Posts Tagged ‘Galle’

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

With the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 also taking place in Sri Lanka, the Galle International Cricket Stadium is a hive of activity these days. The man responsible for getting the stadium in shape for the women’s league matches starting later this week is former Sri Lankan Test cricketer Jayananda Warnaweera. Apart from being the curator at the venue and the secretary of the Southern Province Cricket Association, Warnaweera is also on the executive committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

I am not a great fan of T20 cricket: Warnaweera. He is seen with CouchExperts Chandra and Goutham in this picture.

You played for Galle Cricket Club, and you were among the first to represent Sri Lanka from here. Who are the others?

Like New South Wales in Australia or Mumbai in India, Colombo is the cricket epicentre for Sri Lanka. I played cricket from here for two-and-half decades and was the first to break into the Test team from Galle. It paved the way for others like Champaka Ramanayake and Upul Chandana later. Even Marvan Atapattu is from here. Now, Upul Tharanga from Galle is in the national team as well. So, we have consistently been producing Test players from Galle from the time I broke in. Unfortunately with Galle, like with other outstations being limited in terms of opportunities, a lot of these cricketers move to places like Colombo after school and in search of job opportunities.

Are there steps taken by SLC to ensure talent remains in their regions?

There are various measures being evaluated to ensure we retain people in the local provinces. Chief among them are proposals at the provincial level where eligibility for representing the province will be earned only if you represent a club from the province. There are many such ideas being considered and we hope to provide long-term solutions.

We are about a week from the start of the women’s league games, a lot of work is being done here at the stadium already; how is the interest with ladies cricket here and what kind of numbers do you foresee for these games at Galle?

This is an ICC event and all ticket-related things are handled by the ICC. The good thing is these games are free of charge for the spectators. Sri Lankans have been known to follow the men’s game more and it is the same everywhere. But we still expect to see five to six thousand people to show up at the ground for every match

How do you rate Sri Lankan women’s chances?

In Sri Lanka, not many women play cricket although the interest seems to be on the rise. Understandably, the interest is more in Colombo area than in outstations like Galle. The hope is that with this World Cup being here, and if we do well, it will hopefully generate a lot of interest in the women to take up the game.

You were instrumental in getting the stadium ready first in 1998 and you then played a pivotal role in getting the stadium ready post tsunami. How difficult was it?

The tsunami left the stadium in ruins and we had to do a lot of work to get it up and running. Upwards of 500 million rupees was spent to have the stadium renovated. There were obstructions from the archaeological department that the new building construction would block the view of the historical Galle Fort. I am glad that we were able to get past all that. It was the ground where Shane Warne got to 500 wickets and my good friend Murali retired here a hero after getting the last Indian wicket to get to 800 Test wickets. There are many happy memories at this ground.

Being a former Test player, would you have liked to be part of these T20 tournaments across the world? Do you fancy them?

Personally, I am not a great fan of T20 cricket. Test cricket will always be the pinnacle not T20 cricket. Not even one-day cricket. You need skill and endurance to succeed in Test cricket and that is not the case with T20 cricket. Yes, commercially it is great for cricket. But from a personal stand point, not my choice.

When I run through your stats, I see that you regularly bowled 30-odd overs in an innings. Yet we see today’s bowlers, with all the coaching and scientific approach, spending more time recuperating than playing. Why is that?

In my time, fitness had to do with match routine not gym routine. Unfortunately, most of the youngsters are gym-fit and not match-fit. We didn’t know much else to do other than to bowl for long hours. We built ourselves to bowl and last sessions and days. Perhaps today’s bowlers are not that match fit.

Who are the best young players coming out of Sri Lanka that have caught your eye?

I am impressed a lot by Akila Dananjaya. He will be a very good bowler for Sri Lanka. Dinesh Chandimal has the ability to be a very good player for Sri Lanka. I hope he can go far and achieve a lot.

Who were the best players you played against?

Vivian Richards comes to mind first and then Mohammed Azharuddin. Among bowlers, there were many — Kapil Dev, Michael Holding, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram to name a few.

Who was the most difficult batsman you bowled to and why?

Mohammed Azharuddin. He was wristy and aggressive; and was very difficult to set fields to. He had good hands, and could put spinners off their lines and lengths quickly.

The best captain you have played with or against?

Imran Khan was the best and so was Arjuna Ranatunga. I would rate Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara amongst the best captains in the recent times as well.

As a former off-spinner, who do you pick as the best off-spinner in the world currently?

Both Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann have been very good for their teams in the last few years. Both are very fine spinners. I am also very impressed with R Ashwin as he seems to have a lot of variations and seems an intelligent cricketer. With age on his side, and the maturity experience will bring him, he will be a bowler to watch out for in the years to come.

Do you agree with foreign coaches coaching national teams? It seems to be the norm with all international teams these days?

