Sri Lanka v India, Indian Oil Cup, Dambulla

Indian batsmen can't match the rhythm of the stands

Roving Reporter from Sri Lanka's match against India in Dambulla

Nagraj Gollapudi in Dambulla

August 3, 2005

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Ganguly reached 10,000 ODI runs but never found his rhythm, unlike the Sri Lankan fans © Getty Images
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To get 10,000 runs in any version of the game is an impressive feat that deserves to be acknowledged. However when Sourav Ganguly became only the third batsman to get to the five-figure mark in one-day cricket, it was a very muted celebration, both from the batsman and the crowd.

After pushing to mid-off for a single to get to the landmark, Ganguly waited a few seconds to turn back to the dressing-room and lift his bat as acknowledgement. As for the spectators, they too, were woken up from their slumber after a few of the Indian press corps started clapping as a mark of celebration. One can sense the partisanship in the stands all too easily.

Strangely, the Sri Lankans, who were once renowned for their hospitality and mild manners in the sporting arena, no longer extend that courtesy. A young, freckled Lankan girl, on hearing a bunch of Indian fans encouraging their team at the top end of the stands, stood up and with her hands on hips, said in a teacherly fashion: "India, who are these people?" Immediately she retaliated by shouting, "Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka." That was good enough for the few hundred around her to echo her words.

Steadily with time, chants were decorated with music. Banjoes, trumpets, horns, drums could be seen playing from around the ring. And when it comes to taking the music to the stands, the Lankan fans could come second only to the West Indians, where even the man holding the hose and watering the ground would do his job in a rhythmical fashion. The Lankans like their Sinhalese music and, though it is difficult to understand the words, it's easy to get carried away by the beat.

On the field as the Indians were finding it difficult to maintain a rhythm, the home fans were busy singing and dancing to Sinhalese songs. Then in a remote corner, a bunch of guys were blowing their horns, beating drums and shaking to the slow rhythm of the local bayla, which has Dutch origins and is one of the most popular forms of the music the Lankan crowds enjoy.

Sri Lanka has had an age-old tradition of playing drums, Kandyan drums, which come in various forms and to lend rhythm the trumpets are used. Bayla is fisherman's music and the term `bajao gang' refers to the bunch who plays this form of music; the bajaos are also known as the yuppies and you will find them in all the social events. Needless to say the music is enjoyed with a few shots of arrack down the throat.

Amidst this yuppie entertainment, the Indians had still not found their feet on the dance floor, losing wickets at regular intervals. By the end of the Indian innings, the only reason for celebration was Ganguly's record. And I celebrated Dada's record by dancing in my mind to the bayla.

Nagraj Gollapudi is sub-editor of Wisden Asia Cricket

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