By Namal Rajapaksa, Sports Minister
The Lanka Premier League 2020 is all set to kick off in November, It is a tournament which will strengthen Sri Lanka on the global map of sports and is much looked forward to by the local and international sports audience.
As we all know, in recent months, Sri Lanka, like the rest of the world has been hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has put in place strict health guidelines and protocols. Infact as I write this article Sri Lanka is facing its largest cluster with authorities including Health officials out in full force, trying their best to contain a further spread.
Keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, it was decided to postpone the LPL 2020 tournament towards the third week of November and as a result the Sports Ministry along with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board and the organizers of LPL 2020 decided to kick off the tournament from November 21 to December 13. All plans are now being set to conduct the LPL 2020 without any shortcomings, for the best interest of the players, audience and country at large.
Following the success of the Indian Premier League, the possibility of holding the LPL in Sri Lanka was much talked about for several years but these discussions had ended in a deadlock. However the Sri Lanka Cricket Board and my ministry have been in discussions for weeks to make this tournament a reality simply because it is much needed, especially at a time when the country’s sports economy has come to a standstill and at a time when our local and young talent need the exposure.
By the time this article goes on my blog, already big names such as Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi, Faf du Plessis and Carlos Brathwaite are among the top international players that have been included into the LPL among others this year. And the local talent who will take part is outstanding.
And while this tournament has come under criticism in certain sections of the media in recent weeks, the Sports Ministry, along with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board are taking all steps necessary for the smooth running of the tournament. It is the inaugural session, we admit we have room for improvement but we also hope to rectify all shortfalls and make this an annual tournament in the country.
What is important to note at the moment is that international tournaments of this kind will help boost the much needed sports economy in Sri Lanka which has come to a standstill in recent years and especially in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also give more international exposure and recognition to our young and local players for future international cricket tournaments and such a highly competitive tournament will not only boost entertainment, but it will also contribute towards the economy including the sports economy, strengthen our tourism which has suffered a severe blow due to the pandemic, strengthen sports tourism and will also strengthen the country’s placing on the global sports map.
While 2020 will be the inauguration of the LPL, I as the Sports Minister and my ministry will support and back the Sri Lanka Cricket Board to make this an annual event in the country. So that we can make it a successful venture. And create a platform for Sri Lankan and international players. The benefits from such a tournament will be endless.
At the same time, while all procedures are ongoing to get set for the tournament, as the Minister of Sports I have informed the Sri Lanka Cricket Board to keep in mind the financial transparency and accountability and the transparency in selecting the players and have informed them the tournament should be organized in par with international laws and regulations and to strictly implement laws related to match fixing.
Further, all health guidelines will be in place before, during and after the tournament. The LPL will be played initially in Sooriyawewa stadium, before moving to Pallekele for the latter stages.
The LPL is just the start of many international tournaments that the Sports Ministry intends to support for the benefit of the athletes and the country. It is time, our players are taken to the world and Sri Lanka itself gets the international exposure it needs as an ideal venue for international events. It is time we encourage this thought and support those who are trying to make a change for our athletes. This is the start.