Cricket in the land of string hoppers and sambol
Posted on: 11:51 AM IST Mar 13, 2013
To the cricket agnostic, a Sri Lanka versus Bangladesh Test means as much as the DRS does to the BCCI. However, it could mean everything if you follow cricket. And are visiting Sri Lanka. And have heard about the beauty of Le Galle.
As beauties go, this one played no tease but was most welcoming and warm. When you drive towards Galle Fort, the ground appears accidentally and with minimum fuss. It almost serves as a roundabout for the town's traffic and is situated in the midst of hubbub, or whatever precious little of it this idyllic place can muster. If you were a batsman batting at one end, you'd see a bus terminal beyond the bowler's shoulder. If you were batting at the other, you'd feel like a six could kiss the 18th century fort's clock tower and (for the likes of Chris Gayle), go beyond, and drop into the Indian Ocean. If you were a fielder, or a spectator, or a Sri Lankan match official or the police, you'd just smile around, walk in the park, and feel the breeze of a good life come upon you. Such is this place.
In sync with our times, you can watch this Test match free. Not only that, the almost stand-less stadium will allow you to freely traipse around a vast portion of the ground's perimeter. At lunch and at tea, I was so delighted to see spectators effortlessly walk past the pavilions to the other side I decided to do it myself. It's utmost sacrilege to give up on a chance to step on the hallowed green grass of a test match ground. The only bigger sacrilege is to not fawn at Kumar Sangakkara cover-driving on his knees.
We managed to spot Sangakkara on the ground furiously explaining things to Shaminda Eranga during his spell. It seemed to help as he eventually got a wicket and loud cheers from the motley crowd. Then we spotted Nuwan Kulasekara at deep point being watched over by a serious Chaminda Vaas; earlier, while watching the match from the ramparts of Galle Fort - a far more memorable experience than any VIP enclave can offer - we captured Lahiru Thirimanne's 100 and Dinesh Chandimal's 50 that quickly followed. The sight of the day though was during the Bangladesh innings, when at one time there were four slips moving like stealthy wolves towards the batsman as the bowler began his run-up. That sight, for some reason unknown to the mind, seemed purely magical.
We prepared to leave soon after as the clouds began their approach towards the stadium, but not before witnessing Ajantha Mendis receiving counsel from a spectator while fielding near long off. As Mendis walked towards the boundary, our man wielding one Sri Lankan flag in his hands and the other on his cheek, went: "Ajanta, you must bowl at least one more over. If you want, I can talk to your captain Mathews about it". We all cracked up and Mendis smiled. Everything's just that simple and sweet, in Sri Lanka.