Friday, November 12, 2010

Through the backdoor of Premadasa Stadium - 2002

[Memories of 2002]

This is a story which I had forgotten for some time. But when Bimal wrote about his saga in buying a ticket for India match I just thought of writing this.

In fact I first thought of posting a comment in his blog, and then of course, I would be charged for extra luggage by others. So I ended up posting it in my own space as nobody can complain about dirt in my own kitchen.

Here we go then. This is how we crept thru the soldout labeled gates of Cricket Shrine "Khettarama" aka Premadasa Stadium?

It was during 2002 champion's Trophy, I and few others wanted to watch SL vs Aus. We were attracted more than the cricket and dancing girls, by Shane Warne - simply that we wanted to booooo him. A Big Big BOOOOOO.

Incidentally Mr Warne is the only person whom I have ever booed throughout my "disciplined" life so far; for those purists and my school teachers. Further more for any reborn purists I have to remind that indecent booing originated in Australia against Murali, and Warne was a chief architect behind that. This is a tit-for-tat. A capital TAT.

And tickets were going like, err... national flags after war victory. We called dozen places, including Food City outlets and numerous lads in Sri Lanka Cricket, but luck was not in our side. Finally, we walked in thinking of 50/- or 100/- "on-the-spot" ticket. It took one huge hurdle to get to the ticket counters to see the soldout indication - a sellout crowd as rare as it could be in SL. I never knew that it was a national task to boo the bastard.

Wandering hopelessly in the outside alley of the ground [while the cheer and beer tossed high on sky inside] we met this hawkish man. If you make Russel Arnold not taking a wash for 3 months you could caste this man out of Arny, but the sharp eyes were much the same. Before we realized who he was, he did, and spoke.

"Mahatthayala ticket gaththe ne neda?"

Firstly a very innocent voice, with a strong muslim accent.


We were puzzled...

"Sadda nethuwa mage passen enna"

Whispered a hidden demon in him.

We followed, rather were choiceless to follow. He was our only hope. Is he the president of the cricket board in disguise? Well... even the board president couldn't put anyone in, as ICC had taken over complete ticketing rights.

As we were kept waiting for some good pacie overs which were dispatched by Aussie openers many a times to the ropes, we wandered anxiously.

Then suddenly, he came to us throwing three remains of tickets already used and torn by the gateman.

"Ara inne ape mahaththaya. Shape eke oka denna"

Demon spoke again.

"Man athenta enawa..." he showed us some unattended corner around the park.

"...mata ticket thuna aapahu oone" he commanded.

"Ekak thunsiya panahayi".

Dammit, whatever it costs.

When I looked at it, they were Rs 300 tickets. Just 50 more, and without the ticket tag. That was just the cost.

So we walked into the park, over crowding the sellout by another three [no wonder why some stadiums crash], with the kind curtsey of his "mahaththaya". We had no issues in entering Rs 300/- category.

With the noise of the game, we heard a sharp whistle from our behind to see a centimetre gap between two sheets that serve as the wall of the ground. A thin finger was calling us, rather commanding.

While Sanath Jayasuriya tossed the ball in dilemma to choose spin or fast bowling within first 15 overs, we toggled with the idea of teaching him a lesson [look who's talking ethics anyway] by not returning his precious ticket tags. But again somebody with little more grey matter suggested that we give it or else, it will be us to receive a better lesson by his lads around the park. Sanath also opted it right for Aravinda De Silva [as we gave away the ticket tags] who tossed a teaser which got Aussie opener [Hayden, wasn't he? Note that we missed the game so far] to walk down the track and miss it completely. We looked back to see stumps in rattles.

Rest was history as it always happened during the great times of SL cricket. Wickets went crumbling and brought Warnie way too early. We did indeed boo him, in an unprecedented standing ovation, just to find that it encouraged the man to top-score in the lower scoring game. Sri Lanka won the game but Warnie shone in the cacophony of "over crowded" stands.

When we walked out we saw our friend strolling down the side road perhaps for his daily dose.

End of a good day for everyone.