Lankan Diary: Day Three – Clones, Clubs and The Two Chucks

Posted: September 19, 2012 by thecognitivenomad in Cricket, World T20 2012
Tags: , , , , , ,

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The tale of the three Malingas

Abhishek had spotted it the day before, and we thought it’d make sense to take a walk to Cotton World, a store close to the heart of the city that was selling official cricket merchandise. A walk because the lunch at The Mango Tree, a popular Indian restaurant, took the best part of our appetite and money. But I’d still recommend it to travellers looking for ‘a meal-a-day to keep me going’ option.

Jerseys, Caps, Sri Lanka T20 WC Hosts Tees, Slinga-Malinga wigs and a host of other cricket merchandise were being sold at more than reasonable prices at Cotton World. Now before some of you guys decide to ask us to buy these when we return, I suggest you have a look at the photos we’ll be posting from the game tomorrow – will give you a fair idea on what we bought.

I decided to play neutral and opted for one of the stereotypical World Cup T20 hosts tees, while Goutham decided to chance his entry in to press-boxes by purchasing a SL tee. He also had Badri for company in buying the Slinga-Malinga wigs, opting for black, and yellow wigs.

What followed was beyond hilarious – the thought of being in a foreign land drove into their minds and any boundary conditions that might have existed back home was put to dust. They decided to wear the wigs on the streets, and within minutes, were the centres of attraction, attracting amusing looks from everyone on the streets.

This tempted Abhishek to rush back to the shop to get a wig for himself, and soon enough, the three became focal points of amused looks, chuckles and waves from passers-by – including a big cheer from a school bus full of children who, for no fault of theirs, may have been under the impression that there are clones of their nation’s most colourful cricketer roaming through the streets of Colombo.

Malinga clones spotted in the streets of Colombo – Goutham, Badri and AB

A short viral clip featuring them seemed the logical way forward, but Abhishek’s fear of a slim chance of passers-by mistaking them for a bunch of madmen buried the idea of a commemorative diorama featuring the best of Sri Lanka World T20 – I promise you, the video would have passed.

The Cricket Club Café

We’d decided on setting aside a four/five hour block to visit The Cricket Club Café, at Queens Road. The minute we’d set our eyes on this while browsing through Lonely Planet a few weeks ago, we’d decided that it would be well worth watching one of the evening games here.

Abhishek had made the reservation first thing this morning, and we ensured we reached well ahead of time. What followed was, by a distance, the most enchanting, holy (if I may use this term) and wholesome cricketing tryst with history and memorabilia.

Cross-Grounds? Now where do we go next

The video-camera was immediately out and we were fortunate enough to have a volunteer, Raj, take us through the café. Raj is currently in his 4th year at The Cricket Club Café, therefore no stranger when it comes to questions regarding the café’s rich 16-year history.

The walls are adorned with miniature (and a few full size) bats with autographs of teams that have played since the 1890s. Posters, player profiles, original newspaper cuttings from the earlier part of the previous century, and scorecards, among others, also fill up the wall spaces.

There is sufficient evidence to suggest that this is a café frequently visited by the men who matter – both on and off the field. Interesting collections included the autographs of the Indian and Australian team that faced each other in 1948 – there’s even a picture of Don Bradman and Lala Amarnath. The shoe worn by former West Indian paceman Joel Garner (I could’ve sworn I’d have found it easy to fit both my legs in to one of his shoes) was at display along with a bat that commemorated Graeme Hick’s century of centuries in First Class Cricket.

Memorabilia galore – one of the many you’d come across at The Cricket Club Cafe

There’s a large room/section dedicated to Don Bradman, called the Bradman Bar, and another adjacent one dedicated to English Cricket. The bigger room, housing the greater share of the tables, is called the Long Room – borrowing the name from l’original at the Lords. Not an inch of space was spared, and for a cricket history lover, if this isn’t paradise, I wonder what would be.

As the crowds started trickling in to catch the start of the opening game of the T20 World Cup, between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, we thought it’d be a good idea to talk to the other foreign visitors from England and Australia.

The mood was certainly infectious – crucial issues regarding the size and reach of Kevin Pietersen, who was spotted on TV as part of the Star Cricket panel, drew sufficient flak in itself, with a few believing that even his presence around the T20 World Cup was a sign of fetid things to come. It is very unfortunate that the off-field events during test series against South Africa will remain an inedible stain on an otherwise outstanding test career. But to his credit, he doesn’t seem that bad on studio – another career in the making?

No one denied he was a great player; he truly is a game changer, and a top entertainer. But anyone who creates an imbalance in team morale has no place in the squad. The English fans (all wearing Sri Lanka jerseys) certainly miss him, but understand that his absence was always inevitable (it was also announced later that he wasn’t to be included in the squad touring India later this year) given that his presence had started creating a disturbing appetite for attention within the squad.

Goutham and me with British Fans at The Cricket Club Cafe

The result of speaking to fans in the café was a good one for the host country as the Lankans, by far, were the most plausible of the major candidates to lift the trophy. West Indies (not surprisingly) was a close second, with Pakistan and India being the other names murmured as front-runners.

We’d completed several rounds of starters and drinks by the time Ajantha Mendis recorded T20Is best bowling figures to wipe out the Zimbabwean batting. There was hardly any room for the main course – the tempting facet being that most of the dishes carried names associated with the sport – David Sheperd’s Pie, Gooch’s Fish ‘n Chips, Viv’s Veggie Bake, Pollard’s Paelia, Knott’s Nachos, Chanderpaul’s Cheese & Veggie Pie among others.    

The Two Chucks and the Two Ducks

As we were getting out, we were given pleasant surprise when Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber, of the Two Chucks fame (ESPNCRICINFO, Cricketwithballs.com) stepped out of the café. Sam came over to us and asked if we’d be okay to answer a few questions that he’d like to record. We were more than happy to do it, assuming he’d return the favour shortly afterwards.

Abhishek spent some quite some time elaborating on his responses, given his plethora of knowledge on the sport. Once that was done, Goutham decided to take charge and got the camera rolling. What Jarrod and Sam initially thought as a request for a photograph, turned into an informal interview – something they were, to their credit, totally okay with.

The CouchExperts with the Two Chucks

As amateur journalists, it is always a thrilling experience to meet men who’ve cemented their places in with their pen on paper. We’ll upload the video shortly.

But overall, speaking to Jarrod and Sam summed up by far, one of our most memorable cricketing experiences. Keep watching out for this space as we head to the Premadasa today to catch a couple of games – anyone fancying the Afghans?

P.S. The full video of our (i) coverage at The Cricket Club café and (ii) short interview with Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins will shortly appear in this space – i.e. once we are within a bandwidth field that has a speed in the range of three-digit kbps.

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