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UAE’s domestic cricketers shape stadium for action

Sipping Sri Lankan tea and reporting is a delight

Image Credit: KR Nayar/GUlf News
Damian Fernando, media facilities manager for the Twenty20World Cup, played for Lanka Lions and Air India in the UAE .
Gulf News

Colombo: R. Premadasa stadium, which will be hosting the most matches during the Twenty20 World Cup including the final, will be the stage for some exciting action. The keenly fought India-Pakistan warm-up match on Monday provided the right start to the tournament. Indeed, cricket fans could not have asked for more to whet their appetite for the main event.

The wicket seemed tailor-made for Twenty20 cricket as the warm-up match produced 371 runs. That’s not surprising though, given that that this venue holds the world record for the highest Test total when Sri Lanka piled up 952 for 6, with Sanath Jayasuriya hammering 340 and Roshan Mahanama hitting a brilliant 225. Together they put on 576 runs for the second wicket.

Thousands of people have been working hard to ensure the venue remains in top condition for the next 20 days. Many former Sri Lankan cricketers have joined in as volunteers, making sure that Sri Lanka’s reputation as a fine cricket venue remains intact. The Sri Lankans’ love for the game is also reflected in their hospitality. Interestingly, some of the cricketers who are volunteers here have lived in the UAE and played domestic cricket here.

Leading the team of cricketers-turned-volunteers is Damian Fernando, the venue’s Media Facilities Manager. He was a member of the Lanka Lions team, which is one of the oldest domestic teams in the UAE. Fernando lived in Dubai until 1996 and was employed with Lloyds Bank. He also represented Air India under the captaincy of Mohammad Lokhandwala, who is currently the secretary of the Dubai Cricket Council.

I met Fernando while trying to identify the accreditation centre and, as soon as he learnt that I was from Dubai, he was very keen to know how the Lanka Lions team was faring in UAE’s domestic cricket, and about the former Sri Lankan player-turned-coach, Presley Polonnowita.

Piping hot tea is served to all scribes frequently in the stadium. Sri Lanka is one of the top tea producers in the world and is cherished by most tea-lovers internationally. So sipping a steaming hot cuppa while typing out reports makes the whole process very enjoyable. What’s more, the press box offers a beautiful view.

Named after the former president of Sri Lanka, this stadium was built on swampland previously used by monks ferrying across to the Khettarama temple adjacent to the stadium. It was renovated during the 2011 World Cup and has a seating capacity of 35,000. The word going around is that tickets have been sold out for almost all of the top matches.