In what is set to be the first international sporting event in the island following April’s Easter Sunday attacks, Sri Lanka are set to host India, Pakistan, Iran, Nepal and Bangladesh in the 14th Edition of the West Asia Baseball Cup from 15-20 July 2019, organised in association with the Sri Lanka Baseball (SLB). 

This year’s tournament will notably take place at South Asia’s first ever dedicated baseball ground, the Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Baseball Ground in Diyagama, which was donated by Japan through its international development assistance arm JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). 

The tournament will also see Sri Lanka defend the title they won for the first time in 2017, a victory that marked the pinnacle of a journey which had begun back in 1985, when the sport had first been introduced to the country by the American and Japanese embassy. 

This tournament is a testament to the growth of baseball in the country over the last few decades and we’re proud to be able to host it as defending champions, though our journey is not over yet,” stated Fazil Hussain, the President of Sri Lanka Baseball. “The achievement in 2017 was a momentous one, but we want to show that we can now be a consistent force and keep improving.” 

In the year’s prior, Sri Lanka had twice emerged runners-up to Pakistan – in 2012 and 2013 – while they were outside of the top three as recently as 2015. Since then Sri Lanka has seen their global ranking rise to 41 out of 127 playing nations as per the latest World Softball/Baseball Confederation (WSBC) rankings, though Pakistan remains the top ranked West Asian team in 24th place, while Iran (53), India (65) and Nepal (69), are placed lower down the list. Bangladesh meanwhile are the newest Asian nation to be added to the official WSBC rankings and will be hoping to leave their mark at the tournament.

Sri Lanka’s and Pakistan’s fast-tracked success however is unsurprising. After all, many of the skills required in baseball – batting, catching, running, throwing – are prerequisites for the respective countries’ most popular sport, cricket. In fact, in Sri Lanka, ‘Elle,’ a sport with more than a few passing similarities to baseball, has been played for over a thousand years and is now one of the country’s national sports.

Baseball nevertheless is yet to catch on in the same vein, but this tournament offers a rare opportunity for Sri Lanka to send a message, both to the world and itself, about its enduring ability to bounce back and make a mark on the world stage in the face of tragedy.

“To host the event so soon after the tragic events in April also give this tournament added meaning and everyone involved wants to make sure that we put on a good spectacle. There will be food, drinks and entertainment over the course of the tournament, and we’re all looking forward to showing the world what Sri Lanka is all about,” added Hussain. 

For each of the other nations taking part meanwhile, it serves as a platform to put into use skillsets and technical attributes, honed over generations, towards growing an entirely new sport within the region, a desire duly emphasised by the visiting teams’ show of solidarity and enthusiasm to continue with the tournament despite the recent tragic events in the country.

Tournament details

The entire tournament will take place over the course of the week from the 15th to the 20th of July in a round-robin format, where each team will play each other once before the final on the 20th. The 19th has been assigned as a rest day.

This event would not be possible without the help of its sponsors. The partner for the tournament will be the Ministry of Sports, while Sri Lanka Tourism will be the Official Destination Partner.  The Baseball Federation of Asia and the World Baseball Softball Confederation will the Official Sporting Partners. In the media, Yes FM, Sirasa FM, Shakthi FM and TV1 will be the official Electronic Media Partners; Ceylon Today and Mawbima the Print Media Partners; The and Citizen the Digital Partners. Richardson is the Digital LED Outdoor Partner, ATOM the Digital Signage Partner, Sri Lankan the Official Airline, Jie Jie Beach the Hospitality Partner, while Jalaya, Akbar Tea, Horizon Campus, Spa Ceylon and  Ninewells are all Associated Partners.

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