capacity of 35,000 people making It the second-largest stadium in Sri Lanka.
With low coverage of international matches in a very rural area, it has come under extreme criticism as only a few matches are held in the stadium considering the extreme costs for construction and maintenance.
Rather than developing a new venue as a stadium, it would be a good idea to reconstruct this ground to former glory and keep matches going on.
Anyway, if the authorities are really into the idea to build another ground, where would it be? Dry- Zone? Hill- country? Or would it be another link to the chain of urban cricket stadiums?