Posts Tagged ‘Colombo’


Srivathsa Munirathnam

Going on your first International trip always gives you goose-bumps (I’m sure many of you would vouch for that) and I’m no different. The planning began three months back when a colleague suggested  that we go there for the T20 World Cup. Pre-planning included many things like booking tickets for the ICC World T20, looking at places to stay, what to see and other routine stuff that one would do before going on a vacation. Thankfully I wasn’t the one who was handling all that – my colleague did. Once all those mundane stuff was out of the way it was time to head to Sri Lanka. Before that though, a couple of sleepless nights were endured, anticipating what one might do there. There were a lot of shopping requests from various people which needed to be kept in mind. And there was one’s own list of ‘what-to-do’ to be taken care of as well.

The flight

Our flight was from Chennai to Colombo – a small matter of just 70 minutes, but what a 70 minutes it was. To see the flight cross the Indian Ocean when we were mid-air was a sight to behold. Watching it from the flight window gave me a different thrill. But the journey time was too less and in no time we were at the Bandaranaike International airport. 

The People 

As soon as we landed in Colombo, we got to experience the hospitality of the locals. We had heard stories of how nice they were and their fun-loving nature through various outlets, but here we were actually experiencing it. Right from the cab drivers, to the tuk-tuk walas, to the staff at the hotel – we didn’t encounter a single moment which we would regret later. In a funny sort of way, almost all the locals have their names which matched that of a cricketer. We had Hathurasinghe Premawardene who handled our transport service, Indika Sampath was our cab driver, we met Eranga Lakmal a volunteer at the stadium – who said that Suranga Lakmal was from the same village he had come from. Even when we went to eat, we came across Chaminda at Pizza Hut. 

India-Pakistan Super Eight match at the R. Premadasa stadium was memorable.

If that was a strange coincidence, then the generosity and the soft nature of the local people completely floored us. Just to give an example, the tuk-tuk driver who had to drop us at Premadasa, lost his way and took us to SSC initially. To compound matters, the tuk-tuk meter stopped working as well. Seeing our anxious faces, he assured us that he won’t charge anything extra and he kept his word despite losing  some money. Not only were the locals honest, but they follow all the traffic rules. We were surprised when we saw them stop at Zebra crossings to allow the pedestrians to walk to the other side. We told them this never happens in India and they were surprised. 

If following traffic rules was their duty, then every driver should get a 10 in my book. And once you told them that you were from a foreign land, their respect and treatment increases. That’s what was so pleasing to see. And since all Sri Lankans are cricket crazy, starting a conversation about cricket seemed to be a good idea and boy do the locals know their cricket or what! Every one seemed to know the game, its culture, the history and one even corrected me when I wrongly mentioned that Sangakkara had studied in Colombo. He was quick to point out, ‘Sangakkara studied in Trinity College at Kandy sir’. 

Wherever we went, be it Colombo, Galle or Udawalawe, the treatment offered by the locals made the journey memorable. There was always a helping hand, an advice and a quick clarification of your doubts though at times the English language and our Indian accent was difficult to comprehend for the concerned person. We met many crazy cricket fans inside the stadium and though we were surprised to see so many people being anti-India, it was all done in a jolly and good-natured way. There was no hint of malice or prejudice in their trolling and once the game got over, it was back to being friends again as they willingly came forward to have a chat and take a couple of pics with us. 

Along the journey, got to meet a lot of interesting characters as well and made a lot of good friends, some of whom even offered us their contact details. Having experienced the warmth and the hospitality of the Lankans, it would take a very hard man not to love them and I’m certainly not one of them. 

The places

Our journey started from Colombo where we were based in Mount Lavinia at the lovely Royal Berjaya Hotel. It was a three star accommodation with a beach view. Just open the window and there it was – the beach right in front of your eyes with the railway track in front of it. The first couple of days were spent in Colombo, checking out places like ODEL, Cricket Club Cafe, Gallery Cafe, Barefoot and Cleopatra. One had heard a lot about Cricket Club Cafe and it was truly a special place. One could see lots of memorabilia on the walls and some rare photographs which included Sir Don as well. The atmosphere inside was calm, serene and the perfect way to watch a live game on TV with lots of food and drink options to while away your time.

The place is run by two Australians and a must visit for any cricket fan who is going to Colombo. With the shopping and the local places almost complete, we decided to spend a few peaceful moments at Galle Sea Face – Colombo’s Marine Drive, if you may call it. The place is famous to watch the sunset in the evening but we went there in the afternoon, still it was a fab experience. Once that was done as well, we decided to head to Galle to check out lots of impressive stuff we had heard about the place.

Romesh Kaluwitharana’s private getaway Kalu’s Hideaway in the middle of the jungles is spectacular.

Must say that Galle didn’t disappoint at all. The Galle International Stadium was our destination and after a quick stopover we headed to the Galle Fort. The Fort is amazing for its architecture and its scenic beauty. There are nice places to shop and some pretty old but well maintained museums and an old DutchChurch. We had the opportunity to meet Stuart Law inside the fort and also see the Aussie women’s team. The highlight though of the Fort experience was to pose with the Python around the neck. If anyone is visiting the Fort, that is one thing one shouldn’t miss out on. 