I do not have a problem with local coaches coaching the national team. Sometimes, language can be a barrier for foreign coaches to communicate with the team, especially the young ones. Some teams with good and bright seniors can overcome this. Sometimes, it is seen to be an advantage, as it is seen as not showing favouritism as well. The best man for the job should always coach any team.

Finally, who do you think will win the World T20?

It is a very open tournament. South Africa are a strong team and so are Pakistan. Sri Lanka have the team to win and so do India.

This interview was first published in Island Cricket.

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

We’d planned on paying a visit to the stadium the previous day, and decided that it might be apt to hook up with facts concerning the stadium. Galle paid host to witnessing spin greats Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidharan grab their 500th and 800th wicket respectively, with the latter signing off his legendary Test Career at Galle.

The darker side of Galle has other stories to reveal – the devastating effects of the 2004 Tsunami bearing source to tales that we’d never have entertained even in the wildest of nightmares. We realized that it might be essential to brush on a few facts that we thought we might be oblivious to – the effort behind getting the stadium back and running by 2008.

But soon, we learnt that what we’d gathered wasn’t nearly enough: if you want to know about the stadium, it only makes sense to get there and absorb its uniqueness – ranging from the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site which overlooks it from the background and its geographic distinctiveness of being tasseled on two sides by the Indian Ocean.

The Galle Fort at the backdrop of one of the world’s most picturesque venues. © Badrinarayana Vengavasi

Galle received sufficient press coverage to win the sentiments of people from around the world, following the tsunami tragedy of 2004. A volatile cocktail of facts would spell out the laudable efforts that were put in to get the stadium reconstructed (a project that cost in excess of 500 million LKR), and the battles that had to be contested against the Archaeological Department that raised its voice to object construction of buildings that would obstruct the view of the Fort.

As outsiders, we could do little but sympathize and contemplate on how quickly things can change in life. Natural disasters are ghastly under the best of circumstances.

On this note, we arrived as innocent visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the ground which Brian Lara, among many other cricketers, had picked as among his most picturesque venues he has played in. Galle is getting ready to host the T20 Women’s World T20 starting September 26 – in fact, all the league games as part of the Women’s World T20 are being held here.

We walked in to one of the administration offices to check if we could speak to some one on recording a documentary focusing on the preparations being made for hosting the Women’s World Cup. We were directed to the main building in search of a certain Mr. Warnaweera. We met a colleague of his in the office, who informed us that Mr. Warnaweera wouldn’t be here for until another hour.

We explained our objectives and soon, we were given a go-ahead to walk around the stadium – but we were told to avoid getting close to the wickets.

An hour had passed by the time we finished interacting with staff working across different departments from within. We thought it’d be a good idea to head back to the main building and connect with Mr. Warnaweera.

We met him as he was heading to his office and introduced ourselves. He introduced himself as the Secretary of the Southern Province Cricket Association (among other titles and responsibilities he holds) and was, by his colleagues’ words, described as the sole proprietor of the Galle Cricket Stadium. He knew about the venue more than anyone else around – he undertook the responsibilities of being the curator himself.

The CouchExperts with former Sri Lankan Off-Spinner Jayananda Warnaweera at his office at the Galle International Stadium

He was very warm in welcoming us and inviting us over to his office for a discussion. The conversation that followed set the tone for a prolonged discussion on assorted topics (cricket aside – politics, culture and philosophy) in circumstances that we’d least anticipated.

As a former off-spinner for Sri Lanka (1986-94), he explained the challenges of growing up during the era of insurgency that saw very little of Sri Lanka in the international stage. This theme kept coming up in our discussions, though less vividly at later stages of our conversation.

In a free wheeling chat, he discussed a wide ranging topics from administration issues, new talent emergence, best batsmen he has seen to the best ones he had bowled to. Responses include his disappointment in the roads that T20 has paved for the younger generation of cricketers (who “cannot play Tests”) and his assessment on the match-fitness levels of players, who, he otherwise feels, are spending more time focusing on being gym-fit.

His straight-forwardness, dedication towards the sport, and his love for Galle (the stadium in particular), stand out on numerous occasions – most notably observed when his colleagues endorse the days and nights he’d put in consecutively to ensure that the reconstruction of the stadium proceeded as hassle-free as possible.

His hospitality was beyond description – incidentally, an Irish contingent had arrived at the stadium (including former Captain Peter Gillespie and former Coach, whose name I fail to recollect ) in seek of permission to have a look at their wicket (Sri Lanka has lost only 4 of the 20 Tests played at Galle) and find out the composition of the soil. He excused himself for a few minutes, and was back to continue the chat (we gather that the Irish party’s requests were not entertained).

He explained that the World Cup victory in 1996 had shaken things (for the good) considerably in Sri Lanka. There was a push from the ICC to elevate Galle to an international venue, a target that was achieved in 1998 when New Zealand toured Sri Lanka in June to play a Test at Galle. An ODI, against India, was hosted a few weeks later.

He was very open and generous with his time – we’ll never forget the long afternoon that we’d spent with him, fielding fundamental questions on the state of affairs in SLC, T20 cricket, the lack of involvement of the retired greats with the current setup, among others. We were served a sumptuous meal following which we resumed our conversation.

