Tag Archives: Cricket

A Day out at Lords-London

When I got off the tube at St John’s wood, and proceeded in the direction that most people were walking, I felt a strange sense of home coming with a bunch of strangers. I paused for a second, I took a deep breath. This was not for taking in oxygen in a crowded place, but rather to come to terms with reality of a dream that was a 100 steps from coming true. The enormity of being right next door to the Lords Stadium was overwhelming me. It probably was about the place, but not the occasion as a lowly West Indies team were playing England on the ascent, Johnny Bairstow was making his debut, Kemar Roach was ripping leather bolts-Not quite the stuff that cricket fans would be relishing to compromise their sleep over, but it was enough to make me like I was entering a magical kingdom. I walked out of the station, and felt the chill in the Summer air, hit my face. It was summer as they said, but it was chiller than Bangalore where I lived.

Lords Ground in LondonLords Ground in London

I heard touts selling tickets, outside the ground. I obviously had not planned coming to London to have booked tickets earlier at Lords, so I went forward knowing fully well that I would probably go upto 50 Pounds to buy a match ticket. There are something in life you feel priveleged to be paying surge-pricing, and I was not going to argue on price. Once I had the ticket in my hand, my chest swelled with pride, and I strode into the Lords ground, walking my way to the John Edrich stand. I turned around and checked that the Middlesex county had no stand named after Mike Gatting, one of their more famous sons. Maybe if Gatting had not done that reverse sweep in Kolkata, and England had won the 1987 World Cup, he would have a stand in his name. Guess what, as I was thinking and settling into my seat, I happened to bump into the man, who’s here conducting a fans activation show for the local sponsor.

Mike Gatting at Lords
Mike Gatting at Lords

When I started to settle in my seat, I quite enjoyed the view from the Edrich stand. It was a view facing the grand pavillion and while I was at Thirdman, the replay screen was diagonally opposite me which meant, I could also watch replays of how the action panned out. Good seats for the 50 pounds!

Aleem Dar Reversing a decisionAleem Dar Reversing a decision

The greens of the grass against the brown of the players pavillion, brought out the contrast of the players in white very well. The only constraint was the morning sun, which never came in the time I was there. Here’s Ian bell shepharding the tail as England march to a first innings lead. Watching the cricket in London was so different from watching it in India in the sense that people would come all buttoned up and upright in coats. They seemed to have a schedule of sorts in watching the cricket, and getting to one of the stands called the Tavern stands, where the cricket fans would drink. The members would sit opposite the edrich stand at the Grand stand, and would stand and applaud as the players would walk through them. This is something I had heard when I had earlier gone on a Lords tour. Also there were no restrictions on bringing in Cameras. Back in India, I remember being stopped for bringing my Nikon SLR by the police, despite the fact that I had ICC’s letter as an official fan engagement photographer for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The fans came first here. The ECB had a fan engagement program called the ‘The Twelth Man’ back then, and it showed how much they valued the fan, who was paying money and spending his time watching a bunch of people entertain in flannels over leather and wood.

Driving at LordsDriving at Lords

By the time, the afternoon came, the ground was partially flood lit, owing to the simmering rain clouds which threatened to pour. It was a surreal sight watching a panorama of the ground being completely lit up.

Panorama of Lords GroundPanorama of Lords Ground

England were playing out overs, and were content to score at a snail’s pace.  I decided to head out during the interval to check the scenes in the ground. I found Phil Tufnel, the yesteryear finger spinner signing autographs for his book,while a Carribean fan decided to dedicate a whole shirt to autographs. Now comes the question of asking, if these autographs were accumulated over the years.

Back in the 1990’s, my mother used to work in the hopitality industry, which opened quite a few doors for me, whenever the cricketers were playing in Chennai, I would have access to meeting them. I would meet them, listen to their inane jokes and wait for hours for their autographs. The nerd that I was,I would also rattle stats to them about their own batting. I remember doing that with a rather young Sanath Jayasuriya in 1992 when he was part of a World XI playing a Wills Indian XI at Chepauk.

Cricket Fan at Lords, London
Cricket Fan at Lords, London

While someone managed to get one on a test match hat. I remember using autograph books, shirts and bats but never a hat for memory.

