Modern times

Cricket seems to be driven by commercial interests these days. The schedules are cramped with meaningless matches thrown in. This is precisely why a Test series comes as a great relief, writes S. Dinakar.

The wind from the Indian Ocean blows forcefully. The sun is out. Cricket in Colombo, this time around, is mercifully spared of rain.

The focus is on the P. Saravanamuttu ground. The venue for the third Test is steeped in history. The legendary Sir Don Bradman made a rare appearance here, and a photograph in the elegant pavilion tells the story. Such pages from the past can be spirit-lifting.

Cricket is very much in the air at the P. Sara ground, which has a distinct old world charm. The stands are low and the gusts of wind are refreshing. What a relief from the huge concrete structures!

At this lovely venue one listens to the tales of that great batsman Mahadevan Sathasivam dismissing attacks ruthlessly in the 1940s. The gifted Sri Lankan Tamil built timeless monuments here. For the old-timers here, some memories never fade. Those were the days when the game retained its innocence. The players competed hard but cricket was still an amateur sport. Playing for the love of the game was paramount.

Cricket seems to be driven by commercial interests these days. The schedules are cramped with meaningless matches thrown in. This is precisely why a Test series comes as a great relief.

The game has also moved into the era of technology and one catches up with Indian team video analyst Dhananjay.

Dhananjay is a pleasant young man who has blended well with the Indian team. Everybody likes him and he likes everybody. His job is tough though. Players call on him constantly for a closer look at their game. And the coach, Gary Kirsten, has several sessions with him as the players' chinks are identified. Dhananjay has to be ready with the images.

He is also someone willing to travel beyond technique. He says, “For a youngster, being in the Indian team is a great education about life and values. Just imagine what an emerging cricketer would learn from simply being with and observing great cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman. They are all fantastic role models to have.”

He adds: “And when the youngsters interact with these phenomenal cricketers, they can pick up so many qualities. The game is a lot about mentorship. You will not get this kind of education in any school of learning.”

Dhananjay is someone who is totally involved in the game. He jumps for joy in the pavilion when Abhimanyu Mithun ends the threatening partnership between Thilan Samaraweera and Ajantha Mendis on the fourth day of the final Test.

Even as the cricketers fight it out in the middle, a band in the stands plays tunes that have a wonderful sense of rhythm. Cricket and music in Sri Lanka are inseparable.

Former India opener Arun Lal relishes the scenario from the media box. Actually, he is glad to be back watching the game.

Only a few days ago Arun Lal, now a television commentator, was down with dengue fever that is spreading in the island nation. “It was a terrible experience. I was in the hospital, was on drips, and was sapped of all energy,” he says.

Arul Lal misses the second Test but is bravely back commentating in the third. He is still weak, but is happy to be back. “It's such a relief to be back again watching cricket,” he says with a smile.

The Indians are smiling too after Laxman scripts an epic victory to help India level the series. Cricket is a lot about swings in fortunes.