September 15, 2009

Jamie Alter at the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka 2009

Ciao Colombo!

Jamie Alter

The Indians left in the wee hours of the morning, the New Zealanders departed this morning, and the Sri Lankans have all gone to their respective homes. The hotel lobbies are bereft of any waiting journalists and fans. Conspicuous by their absence is the Indian family of four, always dressed in Sahara India blues, and the fanboy band of five who freaked out at the sight of any big Indian cricketer.

With time on my hand, I decided to go back one final time to Maitland Place, the popular and stand-out road which hosts the three first-class clubs - the Nondescripts Cricket Club, the Colombo Cricket Club, and the Sinhalese Sports Club. Or, as they're commonly known, the triple Cs - NCC, CCC and SSC. The three are unique in that they are all in one line and can be accessed rather easily. There's CCC on the west side of the road, NCC just across it, and SSC a six-hit away.

The time has gone by fast. I had the pleasure of watching a Test at the SSC and a friendly game between Sri Lankan journalists and a television channel team. Today the ground is empty and a few groundstaff are working on the manual scoreboard. The silence is peaceful. They really should put up lights here and host one-dayers. This would be a fantastic ground to hold World Cup matches on.

I quicky dash into the NCC, where the security is far less than at the SSC. What you notice first, is the absence of advertisements. It's a throwback to what I would imagine old county grounds to be like in far corners of England. It reminds me - just a little - of Tunbridge Wells. The archaic old pavillion probably shapes a fair amount of my perception.

The CCC, the oldest of the cricket clubs in Sri Lanka, founded in 1832, used to be known as the Maitland Crescent Ground. It's a small ground; I'm told it can hold about 5,000 spectators. That number seems large to me, given how small the space allotted to fans is. Here too, is a manual scoreboard and a concrete building that houses the media box. There's a row of old trees around one section of the ground, and a verandah from which you can sit and watch cricket. There is no one here today and against the absence of traffic noise, it adds to the charming old-world feel to it.

And so, a 23-day tour has come to a close. It's been fun, getting to speak to Ian Bishop, Ranjit Fernando, and Danny Morrison; interviewing players; watching cricket; making new friends, meeting old ones; dinner at the Gallery Cafe, neighbour to the equally storied Cricket Club Cafe on Queen's Road; a fun pub quiz night with the New Zealanders; mad tuk-tuk rides, equally insane taxi ones. It's been good, Colombo.

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Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jamie Alter
Senior sub-editor While teachers in high school droned on about Fukuyama and communism, young Jamie's mind tended to wander to Old Trafford and the MCG. Subsequently, having spent six years in the States - studying Political Science, then working for an insurance company - and having failed miserably at winning any cricket converts, he moved back to India. No such problem in Bangalore, where he can endlessly pontificate on a chinaman who turned it around with a flipper, and why Ricky Ponting is such a good hooker. These days he divides his time between playing office cricket and constant replenishments at one of the city's many pubs.

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