Wearing Your Autograph

Meanwhile, lunch was being served, and I could have none of it below, since there was no vegetarian fare on display. I had to make do with cup cakes.

Tandoori Chicken for lunch at Lords, London
Tandoori Chicken for lunch at Lords, London

A little further down were dancers from the Carribean country of Barbados. They hired a bunch of dancers and and an offline activation booth outside the Edrich stand. I somehow felt that commercial tourism could be sold better. All these tourism agencies have the same ideas which go on the lines of “Lets-show-some-local-flavour-and-dance-and-sell-tourism”. I am not quite sure that’s the way to sell travel. As a traveller, I would have loved to hear a cricket connect to the place, and then hear about possibilities of Barbados like visiting certain beaches/experiences that only Barbados could deliver. Maybe someday when I have enough influence in the world of travel, I will love to help tourism agencies tell better stories at why travellers should visit them.

Barbados Dancers in London
Barbados Dancers in London

The Lankan Beach Cure-Part 1

This little series explores Sri Lanka through its beaches. A day out at the beach along the Dehivala-Galle line shows up some beautiful sights. Join in me in my experiences in Sri Lanka

Seize The Day

I woke up very pleasantly, with the chill morning breeze which waded through my windows. It was a happy kind of a feeling, considering the fact that I was forced to remove my shirt a few hours back, on account of sweating in the night in my hostel room. The fact that sweating of the night had given way to a breezy day, felt nice. There were subliminal signals given to the brain to go and wake up and seize the day. ‘SEIZE THE DAY’- or so I thought, until my host at the Adikaram Sea View hostel told me that it was Poya day and I should not expect to find any shops open in Colombo. I quicky had the last pieces of milk bread in the fridge, by firing them up in the toaster. Some Bread, Butter and Jam later, I found myself running across the little lane from the hostel to the beach. It felt like a bolt of freedom crashing against the waves of the Indian Ocean, a welcome respite from the fan cooled 300 INR a night hostel room.

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The morning walk by the sea, showed me the beautiful Colombo skyline , which was near empty, as whole of the city was observing Poya day. One day of the month (Full Moon day). The locals visit temples, avoid meat and alcohol and businesses and banks are closed. So I decided to walk to the other side of the beach.

 

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I saw a bottle kept upside down right into the beach. I marked my spot and kept my spectacles near it, to go into the sea and feel the waves. After lounging for a while in the waters in my near myopic blinded state, I came out and saw a bunch of kids, using the bottle as a stump at the bowlers end. My spectacles lay buried in the footmarks that the bowlers had created.

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They had quite a bit of southpaws trying to clobber balls into the ocean. Deep Midwicket usually between 2 waves and more often than not could not quite go after balls that came his way. The stumps on both the ends were just objects put into the mud. The Lankans were playing Cricket the Carribean way. Shirtless and full tosses by the sea.

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Then I saw order restored. I finally saw a right hander coming into bat. Kalu and Sanath maybe! Or maybe I was old, trying to come with Kalu and Sanath, in the times of Mahela, Sanga and Dilshan. After a while, staying at the beach, between the oscillating rain and bright sun, made me search for a place I could sit and watch the beach cricket from.

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Given its a beach, the most natural protection from the weather was behind the bushes. I found one amidst the greens and settled there. The bushes were at the far end of the beach and were closer to the village that was separated by the railway track that led to Dehiwala station and Mount Lavinia. This is the same railway line that connects Colombo to Galle, with amazing vistas of the sea right by the railway track.

 

Dancing In The Isles

 

 

This article talks about Sri Lanka and cricketing memories. I capture elements of Sri Lanka, Travel and cricket in the island from the view of the 1990’s.

As I boarded the train from Dehivala to Bambilipitiya, a little station in Colombo, along the Colombo-Galle railway line by the sea, my mind went back to the summer of 96. The summer of annihilation, The summer that Prime Sports [Now Star Sports] advertised as Cricket’s greatest year with Brian Langley in the advert.