After the Fort was done, we wanted to head to Mirissa beach which was on our to-do list, but unfortunately it was already late evening and we decided against going there. The next day saw us going to Udawalawe – a forest area – to check in at Kalu’s Hideaway, managed by Romesh Kaluwitharana himself. And what a place it was as well! Stunning, beautiful and so peaceful – right in the middle of the forest. The perfect getaway if one is on a honeymoon. Brilliantly managed by Kalu and Co. 

There was still a safari to complete in the morning and we managed to get a glimpse of a couple of wild Elephants, peacocks, a wild fowl, an Iguana and a green snake. With the safari out of the way it was time to pack our bags and head back to Colombo. Amongst all the places that we visited in Sri Lanka, Udawalawe and Kalu’s resort stand out for its natural beauty. Mind you, Colombo is not far behind – it’s a great city with lots of nice places and it’s very cosmopolitan too. Before our trip was done, we were so acquainted with Colombo that one could remember the areas with pincodes. Must say Colombo is an easy place to remember with lots of cleanliness to boot and not many tricky criss-crossing lanes. 

The Cricket

Those who have gone to watch a match in India at the stadium know how difficult and tiresome a journey it can be. Even a water bottle isn’t allowed whereas the live experience is completely the opposite in Sri Lanka. Forget about water bottles, everything is allowed including beer. That’s how it should be as well and a perhaps something for the Indian authorities to take note of. But before getting in, everything was screened and checked properly before one was allowed entry.

We went to three of India’s Super Eight games and inevitably it was the game against Pakistan that we enjoyed the most. The atmosphere at the Stadium was simply electric as Ravi Shastri would put it. What surprised us though was the amount of locals who had turned up to watch a non-Sri Lanka game. The support was heavily one-sided with lots of locals putting their weight behind Pakistan. But we had the final say and that gave us a lot of pleasure. It was also nice to meet a couple of Englishmen who were rooting for us and were sitting right behind us. The Brit was in his elements and he certainly made a few heads turn with his antics. 

The Galle International Cricket Stadium set amidst Indian Ocean on two sides with the historic Galle Fort in its back drop is a thing of unmatched beauty. Pic: Badrinarayana Vengavasi

As I had mentioned earlier, the locals wanted to see India out of the tournament and once they saw us in an Indian Jersey, the trolling would get even more louder. During the game against South Africa, they began singing, ‘go back home’ repeatedly and it only got louder once we were eliminated. All in good humor though and nothing worrisome about it at all. In fact one must say that one enjoyed the little banter. 

The locals for sure made the cricket watching experience wonderful and though I had seen games live in India at Bangalore, one has to see a game live at the Premadasa to get a real thrill. For the Sri Lankans, cricket is a carnival and they don’t care about the result. All they want is fun and they make sure they elevate the atmosphere inside the stadium to another level. 

Though India failed to reach the semi-finals, it was well worth watching the three Super Eight games and one doesn’t have any regrets about the cricket. 

To summarise the trip in a few lines would be difficult, but Sri Lanka is a place one should visit at least once for its lovely people and its beautiful natural scenery. Thoroughly enjoyed the 6 days spent there and had some amazing moments. Made a lot of friends and got bowled over by the locals. In short, Sri  Lanka was just wonderful. Sthutee Sri Lanka!


Goutham Chakravarthi

17th September 2012

Colombo

Nearly four years have passed since I last visited this glittering island. The lack of multiple security checks at military checkpoints, a facet that seemed a norm back then, immediately stands out. One thing that hasn’t change is the warmth of the locals and the smiles on their faces.

Photo

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFP

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFPFrom the airport to the beachside restaurants in the south of Sri Lanka, it’s all about the ICC World Twenty20. Seaside resorts are abuzz with cricket fever, and even the cab drivers tell me they are keeping an eye on the weather forecast, praying for the rain gods to show mercy for a month.

“I want West Indies to win and I believe they have a good chance,” Abhishek Bharathkumar, an Indian national and a former age-group captain for Tamil Nadu, who is here in Sri Lanka on vacation with his family, said.

In addition to home favourites Sri Lanka, India and West Indies are also seen as favourites by the locals to win the trophy while Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shahid Afridi and Lasith Malinga appear to be the fans’ picks for the stars of the tournament.

Sangakkara is extremely popular amongst the locals here, understandably so.

“Kohli is my favourite player from outside of Sri Lanka. But Sangakkara is my favourite though and his three awards only prove that he is among the best in the world,” says Haroon, a shopkeeper at the airport.

Teams, stats, clubs, T20 leagues are all part of routine conversations with cab drivers and at family dinners.

The locals are also excited by the unearthing of unconventional talents Dilshan Munaweera and Akila Dananjaya, and the expectations for them to deliver are high. Sri Lankans are extremely confident the two players discovered at the SLPL have what it takes to succeed; many of them want both players to be included in the playing XI instead of warming the benches at this year’s T20 World Cup. With Sri Lanka known to offer unorthodox talent, the world will wait with equal interest to see if Dananjaya and Munaweera can use this platform to launch their careers similar to how Angelo Mathews did during the 2009 edition of the tournament in England.