Goutham Chakravarthi poses with the bat donated by Brian Lara, a few days ago, on account of his first visit to Galle post 2004.

One look at the venue through the French Windows of his office is sufficient to comprehend how Mr. Warnaweera reacts to the lavish praise people shower on him with regard to his brainchild (a term used by a lot of his colleagues). The credit always belongs to the man who is day-in and day-out at the arena – the man who sweated blood during the darkest days of this venue’s history. The triumph of his phenomenal achievement has been the ability to let people watch a game of cricket at this breath-taking venue.

That his colleagues rate his work-ethic, dedication, and passion so highly is evident when one strolls around the Galle Cricket Stadium. That force is Jayananda Warnaweera’s greatest achievement, and the heart of his significant service to the people of Galle and cricket lovers from around the world.

PS: A video pod on the day’s events and various interviews with administrators, structural engineers, fans and Jayananda Warnaweera form the theme of our second video podcast that will be updated shortly.

Lankan Diary: Day Five – Road to Galle

Posted: September 21, 2012 by thecognitivenomad in Cricket, World T20 2012
Tags: , ,

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

A cricketing void of a day, given that we aren’t covering any games; we started from Colombo at around noon to head for Galle.

We managed to find time to stop by Bentota and Hikkauduwa beach for a bit of fun with water, and visited a Sea Turtle Conservation site close by. And then it was a straight drive to Galle , a journey filled with fascinating views of the beaches along the south-western coast of Sri Lanka.

Beautiful skies atop Galle fort. © Badrinarayana Vengavasi

We passed through the Galle stadium, (more…)

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 5 August 2011

Watching Sehwag bat is to see a batsman enjoy his trade. He seems just another kid from the Indian grounds who loves to swing it to the fences and detests any running whatsoever. But he is a clever man in disguise. He attacks at every opportunity, swings his blade with the speed of a Ninja and maneuvers it with hands that could make pottery. He is clumsy with his feet, but has the balance of a tightrope walker, eye of a hawk and the heart of a champion. On Friday, creaky shoulder and all, the whole of his country will be praying he brings the best of himself to Northampton.

India's hopes now rest with Sehwag even with all the mystery shrouding his fitness.

Sehwag has scaled heights few can imagine. Often, he approaches games with one objective – to score runs. There is no bowling or field placement that will restrain him from scoring. Critics will argue that he hits in the air and has dodgy feet movement, but he knows how to keep the good ones from getting him out. He is a determined soul who is not afraid to get hit. He will score runs in all directions and off both feet and of all bowling. His strokeplay is skillful, bold and adventurous with its roots deep in his imagination. It is no more a question of bowling to your field for the bowler; it is a question of bowling to Virender Sehwag. The most sanguine of bowlers start doubting the skills they spent their whole lives perfecting. With him, it is not a carefully structured plan that is about to take its course, but an adventure dipped in his imagination more wonderful than a Pixar movie.

They say it is fun to sit alongside him and watch cricket. As the new batsman might play himself in, you would get to hear him say, ‘that’s a four gone begging… and that one should have been hit to the stands’. His approach to cricket is uncomplicated as are his press conferences. Once asked how he would encounter a particular swing bowler, he opined that he would go after him and two boundaries later, the ball would stop swinging for the bowler is put off his game plan straight away.

His confidence reflects in his approach. He plays with a smile on his face. He despises being dictated to and swears to die by his game. He reckons spinners shouldn’t be allowed to bowl and relishes them like when a child sees ice-cream. He has indeed a tremendous record against the best spinners of his time. Only Muralitharan has bamboozled him early on in his career. He has since played one of the great modern day innings against spin at Galle when he carried his bat for a blistering 201 against a rampant Mendis and Muralitharan.

The downside of his enormously charmed batting is his mode of his dismissals at times. Like he can manufacture the most impossible scoring opportunities, so can he in getting out. For a man who is considered to have frailties against quick bowling and wet pitches, it must be a surprise to his critics that he scores any runs at all. It is a method that works because he is as good a player as his track record and reputation suggests.

For a man who has based his game on extraordinary strokeplay, his determination to score runs is as invaluable an ingredient. His preparation is immaculate. As scintillating his drives can be, his most incredible quality is to keep going for long hours once he is in. He terrorizes bowlers and sends them on a leather hunt all day long. That he has come within 7 runs of being the only batsman to three triple hundreds is a reminder of the extraordinary heights he has scaled as a batsman.

All his achievements as a player will count for little when he hopefully steps on to the park against Northants later today in a practice match. Creaky shoulder or not, his teammates are looking at his shoulder for strength and support. A nation of bruised fans following two defeats at the hands of this mighty fine English side will hope Sehwag can blow them apart. The fielders will tell you that they blow their hands every time they stop a Sehwag drive.

India’s hopes now rests on his creaky shoulder.