Age no barrier for Jayasuriya

AP

Sanath Jayasuriya rolls back the years to become the oldest cricketer to notch up an ODI hundred. Typically exhilarating strokes mark his century, writes S. Dinakar in his diary.

The four-hour drive from Colombo to Dambulla is a scenic one. The car I am travelling in, cuts through forests, crosses creeks, runs alongside rivers and railway lines. Enchanting hills form a fascinating back drop.

Dambulla is a Buddhist hub. Some of the most sacred Buddhist monuments can be found in and around the town.

These structures are timeless. Interestingly, when the cricket stadium was first conceived in Dambulla, the monks were up in anger. They felt their land was being encroached upon.

Gradually, the cricket board in Sri Lanka was able to convince these holy men that an international cricket stadium at Dambulla would raise the profile of this largely tourist centre. Cricket does connect.

The Rangiri Stadium soothes the senses. It’s set deep inside a huge, beautifully landscaped area. Space is in plenty here. And the stadium is aesthetically pleasing. It is no concrete jungle and breeze flows through the largely open and low stands. The setting is easy on the eye.

Surrounding the Stadium are lakes, hills and a thick cluster of trees. A flock of birds drift lazily over the ground and a bunch of young boys frolic in the waters of the lake. It’s cricket at a venue where the mind tends to relax.

The Indians have no time to breathe easy in the arena though. Sanath Jayasuriya rolls back the years to become the oldest cricketer to notch up an ODI hundred. Typically exhilarating strokes mark his century.

And guess whose record he breaks? It’s Geoff Boycott, the technically pure and the rather slow paced English opener of the past. Ironies never cease in cricket!

Despite Jayasuriya’s effort, India seals a win. Mahendra Singh Dhoni excels as captain and then delivers with the willow. Booming straight drives from the skipper herald the Indian surge towards the finish line.

A band plays through the entire match. The lilting tunes, enhanced by the rhythmic beat of the drums, have the fans dancing. Cricket in Sri Lanka retains the element of joy.

The cricket caravan journeys back to Colombo. The security in the Sri Lankan capital is tight. Meanwhile, preparations are on for the Independence Day celebrations and yours truly, from the hotel window, can spot speedboats slicing through the waters of the Indian Ocean in preparation for the event.

There is another preparation happening at Taj Samudra, the team hotel. The cast and crew of the movie Victory are here. The film features cricketers such as Harbhajan Singh and Brett Lee.

The movie is being launched in Colombo, with the Indian cricket team. At the party at night, actors Harman Baweja and Gulshan Grover waltz with a group of exquisitely dressed Lankan dancers.

Meanwhile, actress Amrita Rao hunts for vegetarian food and finally grabs a plate of noodles. Working in a movie that has cricket as its central theme has been a lot of fun for this petite girl from Mangalore.

She agrees Sri Lanka is a lovely island and plans to visit exotic places such as Galle and Kandy the next time around. How do you spell Galle, she asks wanting to be doubly sure.