Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sri Lanka - The first Cricket World Cup match

March 5

Hello everyone!

So here it is folks. It’s that moment when the pace quickens, the gears are moved through, the action becomes faster and faster. We’ve had our relaxation period, and now it is time to get on the move. After seeing a monkey jumping through the trees behind our garden, and goats being paraded through Galle’s train station like they were pets, we had our return train up to the capital. Put your hands up for…Colombo!

As you can see from forthcoming pictures, I have no hair. I have Chris and Juno to thank for a fantastic recovery operation after I well and truly botched the solo attempt to cut it. Those of you who were in Prague may remember I cut my own hair during the TEFL course, and it looked…unique. Well my most recent attempt was by far my worst, resulting in the 0.01 army commando do I’m now styling. Due to this, I desperately needed to buy some headgear at Colombo’s train station in order for my head not to boil like the egg that I was told I looked like. Personally, I thought I looked like Imhotep, from The Mummy. Juno, being the darling she is, stated at the mid-point that I looked like a ‘sick chicken’. We’ve left her now. In spite of that statement, I’ll miss her until we meet up once more in India.

The attempts of buying a hat brought me back to one of my favourite pastimes – the humble haggle. I love to barter. I don’t care if I’m only saving 5p. It’s the principle. It’s the challenge. A man offers me a delightful Sri Lanka hat, which would allow me to fit in at a later date, for Rs500. About £2.70. No chance. I start at Rs200, gunning for a Rs250 bright blue cap that I may only wear today. He comes down to Rs320 before telling me that he won’t make a profit if he sells at Rs300. Not good enough, I say, and walk off, but give a longing final look at the hat. Nope, gone. Away we walk. Not too fast, though. Linger…linger…’Sir, sir! Rs 250’. Bingo. Except he then broke negotiating etiquette and changed back to Rs300. I gave him Rs280, snatched the hat, and walked off. His friend follows us briefly, but let’s us go. Did I win? My head tells me yes, as it isn’t strawberry red.

The reason we were here was to wait for the latest musketeer – Johno, a friend of ours from university who now lives in Hong Kong. He was with us for a whirlwind weekend. The reason has one ball, a silly point and a third man. Put those dirty thoughts away, Americans. It’s cricket! The Cricket World Cup, in fact. We had tickets for two of the standout games of the initial group stage – Sri Lanka versus Australia, in the home side’s Colombo fortress. After a few long, sweaty bus rides to and from one of Juno’s friend’s house (we do anything for a free bed), we were at the surprisingly large stadium, and ready to witness a carnival. Sri Lankans love their cricket, and this was the perfect place for the locals to voice their support.

What helps to generate the atmosphere is the fact that, unlike Western stadia, you aren’t allocated a seat. I’ve experienced this once at a Korean club football game, but thought that was because no one turned up. Here, your ticket assigns you to a general area, and you rush for the good seats. Thus people turn up early and make a lot of noise. Other ways of generating a hostile environment for the Aussies include face paint, flags, and a man with a Father Christmas on top of his hat blowing a horn.

This man and his mate needed to be at their loudest to keep the spirits of the crowd going once Australia assumed an element of control over the contest. The blazing sunshine was also starting to give way to some rather ominous clouds…

Crack. Boom. Crack. Boom. And the rain came tumbling down. At 129-3, this sharp, sudden storm unleashed its fury onto the pitch and into the stands. Being close to the front of one of the upper tiers, we were in trouble. The oppressive heat had given way to shivers from the torrent we were encountering. The crowd backed up a little, then a lot, and then we all realised that we needed to get to the lower level.

As I said before, this stadium was surprisingly big. This meant thousands of people crushing, groaning, heaving their way towards the steps. Security were expecting the game to resume at some point (idiots), meaning that they were giving each person a pink return slip on the way down. I put mine in my wallet, return it to my pocket, and then resumed the struggle for breath. We got to the bottom and took refuge, before I decided I needed the toilet. As I walk back, I see people trying to sell food through the gates, as the stadium was out of stock. I was hungry, so I tap my wallet before putting my hand in my pocket to see how much money I had.

Except that didn’t happen. I tap my leg, and realise that my wallet isn’t there. Or anywhere. I scramble back to look on the floor near the steps, but it’s hopeless. Chris and Johno arrive, I explain, and the conclusion is obvious – I was pickpocketed on the stairs. Obviously the wallet didn’t go back in my pocket far enough, or some sly person had the skills to slip it from its rightful place. Aside from the bank card, there was little in there for me to be concerned about. Enjoy your Rs300 lucky man. Not to mention my UK 16-25 railcard, you’ll get big use out of that. And the joys of my expired student card. You lucky, lucky man.

Needless to say I was a bit miffed for the rest of the evening. The fact that the match was abandoned did little to lift spirits. But the realisation that it could have been worse (note to all travellers: USE A MONEY BELT), and the fact that pitch invaders were running onto the cricket covers and performing the moonwalk, made me feel better about everything. The passion and fervour at the ground is something that will live with me for a long time. Well, until tomorrow at least, when the next Cricket World Cup game will be attended. In Chennai. India. We go to India in the morning. Boomtown.

In the words of 10cc…I don’t like cricket, ah, oh no…I LOVE IT.

Love you all


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