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Matches involving hosts India in the Women's World Cup drew crowds of around 2,000 to the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. The turnout has been about a tenth of that figure for non-India matches. On a Sunday morning, with Australia playing Sri Lanka, the upper tier of North Stand saw two groups of schoolchildren, a family or two, a handful of men, and a Sri Lankan band.
The drum beats and tunes emerging from a corner of the stand sounded distinctly Sri Lankan and it turned out that the group of 15 were a bunch of navymen from the country on a training assignment in Mumbai for a few months. They had a set of bass drums and a side drum. A trumpet would have completed a basic papare set but "we forgot to bring one," Rohan, wearing a Sri Lanka team jersey, said. The noisy band managed to create quite an atmosphere for the few who had bothered to come.
They kept singing one Sinhala song after another, and took time out between songs to shout 'Come on, Sri Lanka' and assorted encouragements in Sinhala. Their side did not make too many runs but, as it happens back in Sri Lanka, there was no let-up in the enthusiasm of the group. A wicket brought barely a pause to their merrymaking and a boundary sent their voices and drumbeats soaring in intensity.
They were pleased when told that they had converted the North Stand into one of the stands at the Premadasa. Some curious Indian boys assembled around the group and were obliged by a rendition of 'Why this Kolaveri di', a famous Tamil song. The navymen even sang and danced to a couple of Hindi tunes.
Harshavitana, the most energetic member of the group running around with a large Sri Lanka flag, said they loved Bollywood music and went on to do a Salman Khan impersonation. A fan of opener Chamari Atapattu and hard-hitting Eshani Kaushalya, Harshavitana wanted to run along the boundary just inside the fence with the Sri Lankan flag but was disappointed when told the lower tier was out of bounds. Not to be outdone, he climbed on a chair and mounted his flag high onto one of the stand pillars.
Even as Australia's batsmen hit the Sri Lanka bowlers around in the chase, the navymen continued to sing and dance. When one of them, Mahawatte, came to know that Sri Lanka's final Super Six match was in Cuttack, he asked how far it was from Mumbai. When told it was more than 1500 km, he consoled himself by saying that while Cuttack was too far away, they were looking forward to visiting the popular, beach state of Goa.
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