Originally published in ‘The Island’ on 7 August, 2011
Cricket is an avenue unlike other sports which leaves space for nature to fly its divine wings. While you will be blessed with the scope of the first choice -cricket, there’s always the added charm of escaping the action for an instant and be dazzled by the milieu. Sorrowfully, concrete jungles are noshing away the delights fast. It’s in this sphere that you detect nature’s heaven – Pallekele- you become instantly hooked.
One thing that sets you up for a congenial location is the adherence that Kandy is one of the more gorgeous daughters of mother Sri Lanka.
The razzmatazz, buzzing or the sonority of the sea of the crowd pumping into the stadium at the entrance ought not to welcome you to queen Nefertiti you are about to witness and you shall not have a particle of an idea about the siege that you are about to embrace. Modelled akin to the embroidery of Super Sport Park in Centurion by the State Engineering Cooperation of Sri Lanka, you wonder why they dumped the ‘park’ feature to the more urbanite ‘stadium’.
The smile of the female police officer greets you – in a vicious slap to perceived notion about the department in whole – as you enter the super fit media centre, where inside, the view is exemplary. The kind hearted faces inside the box welcome you with the utmost friendliness and the sighting of that ever spiritual and the pearl of the Indian ocean loving Tony Greig makes you blissful, while the other Aussie, Tom Moody reminds you of the emphatic transformation in Sri Lanka cricket that he piloted.
The gigantic broad main pavilion structure at the opposite side makes you tremble and all the same proud, but as you wind down the ground slowly what grasps you and pronto soothes it is the appearance of grass banks. Lo and behold, it’s a joy.
Although the darkness cloaks the mountain – which for a second gives permission for a Newlands in Cape Town reference – in his wiles, it is fitting that two ends titles -Hunnasgiriya End and Rikillagaskada End – which the nightfall can’t hide are famous for its own rendition of mountain ranges.
As 1960s Green Bay Packers head coach Vincent Lombardi so eloquently put it; “perfection is unattainable,” and even heavenly Pallekele hasn’t escaped that dictum either. This is the favourite place for rain gods to have their vacation and that too when cricket arrives. All four games before had listened to their orders in some form and the gloom that circulated and the spring of drops that fell at times shook the expectations, but thankfully, it stayed away. Maybe the glamour of this Nefertiti finally has hypnotized the last individuals remaining – the rain gods.
While entangled in all this, 7.00 pm gave set off for the rationale we were all here amidst the sightseeing. As it turned out, the overcast conditions hoodwinked Australian captain Cameron White to bowl, which even his counterpart admitted would have been the path he also would have taken. Brett Lee ran in like a Duracell bunny, but others lacked penetration and crucially, the proper length. No shortcomings of the Australians could degrade Dilshan’s superlative hundred though.
The patented scoop made a welcome return and as he would later cheekily express, it was the thumbs up by coach Rumesh Ratnayake that allowed Dilshan to release the cat from the bag again.
For Australia and captain White, the main concern would be the manner of the defeat. His own form could be a major headache for White more than anything.
This is a one venue that the Australians could find more to their liking and the others are going to test their ability to conquer the tweakers. Although a one-off isn’t the best judge and we all know the competitive never say die behemoths they are, the way they went down at the rate of a skier here, is an ominous sign. The clash today, will have a lot on its plate.