Sri Lanka are currently engaged in a limited-overs series against India, but one eye is already trained firmly on the inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), scheduled to begin on August 11.
Amongst the players, there isn't too much talk about the SLPL yet, but behind the scenes, preparations are afoot to ensure that the tournament gets off on the right note. Teams and team names have already been finalised, and on Friday afternoon, the host and overseas broadcasters, the event's online partners and the mascot, Silva the lion, were unveiled at a city hotel.
Carlton Sports Network, Sri Lanka's premier sports broadcaster, will show the matches live in Sri Lanka, while at a global scale, the SLPL has managed to role in some big names - ATN in Canada, ESPN 3 in the United States, United Kingdom and the Caribbean, and ESPN and STAR Sports in the subcontinent and the far east.
"We also have an exclusive content partnership with Wisden India," said Sandiip Bhammer, the chairman of Somerset Entertainment Ventures, who are running the SLPL for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). "This is in addition to our association with the Marylebone Cricket Club on the Spirit of Cricket initiative."
Nishantha Ranatunga, the secretary of SLC, said SLPL's association with big global players would take the value of Sri Lankan cricket to a different platform. "There is a lot of talent in Sri Lanka, and plenty of it resides in towns, villages and in rural areas. Our digital partners will take this message and our country to a whole new level," said Ranatunga, adding that the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption and anti-doping codes will be in effect during the SLPL, which will culminate in the final on August 31.
The full match schedule was released on Friday, and the captains of six of the seven teams were also named. In five instances, the icon player was retained as captain by the franchise. The lone exception are Uthura Rudras, whose icon player is Muttiah Muralidaran but who have named Jehan Mubarak as their captain. Uva Next are the only team yet to announce their skipper; their icon player is Chris Gayle.
"Tickets for the matches will go on sale from August 5," said Karan Mehta, a full-time consultant to SEV on all operating and marketing matters relating to the SLPL. "They will be available on our website and at the box offices at the venues in Colombo and Kandy. We have targeted maximum crowd participation in the first season and when the pricing details are released in the next few of days, you will see that they are very spectator friendly."
Bathiya and Santhush, the brand ambassadors of the event, showcased the mascot - furry, friendly lion Silva - that put in a token appearance and was an instant hit.
The organisers promised a spectacular opening ceremony at the indoor Sugathadasa Stadium on August 10, one day before the on-field action begins, with the highlight being a performance by Maxi Priest, the British reggae vocalist of Jamaican descent.
Teams and captains
Basnahira Cricket Dundees: Tillakaratne Dilshan
Kandurata Warriors: Kumar Sangakkara
Negenahira Nagas: Angelo Mathews
Ruhuna Royals: Lasith Malinga
Uthura Rudras: Jehan Mubarak
Wayamba United: Mahela Jayawardene
Uva Next: To be confirmed
SLPL 2012 schedule
R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
August 11: Nagenahira Nagas vs Ruhuna Royals (1600 hrs)
August 11: Basnahira Cricket Dundee vs Kandurata Warriors (2000)
August 12: Uthura Rudras vs Wayamba United (1600)
August 12: Uva Next vs Basnahira Cricket Dundee (2000)
August 13: Kandurata Warriors vs Nagenahira Nagas (2000)
August 14: Ruhuna Royals vs Uthura Rudras (2000)
August 15 & 16: Rest days
Pallekele International Stadium, Kandy
August 17: Waymba United vs Uva Next (1600)
August 17: Basnahira Cricket Dundee vs Nagenahira Nagas (2000)
August 18: Kandurata Warriors vs Uthura Rudras (1600)
August 19: Wayamba United vs Basnahira Cricket Dundee (1600)
August 19: Uthura Rudras vs Uva Next (2000)
August 20: Kandurata Warriors vs Ruhuna Royals (1600)
August 20: Nagenahira Nagas vs Wayamba United (2000)
August 21: Ruhuna Royals vs Uva Next (1600)
August 21: Uthura Rudras vs Basnahira Cricket Dundee (2000)
August 22 & 23: Rest days
R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
August 24: Wayamba United vs Kandurata Warriors (1600)
August 25: Basnahira Cricket Dundee vs Ruhuna Royals (1600)
August 25: Kandurata Warriors vs Uva Next (2000)
August 26: Nagenahira Nagas vs Uthura Rudras (1400)
August 26: Ruhuna Royals vs Wayamba United (2000)
August 27: Uva Next vs Nagenahira Nagas (2000)
August 28: First semi-final (2000)
August 29: Second semi-final (2000)
August 30: Rest day
August 31: Final (2000)