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Mahinda Rajapaksha International Cricket Stadium

4 Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, Sri Lanka

Build it and they will come. For Sri Lanka’s fastest-growing southern city that prophecy has come true.

With a capacity of 25,000 the Mahinda Rajapaksha International Cricket Stadium is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest and boldest venues. This gleaming new Hambantota ground helped set out Sri Lanka’s as a growing economic and sporting power.

Named after Sri Lanka’s president, its construction has helped revitalise an area devastated by the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. Hambantota was one of the hardest hit regions in the country, losing thousands to the merciless waves. But with typical graft and guts the Sri Lankans have turned anguish into expectation. The Mahinda is still too green to have witnessed much cricketing history but looks like a happy hunting ground for the home time. The first official international match came during the 2011 World Cup, when Sri Lanka whipped minnows Canada by 210 runs.

Aravinda da Silva – from Mad Max to Magical

As a youngster Aravinda da Silva displayed a definite disregard for the safety of his wicket. His dashing style of play brought him many fans but rash shot selections led to just as many early baths. But as he gained in maturity he would be transformed from ‘Mad Max’ to something more magical – a World Cup winning legend.

In 1996 da Silva’s exploits were instrumental in guiding Sri Lanka to World Cup victory. While teammates Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana launched an opening onslaught on the opposition, da Silva was on hand to build on their success. Contributing to each successive win he really came into his own in the final against Australia.

With Australia at the crease, da Silva took 3 wickets for 42 runs, accounting for captain Mark Taylor and future leader Ricky Ponting, as well as two crucial catches. Not content with his in the field, he stepped up to compile a stellar 107 not out. It helped Sri Lanka secure a convincing 7 wicket victory and the World Cup. He was, without question, the Man of the Match.

Although renowned for his World Cup feats, da Silva was also a formidable test match player. He is one of the few players who have scored a century in both innings of a Test match on two separate occasions. This included undefeated innings of 138 and 105 against Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club in 1997. It was a great year for da Silva as he finished the year with a first-class average of 76.25 and 1,220 runs. He retired in 2002 on a high note, scoring a double century and picking up one last wicket with his final ball against Bangladesh.