Summer of 96

The summer of 96, was strange because the Lankans were on fire. Tony Greig was all over them, calling them fondly as ‘These little Sri Lankans’ with a specific reference to “Little Kalu” who along with Sanath Jayasuriya, was causing grief to a lot of bowlers. The grief became internalised in Manoj Prabhakar’s last ODI, when Kalu and Sanath launched a blistering attach on a bowler forced to bow in front of his home ground, by bowling off spinner for half his quota of overs bowled in the match. The scar ran deep that day from what happened at the Kotla. A little under 2 weeks later, the scar had bigger ramifications when the Lankans spun India out at the Eden Gardens on a relaid track, but it somehow got assuaged when the Lankans beat Australia in the finals. That small little nation had grown bigger in my eyes, in a period of little over a couple of weeks. From Delhi to Lahore via Calcutta and Rawalpindi. I probably never knew what it meant to the island nation back then. I was to soon find out as I made my way to the Cricket Club Cafe, on a balmy sunday afternoon in September.

In search of the Cricket Club Cafe

 

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The station was similar to the suburban rail stations, I would use back home in Chennai. A little platform that had a track on either sides, without any hustle and bustle, all for about 10 Lankan Rupees. These are usually 3rd class unreserved tickets, but have the best views of the sea, as the train ambles into Bambilipitiya. The railway stations from outside resemble a colonial bungalow in a hill station, but the reality is this little homely building is a railway station.

 

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A zig zag walk of a kilometre later, I find myself still confused if I am at the right place. The place that i encounter is fresh with sunshine coming over, after 2 days of rains and inclement September weather. The white walls are shining well through the contrasts of the tropical combination of the azure skies and green trees

 

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At the crossroads where there’s an interesting signboard that talks about the distances and directions of cricket grounds from that spot. I look west to Newlands, east to the Basin Reserve, North West to the Queens Park Oval, and angularly across to Lords and the MCG in opposite directions. Cricket’s little relic, at Colombo has just sent the cricketing hormones racing. I walk in feeling charged.

At the Cricket Club Cafe

The cafe has a very homely and warm vibe, with travellers who come here across the world. The cafe’s main hall has memorabilia hanging all over the walls. Shane Warne’s bowling in 4 different frames on the left and Allan Border is hooking and flicking in the other frames on the right, which is interspersed with panoramic view of cricket grounds.

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A ‘Vivian Richards’ vegetarian menu item makes its way to the table, smelling of cheesy lasagne, while the travellers inside discuss Lara and his comeback in the summer of 1999 against the Aussies. The TV in the room, quietly shifts to the live cricket being played a few blocks away at the Premadasa.

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As I move into the other room, I see an Image of Don Anurasiri bending his back, and a T shirt that has autographs of the Sri Lankan team. The ‘Don’ played in an era when Sri Lanka was hardly at its best.

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Sri Lanka’s renaissance in my opinion started on that 1995 tour of Sharjah, where Kalu and Hashan Tilakratne almost chased down West Indies’s mammoth 333 (fuelled by 169 by Lara). WI were given their first shock then, which trickled to a little more as part of an Australian summer where SrI Lanka, made it to the tri-series final in 1996 with some inspired cricket. That set the tone for the summer in the sub continent, as Sri Lanka ambushed all other teams, on their way to the world cup victory

 

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As the below newspaper cutting shows, a little dwarfed nation, troubled by the incessant strife in the north, and the threat of an attack, had a reason to smile and celebrate. Cricket had its ‘David beats Goliath’ moment yet again with a Sub continental team emerging champions. Cricket’s mount everest had been conquered, and the government chose to award the winning side a holiday package to Maldives. Maybe that was the height of luxury back then, when cricket was not yet a full time sport, that had as much money flowing in. Picking leather balls and pieces of woods, were an option, instead of picking guns and bombs for children and maybe this set off more people to bring their blaring horns and music equipment at the grounds in Colombo, though its always been part of the cricket scene in Sri Lanka.

The Cricket Club Cafe, made me revisit the 90’s through the eyes of a Lankan supporter, and I paid my bill visualizing Tony Greig’s voice shrieking “They are dancing in the Isles’, while the clarinet’s go off. [Though that comment was meant for Sharjah, I could very well use it in this context since Tony Greig was one of Sri Lanka’s very own]

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