There couldn’t have been a more remarkable venue for the ICC Women's World Twenty20
Young monks watch proceedings at the Galle International Stadium from the 16th century Dutch fort outside the ground.
The buzz and the cricket fever bite you within minutes of landing in Sri Lanka. The ICC World Twenty20 2012 is here, and even tourists who aren't familiar with cricket are forced to wonder what the excitement is all about. The locals are curious about all the build-up in Galle. A little bit of explanation, that the women's competition is scheduled alongside the men's tournament, with the first-round matches to be played in the coastal city from September 26, sets things straight.
There couldn't have been a more picturesque venue than Galle for the third edition of the ICC Women's World Twenty20. The magnificence of the 400-year old Dutch Fort overlooking the stadium just takes your breath away, so much that you're almost forced to wonder if the vantage points offers better value for money than watching the match from close quarters. That said, entry to the ground for the group matches is free.
It is hard not to admire the panoramic view of the stadium, yet at the same time it’s tough to imagine that the tsunami eight years ago devastated this venue, causing widespread death and destruction. The Galle International Stadium, which is just beside the sea, was wrecked within minutes of the tsunami hitting the shore.
For three years, even as Sri Lanka tried to grapple with the magnitude of the calamity, cricket in the country was restricted to Colombo and Dambulla. The Galle International Stadium, which many believe was saved from further damage by the Dutch Fort, was caught in a redevelopment muddle. The clearance to construct stands on the fort side was approved bythe archaeological department only after it was established that there would be no damage caused to the fort, which is a World Heritage site.
For a time, the future of the venue was in some doubt, but isupport from cricket luminaries like Ian Botham, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidaran led to a pledge to rebuild the ground from scratch. The legends came together to raise funds through various charities, and were also assisted by the Sri Lankan government. The entire outfield was dug up and redone and indoor nets with state-of-the-art facilities were built. A new pavillion with extra seats and a modern media centre were constructed. The revamped stadium cost approximately USD 2 million.
The ground finally reopened after three years, in 2007. Since then, the cricketing world has witnessed many outstanding feats including Muralidaran's 800th and final Test wicket against India in July 2010.
While the excitement reaches fever pitch in Colombo, the more relaxed and less intense atmosphere of Galle will help the women get into their groove as they gear up for the bigger challenges that lie ahead.