P Sara Stadium the scapegoat? | Sunday Observer

P Sara Stadium the scapegoat?

There is always the danger of popping the corks of the Champagne bottles too early. In winning the first in Galle we were dizzy and were carried away making merry that we are ‘Tops’.

Then once the dizzy spell was over, the hangover arrived. Reality dawned. And Tops became ‘Flops’ as the team collapsed in a heap against New Zealand in the Second of Two Tests played at the famous P. Sara Stadium.

In their stupor and while drowning sorrows, some tend to blame the P. Sara Stadium for our ills and lobby not to play again in this ‘hoodoo’ venue. It’s like blaming the ‘barman’ for our drunken stupor when the fault lies entirely in our own doing!

The ‘hoodoo’ spin arises from a rerun of what occurred last time round when the Kiwis played Sri Lanka at the P. Sara Stadium a few years ago.

It must be remembered that the P. Sara Stadium, formerly known as the Colombo Oval, was the venue where cricket was initially played because there was no other ground capable of conducting and hosting a foreign team in days when only foreign teams played what they called ‘whistle stop’ games.

The Oval was later named the P. Sara Stadium in honour of the second President of the Board of Control for Cricket in the country P. Saravanamuttu, a burly Thomian cricketer who it is said wielded the willow like the great West Indians do.

The then Oval saw the most exciting and famous international cricketers showcase their greatness. Firstly, there was the country’s best and stylish batsman Mahadeva Sathasivam who dominated with international style batsmanship.

Then there was the great Sir Donald Bradman an Australian who was the greatest batsman in the world to play here against a Sri Lanka team led by Sathasivam. It need not be reiterated that the great DON managed to score only 28. Then there were the fearless terrible ‘WS’ from the calypso country Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and Everton Weekes who showed their prowess on the hallowed turf to name a few.

Those knaves of cricket who want to take Test cricket from the P. Sara need not be reminded that it was at this hallowed venue that the country won its First Test beating India captained by Kapil Dev in 1983. Before that it hosted the Inaugural Test against England in 1982.

To go down memory lane, almost from the inception from 1899, and in the early part of the 1900s the Tamil Union ground was at Campbell Park which is now the Wesley College ground. There was pressure on the Tamil Union to hand it over to Wesley College.

At that time P. Saravanamuttu was the Chairman of the Committee of the Club and it is said that that position was the most effective one with the President merely non-executive – used his friendship with D.S. Senanayake to obtain the Wanathamulla ground.

It was then a marshy land and it cost a lot of money to fill. P. Sara used his influence with the Maharaj of Mysore and the House of Chettinad and obtained donations to build an imposing stadium.

It was P. Sara who set up the first controlling body for cricket called the Board of Control for Cricket in Ceylon. When Sri Lanka were making repeated attempts to enter the portals of ICC, it was paramount that the country have a stadium and when the MCC team was on tour in India, the famous writer Robin Marlar was sent to Colombo to check the facilities and satisfy himself about the Colombo Oval and the dressing rooms and other facilities before the Inaugural Test. Marlar inspected and made a glowing report and the rest is history now.

It must be recalled that at one time the Maharaja Organization which was dominating Mercantile cricket and helping the country gain entry into the promised land of Test cricket with all good intentions wanting to take charge of the Oval and turning into a ground like Lord’s in London. This was a vision advocated by R. Rajamahendren who played a key role in Sri Lanka’s quest to gain Test Status.

Had they succeeded there is no doubt that the ground would have been turned into Sri Lanka’s LORD’S. But some members of the club who lacked foresight had objected to this move and it was kaputz.

For a long time the P. Sara Stadium was sent to the wilderness of cricket for reasons known only to those who were in power and ran the game. But since coming back the Tamil Union has conducted international cricket to the satisfaction of everyone and to international standard.

The writer has a special fondness for the club and the ground because this was the twosome that helped launch my career as a cricketer when still at St. Benedict’s College.

After former double international in cricket and hockey and Old Thomian Chandra Schaffter took over as President the club it has seen many improvements with stands erected in memory of two of the club’s and country’s greatest cricketers Mahadevan Sathasivam and Sathi Coomaraswamy and a new State of the Art Media Box.

Getting back to the Test that Sri Lanka lost disgracefully to New Zealand it was due to firstly the poor approach and the fear of losing. When positive cricket was the need, the team pressed the defence button. Defeat was the result.

It was opener Lahiru Thirimanne who showed the way for the sensational collapse with his sudden brain fade and insensible run out. In the first over he pushed a ball and hared down the wicket as if he was going for the winning run that would give us the World Cup and was sprawled on the turf run out.. That was the beginning of the end.

Can Thirimanne’s insensible run out and the batting collapse procession that followed be blamed on picturesque P. Sara wicket and stadium? So it will be seen that only the knaves ignorant of the game and who have not handled a bat who will want to bowl out cricket from the P. Sara Stadium.

It is hoped that saner counsel will prevail from Sri Lanka Cricket.

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