The wickets here seem to be no longer inclined to help slow bowlers or batsmen who thrive on slow, low tracks. Well rounded attacks like Pakistan’s are expected to succeed and progress beyond the Super Eight stages.

“Wickets these days offer some nip to even medium pacers. I think Thisara Perera will be the player of the tournament if we go on to win the cup,” says Cathy, who is a waitress at the wonderful beachside restaurant Loon Tao in Mount Lavinia. She believes teams with allrounders who can bowl medium pace are at an advantage.

A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.

“Ticketmaster, who are handling the ticket sales for the ICC, found that in the first few days of sales certain ticket outlets had access to the ‘blocked’ ticket database, and some of those tickets were sold to the public,” cheif executive of the Sri Lankan cricket board Ajit Jayasekara said, explaining the issue to Island Cricketrecently.

“When this computer glitch was noticed, they took remedial steps and offered alternative seating to those few people who had bought tickets from that database. The actual number is minimal and did not have an effect on the overall ticket sales.”

Even with several warm-up matches out of the way, It is hard to pick a favourite to win the tournament. The wickets will certainly have a significant say in outcome of the series, and should the wickets have nip and pace, it will be a very open tournament. Three sub-continental teams made it to the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup played in the sub-continent last year, and it is hard to see others challenge them should the wickets turn out to be slow turners.

Pakistan possess an impressive bowling attack, however, the chasm between sides shrinks to a blur in this format. Teams like Bangladesh can pose a formidable threat; both Pakistan and New Zealand will be wary of them, as they are in the same group.

The mood is festive. The most open WT20 tournament is upon us. Sri Lanka is the place to be right now.

This article was written for Island Cricket and first published there.

Lankan Diary: Day One: Ayubowan!

Posted: September 17, 2012 by thecognitivenomad in Cricket
Tags: , , ,

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

(F)lag Carrier it is

The delay, in itself, could have easily accommodated two end-to-end nail-biting T20 games. Nail-biting because the five-and-a-half hour wait mandated searching for alternative means for appetite – Air India will certainly not be an airline we’d consider flying again.

The fact that three other airlines (Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Sri Lankan Airlines) scheduled to depart later that day managed to take off by the time we were caught between searching for answers and cursing our luck, didn’t help the cause either.

The advantages of traveling as a group is that such delays don’t bog you down as much as it would have had you been a lone traveller. Topics spanned Samaraweera’s record outside the subcontinent (with Goutham  & Abhishek explicitly mentioning his twin hundreds in South Africa), cobwebs of the Atherton vs Cook Flintoff endorsements, Steve Waugh’s deliberation on not penning the Sarwan-McGrath incident in his autobiography and the ridiculous money some of these young cricketers were charging for an interview.

There were times when the magnitude of the delay caught raw nerves – the only bright side being the possibility of fellow traveller Triyambak, holder of a virgin passport, having to narrate his tale of a first foreign trip that didn’t cross the International Departures area.

Touch Down Colombo

The contrast in weather was evident, if not obvious. Cloudy skies are like two-edged swords (especially if you are on vacation) – lack of heat could mean an escapade from sunburns (which has well documented stories here), but the possibility of showers could well ruin our purpose for the trip here – the cricket!

We started on a conversation with one of the guys, Haroon, selling local sim cards in the airport. He named Malinga, Gayle and Kohli as his three favourite players (much to Goutham’s delight as two of three represent RCB in the IPL), and declared himself a Wayamba fan, a team in the SLPL led by Mahela Jayawardene. You could’ve easily mistaken him as a stand-up impersonator of Sri Lankan cricketers, given the way he appeared and spaced his words in English, but maybe that’s the case with all Sri Lankans.  They’re very friendly , warm and polite.

Ranveli

Ranveli Beach Resort seemed a more-than-decent place for budget travellers like us. The 1.25 hour journey from the airport to the resort was taxing – both physically and monetarily (costs us close to 3600 SLR for the journey), but the relief of having made it to Sri Lanka, given the morning’s proceedings, swept such concerns under the carpet.

One of our room attendants, a young lad going by the name Ruwan, spoke a bit of Tamil. He mentioned being a fan of Sangakkara and Tendulkar, and reckoned if Sri Lanka weren’t going to win the World Cup, the Indians were his close favourites.

Captain Goutham welcomes latest additions to CECC – on foreign shores

Numbers 00, and 17 were handed over their Couch Expert Cricket Club (CECC) Jerseys and the Baggy Blues by skipper Goutham Chakravarthi. 00 – Suneeth Sastry volunteered to sponsor a tablet PC for CECC to help Chief Statistician Badrinarayana Vengavasi (also part of the SL touring party) work with numbers, graphs and wagon wheels.

CJ receiving his CECC jersey from Goutham in Mt. Lavinia, Colombo

Number 17 – yours truly, who is yet to make his debut for CECC, has a clear road now to grab the first choice wicket-keeper position owing to the fact that current wicket-keeper Muthukumar Ramamurthy is about to enter the second innings of his personal life. Muthu, are you reading this?