SL Diary: A Lankan triumph, courtesy scribes!

It’s an afternoon of laughter and joy, and the Sri Lankan journalists defeat their Indian counterparts in a friendly cricket match. The Sri Lanka Cricket Board president, Thilanga Sumathipala, who meets the Indian scribes later, quips: “Our senior team couldn’t beat your team; at least our media team won.”

A perfect setting... the Pallekele Cricket Stadium with mountains in the backdrop.   -  Getty Images

After the dust settles at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground following India’s victory in the second Test that gives the visiting team a series-winning 2-0 lead, the sports scribes have the luxury of deleting the 7 a.m. wake-up alarm, which is mandatory on match days. The lone task in hand is the quest for features and stories. And then, out of the blue, members of the Sri Lankan media invite their Indian counterparts to a tennis-ball cricket match at the Colombo Cricket Club ground.

It is an offer the journalists from beyond the Palk Straits couldn’t refuse. Game on, in hot and humid conditions.

In an afternoon of laughter and joy, Indian scribes score 175 in 20 overs. At one stage, the Sri Lankan scribes’ chase totters at 70 for seven, but miraculously, in a few overs after losing the eighth wicket, only a few runs are needed for the host to triumph! Except for one bad over, the Indian scribes couldn’t fathom the sudden surge in the home team’s total. But given the spirit of the game, the mystery is overlooked, and soon the Sri Lankan scribes win.

Hands are shaken, beers are quaffed, appam and stew are consumed, and as the skies darken, a rugby team takes over the ground.

Later, the Sri Lanka Cricket Board president, Thilanga Sumathipala, meets the Indian journalists. “Our senior team couldn’t beat your team; at least our media team won,” he quips.

Just in case you are wondering how your correspondent performed in the match, ahem! a splendid zero. The knock lasted six deliveries and ended when a mighty heave was caught on the mid-wicket fence, much to the despair of millions of his fans!

Wedding photography

Sri Lankans love their weddings. And particularly freezing those surreal moments in the form of photographs for posterity. Most studios have billboards for bridal and wedding photography, and the trend is the same whether it is Galle, Colombo or Kandy.

At the team hotel near the Pallekele Stadium, some of the Indian cricket writers saunter in for the pre-Test press conference, some in semi-formals and others in T-shirts and shorts. As the media contingent strides in, the awareness of not belonging to the five-star ambience becomes worse, as a wedding ceremony’s rituals are sighted. The attire of the people of the marriage party is impeccable — dapper suits and flowing dresses.

The staged wedding photography is in vogue. The bridegroom stands on the staircase and strikes a pose, but some of the journalists spoil that moment by walking across precisely when the flash bulbs light up. There are sheepish grins, but work has to be done.

Once Virat Kohli finishes speaking to the correspondents, it is time to seek the exit gate. And the walk is parallel to that of the wedding procession. It is amusing to hear the bride tell the groom: “You better walk slowly towards the altar!”

Staggering beauty

You are staggered by Sri Lanka’s beauty. Tropical foliage, a seemingly endless coastline, the locals with their warm smiles... And if you are to go by the cricket settings, the Emerald Isle is one of the best. The Galle Ground is fringed by a fort and the Indian Ocean. Colombo’s venues may be underwhelming, but move to the hill country in Kandy and you will find more splendid locales there.

The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium is surrounded by cloud-capped mountains. Will a batsman watch the bowler in his delivery stride or shoot the breeze and stare at the hills and the rolling greens? The venue could be a perfect setting for Ruskin Bond to spin another tale based in the hills.

The third Test commences, India dominates and the backdrop makes you recall poet John Keats’ line — ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’