World record holder Brian Lara, who wanted to remove his name from the billion-dollar cricket stadium in Tarouba, south Trinidad, is expected to face the first ball and hit it for a maximum when the facility hosts its first official match on May 13, 11 days after his 48 birthday.
Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith said Cabinet confirmed yesterday the opening date for the facility and Lara is expected to lead a team in a T20 match against a team led by another international cricket icon, India’s Sachin Tendulkar
Smith said the facility which was left unattended for ten years was refurbished over the past nine months for less than $90 million.
He said State Special Purpose Company, Udecott, will hand over the facility to the Ministry of Sports next week.
Smith said one of the features about the project was a new pitch. he said in the past weeks several practice matches have been held on the new cricket turf and more are scheduled in the coming days to determine the status of the pitch.
Speaking at yesterday’s post Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Smith said that Government has been working closely with Lara, who has retired from Test and other formats of the game, to ensure things go well for the opening of the facility and beyond.
Another feature of the project was the Brian Lara Cricket Academy.
Smith said many people were unaware of that aspect of the facility, adding that, “A lot of people think it is just a stadium, (but) it is also an academy.” He said, “We are going to be targeting secondary school students to live and be trained there with the best cricket coaches, psychologists, trainers, dietitians. So it is a number of different aspects pulling together.
The Minister continued, the Minister of Education Anthony Garcia is also involved in preparations for the intake of students at the academy, which he said was very likely in the next fiscal year.
T&T vying to host CPL finals
Smith also revealed that T&T has expressed an interest in hosting the semi- finals and final of the Caribbean Premier League T20 this year at the venue. He said the Ministry is yet to get a response from the CPL franchise owners. He pointed out perhaps they maybe awaiting the official hand over and approval of the facility before making a decision. The CPL is set to begin in August.
He said during the many years of neglect at the facility, Lara wanted “to remove his name from the stadium.” Smith said: “ He (Lara) is very pleased now, he is very involved.”
Smith said if the facility was completed ten years ago “we could have made so many other (cricket) records, we could have other Brian Laras coming out of that facility.”
The Minister added, “let us move forward and enjoy the facility let it bear the fruit that I know it will bring for the people of T&T and the world at large.”
He said Lara was “very pleased on where it has reached.”
He said the Government is to determine, with Lara’s involvement, the future management of the facility.
In thanking the “iconic” Queen’s Park Oval (a private entity) for its role in the development of cricket in T&T, Smith said the Lara Stadium was a Government facility built on taxpayers money and “we want to invite the region and the world there as well. I’m confident the two facilities can co-exist.”
Responding to a question about the amount of money spent of the venue while other projects were being denied funding, Smith said there was an equal number of citizens who question why it took ten years to complete such an important national facility like the Lara Stadium. Lara is a cricketing icon and the world record holder for the highest Test score of 400 not out and the highest first class score 501.