July 19, 2010

Sidharth Monga on India in Sri Lanka 2010

Galle's spirited groundstaff

Sidharth Monga
Jayananda Warnaweera inspects Galle International Stadium, April 29, 2005
Jayananda Warnaweera, the Galle International Stadium's chief groundsman, leads a spirited team that puts its heart and soul into the ground's maintenance  © AFP
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When yet another shower lashed the Galle International Stadium at 2.15pm, even though the Indian bowlers would have been relieved, it was a cruel heartbreak for the groundsmen who had worked hard to get the ground ready - despite heavy showers at consistent intervals - for a 2.30pm inspection and a possible 3pm start. If ever a ground was going to have any action after torrential rains, both overnight and during the day, it is Galle.

What they lack in drainage facilities, the groundsmen here make up for with a massive human effort, acumen and anticipation. They work on the principle of not letting the ground get wet in the first place. On match days, around 150 people work under Jayananda Warnaweera, former offspinner and the chief groundsman. At times Warnaweera gets assistance from inmates from the nearby Boosa detention camp, who are watched over by special security guards as they go about their work. In Warnaweera they have a leader who puts his heart and soul into maintaining the ground, his ground.

It’s his home, he says. He is found here more often than at his house. When the tsunami swept the ground in 2004, it took away all the hard work he had put into maintaining it. The fish tank outside the ground, the model of a hand rickshaw, and other artefacts he had personally got here, were gone. He was at the forefront when the stadium was rebuilt after the devastation. During a Test match, he hardly goes home.

On the first day of this Test, which began with the felicitation of the retiring Muttiah Muralitharan, Warnaweera was dressed in a shirt, trousers, tie and a sunhat. In the third session, when rain arrived, the suit gave way to a t-shirt and a lungi as he worked along with his men, long after everybody was gone.

On the afternoon before the match, in bright sunshine he sent MS Dhoni, who was waiting for his turns at the nets, off the ground, saying rain is expected. Around 10 minutes later, Dhoni was halfway through the captain’s pre-match press conference when it started pouring. The ground had been fully covered by then. That’s how well Warnaweera knows the conditions. Had he acted 10 minutes later, we would have lost perhaps the whole first session on the first day. Instead the game started just half-an-hour late. Even during the day’s play, by the time it started raining heavily, the army of groundsmen had charged onto the ground and had covered half of it already.

This is perhaps the only ground in the world that is covered in its entirety when it rains. Heavy truck tyres keep those covers from getting blown away in the strong wind. After the end of the first day, a tired Warnaweera made his way back to his office well after the journalists had finished filing their stories. When asked if we had lost the first session of the second day, he said “no”.

He had incredible confidence in the hard work of his men, but rains put paid to the optimism. It was a near-miracle that within 15-20 minutes of the first sighting of the sun, stumps were being erected and the umpires were looking positive. Suddenly then the clouds opened up again, forcing the spirited groundsmen to bring on the covers yet again, and that no amount of hard work can fight against.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Alex Stewart - Jamaica on (July 20, 2010, 9:51 GMT)

Its their job to get the ground ready. What a waste of an article.

To Mr. tired of India vs SL.

Yes Sir, It is their job to get the ground ready. They are paid for it. Ho Man !!! think about the heat and the conditions in Sri Lanka. Your comment show us your disgusted mentality, unsportive behaviour and uneducated-ness. Mr. Warnaweera does this job, love of the game and deserves to be praised, not to be criticise from sick people. Poor mentally person like you may be think this type of an article be a waste. I would recommend you Psychiatric Medication my man and forget about the gentlemen's game.

Thank you very much Mr. Warnaweera and we love your efforts.

Posted by Chandima Gomes on (July 20, 2010, 8:01 GMT)

Our countries need leaders of that calibre

Posted by D.L.Narayan on (July 20, 2010, 7:13 GMT)

For youngsters who havent heard of Warnaweera, he was a former test player, a good off-spinner who bowled at a fastish pace. He displayed a lot of passion for the game in his playing days. Glad to know that he is still associated with the game.

Posted by Shrenik Talati on (July 20, 2010, 2:05 GMT)

This is got to be another British antiquated rules of the game. Two countries play for 5 days and people watch for 5 days 7 to 8 hrs per day.like they have nothing to do and sit in the stadium. Irony of the whole thing is 50% of the matches have no results, after playing for 5 days and spending billions of rupees, there is no result, that is almost like cowards game and insane. Without result how can there be pressure and excitement in the game. The way it is now, all teams start playing for the draw from day one. Format should assure result in every match, New format could a three day test match with each team batting only once and maximum 125 overs per team, this will assure guaranteed results and should allow for rain make up time. Will make the game more exciting and stop these meaningless double and triple centuries. 20 over does not allow for skill demonstration, 50 overs provide some opprtunities and excitment but tests need to be truncated and must provide results.

Posted by Sudip on (July 20, 2010, 1:50 GMT)

Dont blame the rain gods! Blame the greedy cricket administration 'dogs' . Why schedule a test series during the height of monsoons! 30 years back cricket stopped in the sub-continent around May and restarted in October!. Money speaks and hard working motivated guys like Jayanada are the exploited!

Posted by harish SUTARIA on (July 20, 2010, 1:33 GMT)

i very much appreciate the effforts of ground staff,the time selected by both the boards is improper.how heart breaking it will be for my dearest Murli if he does not get a chance to bowl a single ball?!!!

Posted by M A BAIG on (July 20, 2010, 0:47 GMT)

Really it's nice to hear about Warnaweera's efforts. It's all passion and his love for cricket that motivates him.

Posted by tired of india vs SL on (July 19, 2010, 20:58 GMT)

Its their job to get the ground ready. What a waste of an article.

Posted by Kabir Mathur on (July 19, 2010, 19:54 GMT)

Hats off to your determination Mr. Warnaweera! Wish we could see more behind the scenes stories like this.

Posted by Jeevaka Fernando on (July 19, 2010, 19:28 GMT)

Well Done ! Warne youhave proved again what is all about maintaining grounds. There is no one to match you Keep the good work going.

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