At noon when the media bus started its trip from the Singhalese Sports Club, the headquarters of Sri Lanka Cricket, towards R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, the city streets were almost deserted as Sunday is the weekly holiday in the country. And that was why it took only ten minutes to reach the destination, which is not the case on regular office days.
The surrounding areas of the stadium also gave the impression of being a tranquil place at that time. But the scenario changed quickly as cricket-crazy fans started to arrive in their numbers mainly to watch the high-voltage India-Pakistan match. It seemed that all roads truly lead to the stadium; which was the brainchild of the late Sri Lanka President Ranasinghe Premadasa who made this colossal 35,000-seater stadium. The fans started to come to the ground well before the start of the match, called a ‘final before the final’ of the ongoing ICC World Twenty20, and there was a festive mood in and outside of the bowl.
The Sri Lankan love for cricket is world-renowned and to understand it you have to be at a stadium where a match is being played, feel the rhythm of the fans as they form impromptu bands and play music, eat and drink and of course cheer; a Sri Lanka-style enjoyment. The presence of the home team always sees the stadium full to its brim but there has also been huge interest surrounding the battle of the two fierce subcontinent rivals.
In the stands there was a wide cross-section of fans.
“There is huge interest about India-Pakistan match and people are always divided in their support when these two teams play in Sri Lanka. My first choice is Sri Lanka and then I like Pakistan. I don’t like the Indian cricket team and Indians also (laughs),” said Prabhu, a college student who came here to watch the traditional rivals clash with his friends wearing a Sri Lankan jersey.
“I am supporting the whole Sri Lankan team and definitely want them to lift the trophy,” he added.
Mohammad Rawshan however supports the India team mainly because of Indian new batting sensation Virat Kohli. “It’s (Khettarama) a Muslim-dominated area but still there are a huge number of Indian supporters. Basically we love cricket and always love to watch the game from the stands and if it is a match between India and Pakistan then nobody wants to miss it,” said Rawshan, an IT expert, adding: “I mainly love to watch Kohli. Sri Lanka is a cricket-crazy country, so almost anyone you meet will be interested in the game.”
For many it is a chance for them to watch their heroes from up close while some are at the ground only because they are passionate about the game and there are many who see it as an outing to be enjoyed with the family.
Businessman Mohammad Amdan had come to the match with his three sons, one of whom is an Indian supporter while the others support Pakistan. “I always try to come to the stadium whenever I get the chance. I like India and my elder son (Mohammad Ayub) also, as his mother came here from India but my other two sons support Pakistan. Actually we always love to watch cricket and we are great fans of the Sri Lanka cricket team,” said a smiling Amdan.
And most importantly, the overwhelming impression was that the ICC World Twenty20 2012 is great fun for cricket fans in Sri Lanka.
-With The Daily Star input