If only Sangakkara was an Indian…

There were more number of Sangakkara billboards with lousy lines such as “white ball or red ball, it doesn’t matter” and “straight or across, he hits it all” than actual fans at the stadium.-N. SUDARSHAN

The poor response to Kumar Sangakkara’s final Test appearance in Galle was striking. And when he was practising in the nets, there were hardly 20 people watching him from the road adjacent to the ground, observes N. Sudarshan.

This Diary hasn’t travelled much abroad. In fact, it hadn’t even boarded an aircraft until August 2013. So, much of the time in the first few trips, understandably, was spent comparing things to something back home. Not to forget the glee, when it found out that one India rupee equals two Sri Lankan LKR.

In the same vein, it began thinking how would it have been if Kumar Sangakkara had been an Indian and was playing his last Test in Mumbai. Needless to say, the occasion would have been milked by everyone. However, in Galle, the lack of enthusiasm was striking. There were more number of Sangakkara billboards with lousy lines such as “White ball or red ball, it doesn’t matter” and “Straight or across, he hits it all” than actual fans at the stadium. When he was practising in the nets, there were hardly 20 people watching him from the road adjacent to the ground.

Knowledgeable Galle tuk-tuk drivers

‘Knowledgeable Chennai crowd’ is a term that has been routinely drummed into the Diary’s ears ever since it grudgingly moved to the city from Bengaluru. As if, followers everywhere else were only fanatics and not fans. The Diary was all along looking for a proper riposte. It found it in Galle — ‘Knowledgeable Galle tuk-tuk (auto) drivers’. “You have no opening batsmen,” said one in reference to Murali Vijay even before the match started.

“Big loss. I see two greatest batsmen here,” said the other. “Sachin and Sangakkara.”

One even branded Virat Kohli “easily satisfied.”

“How many big scores he score?” he asked. “Score 50, 100, very happy. See Sanga, 100, 200, no problem. He want 300.”

The Diary smirked and you know why. Monkey-gate

The Galle International Cricket Stadium has the 16th century Portuguese-Dutch Fort as a backdrop — a royalty unparalleled anywhere in the world. On the third afternoon, the cricket field was treated to similar royalty. Instead of the customary stray dog, a langur made its way into the ground. It ran right through the middle and was only kept off the pitch by Rohit Sharma’s deft footwork — something he should show in his batting. In the press box, a witty scribe remarked, “After eight years, Harbhajan Singh spots a monkey for the first time on the field.” There was laughter all-around.

Deeply political

The Diary is very interested in politics. It never misses an opportunity to ask people about the prevailing political situation. With local elections round the corner, it tries to get some information from a person in the Sri Lankan cricket board’s media entourage. The person sang paeans to the incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who incidentally held a huge rally right next to the stadium on the third day. This had in fact brought the only sign of vibrant human activity around the area.

The Diary patiently listens as he dwells on the virtues of democracy, corruption et al. He ends with a line, “But even clean water, when allowed to stagnate, becomes impure.” The Diary goes into a thoughtful mood.

Aequanimitas!

Wasim Thajudeen was a Sri Lankan rugby player, who was found dead on May 17, 2012. The police had initially said it was an accident. Now investigation has deemed it a murder. On the eve of the match, the Sinhala press asked Sangakkara about the same. For the Diary, it was surprising. It had all along seen Indian sportspersons skirt uncomfortable questions. “I didn’t know Wasim Thajudeen. I knew of him,” Sangakkara replied with equanimity. “It is sad and unfortunate. I hope that his family can find out what happened, and he can rest in peace and his family can get on with life. So it is a tragedy.” Then came the bit of education for the assembled press: “For most of the Indian press here, rugby in Sri Lanka is the second most popular sport. It is funny we are not really built to play rugby. But we give it a good, honest try. Try and do the best at the rugby field.”