When Gilchrist Squashed Sri Lanka

Adam Gilchrist waves to show a squash ball in his left glove at the 2007 Cricket World Cup Final

After scoring his century, Adam Gilchrist waves to show a squash ball in his left glove at the 2007 Cricket World Cup Final, Australia v Sri Lanka at Kensington Oval, Barbados 28th April 2007. (© Getty Images)

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.

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A Cricket Tragic’s Magnum Opus – An Incidental History of the Sport in Sri Lanka

Winds Behind the Willow review at cricketweb.net

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.

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Passion and First-hand Knowledge

Review of Winds Behind the Willows at goodreads

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.

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Passion Out In The Field

Passion out in the field, a review of Winds Behind the Willows by Sachitra MahendraThose 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.

Winds Behind The Willows - A Sri Lankan's life in love with cricke

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.

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Toga: The Tireless and Triumphant Twirler

Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka celebrates with teammates after dismissing Trent Boult of New Zealand.

An immaculate spell that earned Sri Lanka their sixth straight semi-final spot in ICC events: Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka with the astonishing figures of 5 wickets for 3 runs celebrates with teammates after dismissing Trent Boult of New Zealand. Sri Lanka successfully defended their meagre total of 119 on 31 March 2014 in the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

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,

‘Test cricket.’

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.

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An Outsider’s Inside View of Sri Lankan Cricket

An outsider's inside view of Sri Lankan cricket. A book review of Winds Behind the Willows by Andrew Fidel Fernando.

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.

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The Seven-Year Itch of Sri Lanka Cricket!

Historic figures in the history of Sri Lankan cricket, lost out on proper recognition.

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.

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An Excellent Portrayal of Cricket’s Roving Fandom

 

Winds behind the Willows: An excellent portrayal of cricket's roving fandom

The greatest lovers of cricket and the connoisseurs of the game are not necessarily the greatest cricketers. Most often we find that the true lovers of the game are those who have played a reasonable amount of cricket but have never attained the great heights to which the great cricketers have. Ranjan Mellawa is one of them, and like me, he started his cricketing career in his father’s coconut grove, but unlike me, his fellow cricketers were his brothers and his friends. Mine were my sisters and my maids.

Playing with the rubber ball and the bat was how most of us started our cricket in Sri Lanka, and Ranjan weaves an interesting tale not only of his own beginnings but also of the beginnings of the game in England, Sri Lanka and how it has spread the world over. Particularly, he talks of how Sri Lanka itself matured over the years, and after a long struggle, gained international status and subsequently built on it to achieve greater heights, by winning the World Cup in 1996.

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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.

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