Colombo Kings take on Kandy Tuskers as LPL finally begins
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
After several delays and countless obstacles during the past few months, Sri Lanka’s own franchise based T20 tournament, the Lanka Premier League, will finally see the light of day with the first match of the five-team based tournament set to be played at 8:00 p.m. in Sooriyawewa today.
The build-up for the tournament has been chaotic, as the tournament was initially announced to commence a couple of years back, and then postponed to next year. Then again it was pushed back from August to early November to late November. To top that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had to deal with stringent health guidelines, logistic nightmares, missed flights, players pulling out, COVID-19 positive cases, hastily finding replacements, payment issues and many more, and finally it will begin with a virtual opening ceremony which will be the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.
Teams are housed in bio secure bubbles in Sooriyawewa, where some top international players are still in quarantine making them unavailable for the first few matches of the tournament. And adapting to the new normal, the pre-tournament press conference with captains was held online with none of the journalists permitted to visit the stadium.
Jaffna Stallions has been the best prepared team in the tournament, and Skipper Thisara Perera said they had seven training sessions before coming into the tournament, the most by LPL team.
“I should be thankful to the owners of the team. We requested a training camp ahead of the tournament which the owners provided with ground bookings and hotels in Kandy. We got four sessions there and another three practice sessions in Sooriyawewa” said Perera. He also said out of the four Jaffna players in the team, two could easily come in to the team.
Meanwhile, the opening game will be played between Colombo Kings led by Angelo Mathews and Kandy Tuskers led by Kusal Janith Perera.
Mathews thanked all who were involved in bringing LPL to light. He said it’s great to play cricket after eight months. Mathews also added that playing back to back games on successive days will be challenging, but they don’t have any complaints as they have finally got a chance to play cricket. He also confirmed Colombo Kings star international player Andre Russel is out of quarantine and will play in the opening game.
Kandy Tuskers Captain Kusal Perera said that all his injuries have healed and he will be playing as wicketkeeper cum opener in the tournament. Perera also stated that the experience of the two Indian pacemen Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan will be invaluable for his team.
“Irfan has been training with us for the past couple of days. He works hard at training, but Munaf is still in quarantine,” Perera said.
Dasun Shanaka was appointed Skipper of Dambulla Viiking only yesterday and said it will be a challenging task, but since he had played cricket with most of the players in the team it won’t be much of a problem.
Meanwhile, in place of regular skipper Shahid Afridi, who was still in quarantine yesterday, Vice-Captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa will lead the Galle team.
Every team will compete in eight games in the first round, with the top four teams qualifying for the semi-finals, which will be played on 13 and 14 December. The final will be on 16 December.
“The opening ceremony, starting at 6:50 p.m. (IST), will showcase the vibrancy of the Sri Lankan culture, heritage, entertainment, and most importantly, the passion of cricket in Sri Lanka. The five team League will see 23 matches played across 15 days at the MRICS, Hambantota. In total, there will be 10 centre wickets that will be used for the competition. The competition will feature a highly recognised Match Referee Panel and an Umpiring Panel to officiate in the League, which, respectively consists of Chief Match Referee of the ICC, Ranjan Madugalle and ICC Elite Panel Umpire Kumar Dharmasena,” said SLC in a statement.