When the euphoria of 17 March 1996 sank in, most of us believed that Sri Lanka’s crack at a future World Cup Final was a pipe dream. But less than a decade hence, amidst administrative chaos and limited resources, Sri Lankans proved otherwise by illuminating the 2007 World Cup with unorthodoxy and skill.
Books about Sri Lankan cricket are rare, and any addition to the small number there are is to be welcomed. It is remarkable, for example, that no proper history of the game has been written for a country where cricket has been played since at least 1805, when a match at a British garrison is recorded as having taken place. Contrast that with New Zealand and South Africa, two countries where the game is not recorded until after that date, but both of which are well served by histories.
The year in which Sri Lanka was reeling from bomb blasts and bloody battles was also a watershed in the history of the island’s sporting career. An improbable Cricket World Cup victory in 1996 was an unlikely balm for all Sri Lanka’s wounds – and fittingly, the islanders celebrated together.
Paradoxically, the rise to the top in the cricketing field triggered an avalanche of politicos, businessmen, and sundry others in committee rooms who began competing for honorary positions to administer the game on behalf of the nation.
First things first, I am an oddball, an Indian but dyed in the wool Sri Lanka cricket fan since I started watching cricket (1996 WC). Of late that has led to significantly more heartburn and heartbreak than I would like.
The last book on SL cricket that I had read was a brilliant work of fiction, The Chinaman, I was very keen on a non-fiction now especially from a SL fan’s perspective. As an Indian who has spent his life in India and the US with very few SL friends and fans this was a much awaited moment to connect with the brothers (and sisters) from another cricketing mother.
Those mini teams that alternated between batting out in the field used to be common sight. But now that scene is slowly shifting into oblivion thanks to the palm-held devices and a busier generation. And like everything else, cricket is also losing its grip in a country where it meant everything to its nation.
But the scribes have not given up their passions on cricket. Shehan Karunatilaka penned a voluminous novel based on a cricket legend and bagged quite a few awards. The fresh addition to the field is Ranjan Mellawa who is a Business Consultant.
A passionate – or even obsessively, you can safely assert - follower of cricket, Ranjan has been witness to almost all the key moments of the Sri Lankan edition of the game. Next to Australia’s eight, Sri Lanka had featured in six cricket World Cup finals so far, in ODI’s and 20/20 competitions. Ranjan was the lucky audience to all six finals. This, any cricket fan would covet in a lifetime. Plus, he has held the secretary position of a Sri Lankan cricket club of note.
For the third consecutive year, the annual ‘SILK Sports Awards 2017’ organised by sportsinfo.lk, Sri Lanka’s premier sports promotion network, and sponsored by Sri Lanka Telecom was held on 28 November 2017 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Sri Lanka. It is recognised as Sri Lanka’s first annual sports awards ceremony for sporting excellence and contribution, with the objective of appreciating those who contributed to sports in numerous ways in the past years, including the greats of the game and those unsung heroes behind the scenes.
On yet another wet, slippery and gloomy early summer day in England, two Sri Lankans were heading to Heathrow Airport. The owner-driver, a UK resident, picked up his mild-mannered, chubby-looking passenger, from Stoke-on-Trent in the northern country. Even at the end of a five-hour journey, they barely knew each other, save for their names and what they did for a living. This of course, is not a typical taxi-driver-and-passenger story. The wheelman was doing a favour to a friend. His unknown passenger in the shotgun seat, having received ‘summons’ from a cricketing heavyweight in Sri Lanka an hour before, was in a hurry to catch a flight to Colombo, departing in seven hours’ time. Feeling nervous to perform once again on the biggest stage, the passenger’s thoughts wandered around his childhood dreams. Never a bragger, he was focused, conserving all his energy for the forthcoming event.
Closer to the airport, the driver’s patience ran out. In Sinhala, he asked, ‘Malli (younger brother), up to what level of cricket have you played?’
Politely the passenger replied,
He being an ordinary fan and not an aficionado, was left speechless. In retrospect, it was hard to remember someone who had played only 14 Tests across nine years.
First, allow me to lay out a bias: I was probably always going to like this one.
Sri Lanka does not, alas, produce a wealth of cricket books. Where Ben Stokes already has a hardcover in circulation, Muttiah Muralitharan is yet to flog a 400-page grievance – the likes of which has recently become the prerogative of so many retired cricketers. (And of endured hardships, who could possibly have a greater store than Murali?)
A cricket book out of Sri Lanka is rare enough, but with Winds Behind the Willows, Ranjan Mellawa has produced something truly unique: memoirs of a lifelong fan. There are no tiffs with former captains, or gripes about selectors here. Here are rough-and-ready touring tales from six global tournaments, and many Tests besides. Here is a bird’s eye view of Sri Lankan cricket’s many tumbling transformations in Mellawa’s five decades of following cricket.
England hosted the 2009 ICC World T20, where Sri Lanka showcased its famed unorthodoxy at its brilliant best. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
On 10 June 2009, Sanath Jayasuriya having violently demolished the Windies attack with an 81-run blitz off 47 balls, it was Angelo Mathews’ turn to treat the fifteen thousand plus crowd at Trent Bridge, Nottingham to an outlandish piece of innovative fielding.
Due to the ignorance of the officials of the (Sri Lanka) cricket board, players of that era [1982-1988] although they did play cricket, which could have been awarded the first-class tag, lost out. Such records could have been entered against their respective names in the international first-class cricket records. A tragic loss.
Old timers would recall Billy Wilder’s whimsical Hollywood film made in 1955 starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. In this satire, Wilder attempts to portray that most men after seven years of marriage their passions tend to stray. Hence ‘The Seven Year Itch’. Sri Lanka cricket too had that itch but due to different reasons! Reasons of ignorance.