A bundle of energy

S.S. KUMAR

“Fitness is a religion for me. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see the boys in better shape. I never get tired. When your job is also your passion, you are always there, physically and mentally,” says Ramji Srinivasan, India's fitness trainer. By S. Dinakar.

It takes four hours by road to travel from Colombo to Dambulla. The Indian team, however, chooses to travel by a chopper which takes about 40 minutes. The first match of the Tri-series for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men, at the Rangiri Stadium, too ends in a jiffy. They are bundled out in under 30 overs by a probing New Zealand pace attack.

Ironically, the Indian batting line-up has a nightmare on the day it is announced that the quality of the floodlights at this venue has actually improved.

Yours truly takes the road trip from the Sri Lankan capital to the Buddhist heartland. It's a pleasant drive, through mountains and forests, across bridges and streams. Along the way, the images of Lord Buddha stare at you from every corner. Sri Lanka is a land of varying landscapes. Here, a hill might only be minutes away from a pristine beach. Dambulla, though, is far away from the sea. A treasure trove of Buddhist monuments, Dambulla is a now a heritage site. The timeless and astonishing Sigiriya Rock is only minutes away. I see monks in their robes. Dambulla is charmingly different.

The Rangiri Stadium is a stunning arena with lakes and mountains in the background. The stands are low and the wind blows across the ground. However, the seats are largely empty when the India–New Zealand duel gets underway. In fact, there are more policemen, players, officials and journalists than spectators.

Traditionally, crowds only come for the matches involving Sri Lanka here. There is a much larger turnout for the Sri Lanka–New Zealand match.

Meanwhile, I catch up with India's fitness trainer Ramji Srinivasan. The cricketing schedules being cramped these days, he is a busy man and his job is often arduous. Despite his heavy workload, Ramji is an affable and lively person.

“Fitness is a religion for me. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see the boys in better shape. I never get tired. When your job is also your passion, you are always there, physically and mentally,” he says.

India has a five-day long break between its first and second matches, and some of the team members including skipper Dhoni travel to that lovely port city, Trincomalee. These are peaceful times in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, things are hotting up in cricket. Dhoni is unhappy with the practice facilities provided. He says the bounce is inconsistent. He is fuming after Dinesh Karthik is struck on the thumb by a rising delivery at the nets. The Indians are under pressure. The pitches here do not suit their brand of cricket and then there are injury concerns.

There is more bad news for the Indian camp. Yuvraj Singh is down with dengue. This has not been the happiest of tours for the left-handed batsman.