I was lucky to be able to witness the final in Dambulla. I would like to share this fantastic experience with members of this forum.
The pitch was perfect and there were no devils in it. The bounce was even and the swing and movement was just enough to keep the bowlers interested and the batsmen honest. The CROWD made the difference and there was no way ANYONE other than Lanka was going to win that day !
I was there from 1.30pm ( one hour before the match) and I drove from Kandy. When One got close to Dambulla there was a lot of traffic (cars, vans & 3 wheelers) with Sri Lankan flags and some people already high singing and doing the usual things they do at big matches in Lanka.
From the time I sat down there was an endless stream of people coming into the open areas until I couldn’t see anymore at around 7 pm ! I am told the gates were closed at that time and there was even a clash with the Police. The ground was a sea of flags and the bands were in full cry.
When Dilshan got his hundred he first gestured to the the dressing room and THEN he turned to the crowd and the answering ROAR still makes the hair on the back of my neck rise and tears come to my eyes ! I found myself on my feet clapping with my hands above my head and simply roaring my approval and support . Now I consider myself a staid supporter who really enjoys the atmosphere at Lords when you can concentrate and watch cricket. Until that day in Dambulla I used to wonder if all this noise with the bands etc was the way to watch cricket…but tell you what an ODI should be experienced this way..it is incredible.
A few shortcomings:
What facilities do we provide for the masses who throng the matches ? Hardly anything I didn’t see many refreshment stalls or even mobile sellers in those areas and I dread to think what (if any) toilet facilities existed. Parking outside the ground is a complete free for all with the locals charging what they want and parking cars in a manner that makes exiting impossible until the guy in front goes. After the match it would have been a complete nightmare !
Should SLC use some of the massive amount of money it generates to provide basic facilities for the fans ?
We had such a large crowd because this game was played on a Saturday. Why not more games on holidays (this question has been asked by many others) I fear the answer is that the television networks specify that the games should be played during work days to ensure that more people watch it on TV. Are the lack of facilities for the spectators also part of this attempt to keep spectators away ?
The VIP seats were full of Indians’ again guests of the network (?) and they were complaining about bad arrangements etc while going in and out of their air conditioned boxes and eating the 5 star meals provided in the restaurant. I thought how ironic…and if I was not having such a good time I may have even taken a few of them on and told them what to do with their complaints !
I have watched matches from the members stand and the general terraces of the MCG, SCG, Lords and Eden Gardens and let me tell you the Dambulla experience is the best I have had. I am told that Hambantota and Pallekelle are expected to be even better !
SLC should remember that they have something VERY valuable to market and should bargain for the rights of the local cricket fan when negotiating contracts with television networks. There should be consistency with regard to dates of matches and they should be scheduled in accordance with the anticipated weather conditions in the areas they are played in. There is a lot of work to be done and it should be done by PROFESSIONALS and retired players and their friends.