|Event:||Unitech Cup 2006|
DateLine: 16th August 2006
After much anxiety and a sense of helplessness at some stage Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) gained some breathing space when the South Africans decided to stay back pending an independent security evaluation on their security in Colombo.
The Unitech Cup tri-nations one-day series was in danger of being cancelled and at one time being reduced to a two-way contest between Sri Lanka and India when South Africa threatened to pull out following Monday’s bomb blast in Colombo, only a few kilometers from where they were staying.
But a lot of cajoling by SLC officials and beefing up of security to both teams have made the South Africans think otherwise although part of the team mainly some senior members have shown a keen desire to return home.
SLC chief executive officer Duleep Mendis said: “The South African and Indian cricket teams have been provided with maximum security, subsequent to discussions the Management of Sri Lanka Cricket has had with the Inspector General of Police and the Security Forces. The arrangements pertaining to security at the Hotel/Ground Security/Transport etc have been strengthened but we are not in a position to provide more details of special arrangements made due to reasons of security. All possible precautionary measures have been taken with regard to security of the aforesaid teams and Sri Lanka Cricket is confident that the matches could be continued without any hindrance.”
It is quite understandable why SLC wants the tournament to go ahead. Failure to see the series get off the ground would end in a financial disaster for SLC because they stand to lose a good percentage of the USD 11 million which they expect to receive by way of television broadcasting rights from Taj Television. India’s presence was vital to boost the coffers of SLC’s television deal with Ten Sports that amounts to a staggering USD 52 million for four years from January 1, 2005.
The series has still not got off because of bad weather that washed out the opening match between Sri Lanka and South Africa on Monday amidst the mayhem created by the bomb blast. A decision was taken by SLC on Tuesday to reschedule the series and it is now due to commence on Wednesday with India taking on host Sri Lanka in a day-night game. The Sri Lanka-South Africa match will now be played on August 29 and the final on September 2. The rest of the matches in the series remain unchanged.
The Sri Lankan and Indian teams practiced on Tuesday amidst heavy security cover. While India have something to prove following their stunning 4-1 loss in the Caribbean, hosts Sri Lanka are riding a crest of a wave with a 5-0 thrashing of England followed by a 2-0 win over lowly Netherlands against whom they established a new world record one-day total of 443-9. The form displayed by the Lankan batsmen in the recent past is mind boggling having passed the 300-run mark in their last four one-day internationals.
India will welcome the return of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar who last played for his country against Pakistan in February. Tendulkar has displayed excellent form at the nets and India will hope he will carry it onto the playing field tomorrow. The fickle weather holds the key to the series getting off even to a belated start.
No matter what, once the cricket gets going, talk on security concerns among other things will eventually die down and take a back seat. Let the cricket begin.