Galle – Where Passion Meets Beauty

Galle International Cricket Stadium: distinctive, historic and picturesque

In 2014, one of the most dominant sides in Test cricket, South Africa were touring Sri Lanka, and the series commenced at Sri Lanka’s fortress, the Galle International Cricket Stadium.

‘Machan, shall we go for the Galle Test match. It has been a while since I saw Sanga bat’, I said to my friend, longing to see the legend bat one last time before his retirement.

Our plans were temporarily put on hold by the Proteas, who batted for two days while rattling a mammoth score. Sri Lanka were 30 for no loss at stumps on the second day.

‘Let’s go early morning tomorrow’, said my friend, convinced that Tharanga was not going to survive the early swing for too long.

We both didn’t want to miss any of Sanga’s innings. He was at his peak; scoring runs at will (even in 2017, he still does it!).

Next morning, on the Ruhunu Kumari train from Matara, we reached Galle in 35 minutes. Surrounded by a 16th century fort and the Indian Ocean, it doesn’t matter whether you travel by rail or bus, the convenient access is another uniqueness of this stunning ground.

As we entered the stadium, disappointedly Sri Lanka had lost a wicket.

‘Tharanga has lost his stumps I guess’, words just came out of my mouth.

‘No machan, it’s Kaushal Silva!’ replied my friend.

‘Hmm.. yes ne.’

Upul Tharanga was playing his first Test after a lapse of 7 years.

Sangakkara greeted us with one of his classic textbook cover drives. The legend was not going to disappoint us.

Be that as it may, I am convinced that the feeling of watching a Test match at a venue like Galle cannot be replicated even with hundreds of ODI or T20 Internationals.

The main pavilion shields you from the scorching sun, and it is the best place to watch cricket at the Galle Stadium. Five minutes into taking our seats the heavens opened, forcing suspension of play.

‘Shall we go out and eat something? Then we can do a round in the fort during the lunch break’, I said, since sightseeing in Galle Fort is a must do whenever I come to Galle for cricket.

Likewise, many cricket fans from around the world take time off from cricket to visit the fort, to experience its beauty and uniqueness. The panoramic view of the Indian Ocean, the cricket stadium, and the city; from top of the fort wall was breathtakingly picturesque.

Dampened by rain, I was left broken-hearted when Sangakkara was dismissed on the third ball he faced after the resumption of play. Nevertheless, Tharanga made full use of the opportunity given to him at his ‘home ground’ to score a well compiled 83 runs. It included his signature cover drives and well-timed cuts behind point.

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The gloom saw an early stoppage for tea around 2.50 pm. The sun was hidden by clouds behind the sea, above the silhouetted landscape. The mild weather allowed us to sit on the grass banks and get more personal with rest of the action to follow. Sipping a soft drink, bought from a nearby mobile shop, we spotted a familiar figure of Sri Lankan cricket beyond the boundary.

He was none other than Gayan Senanayaka. Having a break after two hours, from his endless chants, ‘හතරේ එකක් ඇරෝ! හයේ එකක් ඇරෝ!’ His words lift the spirits of the team in the middle, an energetic contribution to Sri Lanka cricket in recent times. With an ageing ‘Uncle Percy’, Gayan is set to seamlessly take over as Sri Lanka’s number 1 cheerleader.

Then the man, the legend himself walked slowly towards us. With a Lion flag on his hands, amply demonstrating his great passion for Sri Lanka’s cricket, ‘Uncle Percy’ was still doing rounds around the ground.

To our surprise, he stopped near us and fired away, ‘You fools, why did you come to watch the match. Can’t you shout a bit? You must cheer them loud!’.

Searching for an excuse, I replied, ‘Come on Uncle Percy it’s tea time, no one to support in the middle right now’.

These men, be it Percy or Gayan have sacrificed a lot to support the team. They have seen through the best and worst but still chose to cheer the team no matter what. Isn’t that what true cricket fans do? Don’t they deserve a better deal?

Angelo Mathews meanwhile made a brisk 89 with shots all around the wicket, to round off a perfect ending to a fantastic day of cricket at the Galle International Cricket Stadium*.

Watching a Test match at Galle – where fun-loving local crowds deliver a festival-like atmosphere with paparé music in the background – should be experienced at least get once in a lifetime. But the sad truth is only a few would turn up for these games. Some say Test cricket is ‘dying’ and it appears that interest in Test cricket among Sri Lankan fans is fast dwindling.

Be that as it may, I am convinced that the feeling of watching a Test match at a venue like Galle cannot be replicated even with hundreds of ODI or T20 Internationals.

*South Africa won the Test by 153 runs and the series 1-0.

(The above is a guest post by Chanuka Damsara, an ardent cricket fan, currently reading for his Bachelor’s degree in India. You can read the original version at his blog.)

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