Sports
World Cup Diary
Only five Sri Lankan journalists for World Cup

Rex Clemantine in South Africa

Sunday

Just did some calculations about media participation for the World Cup. From the Test playing nations the least number of journalists came from Sri Lanka; just five of us. Even Canada had about eight. The Indians had sent about 75. It’s an important event and with so much of interest for the game back at home, I think there needs to be better participation. Unfortunately practical problems prevent us. Hopefully there’ll be better times ahead. I am shocked at the way the radio and television participation from Sri Lanka. There’s much to be done, but sadly no one is willing to explore the avenues.

As usual Sourav Ganguly came late for the press conference and made us wait about 30 minutes... That’s quite a lot of time when you work for tight deadlines. Sanath meanwhile turned up on time, but Ganguly gave us the better quotes.

The other day in the match between Sri Lanka and Australia, umpire David Shepherd referred a decision to third umpire when the Aussies claimed for a catch off Aravinda. The batsman stood the ground saying it was bump ball. My first reaction was that you can’t refer bump balls to third umpires and was wondering what was going on. Even some of the experienced journalists out there couldn’t tell me the reason. So asked Mark Harrison, the ICC Media Manager. He explained it for me. "If the bowler on his follow through blocks the view of the umpire, he can refer it to his colleague in the middle, the square-leg umpire. But if he hadn’t seen it too, then the head umpire can ask the third umpire," he said. The matter was solved.

Monday

There are so many views after Sri Lanka’s crushing defeat to India at the Wanderers. India definitely are the second best team next to Australia in the competition. But still I didn’t see them doing anything exceptional. Marvan Atapattu faced a fearsome over from Zaheer Khan first stuff where he was beaten convincingly on quite a few occasions. That was the second innings of the match and when he walked down and spoke to Sanath Jayasuriya after the over he would have told his skipper that how they could have had India under pressure if only their bowlers had done what Zaheer did. Zaheer, Srinath and Nehra didn’t do anything exceptional. They just kept on pitching the ball outside the off stump and wickets kept on coming. Jayasuriya was fuming after the match. He was mad with the way his young fast bowler bowled.

David Hoops of "The Guardian" in England was there at the match as well. He was wondering why none of the Sri Lankans turned up for the party the West Indies delegates hosted in Sandton to announce them hosting the next World Cup. I said I was too busy. "So how was the party," I asked him. "Well the music was good, but not better than Wild Fire in Colombo," he said.

"Hopsy," as we call him said he’s looking forward to England’s tour of Sri Lanka in their winter this year and asked whether there’ll be any matches played in Galle, one of his favourite places. I said very likely and he asked me for a nice place to put up in Galle. I recommended "Lucky Tuna" which my friend Lalith runs in Unawatuna. "It’s only about 10 minutes drive from the ground and by the side of the sea, food is good, rates are reasonable and when I go to Galle I stay there," I said.

Tuesday

I was getting back to Johannesburg city center bus stop from the hotel. It’s a good 30 minutes drive and I was looking around. Suddenly I saw Maris Brothers College. It was a big school with huge playgrounds and massive buildings and was in a wonderful setting. It was run by the Maris Brothers my taxi driver, Jaki, a black guy told me. "So did you study there?" I asked him. "No sir, no way. Only the rich people go there. They say they’ve abolished racial discrimination and all that nonsense. But they charge high prices to make sure that only the white men’s children who have money go there," I asked him about the amount the school charges. "Oh God, it’s 34,000 Rands for a year," was the reply. It’s about 4,25,000 Sri Lankan rupees a year. That’s too much I thought. But even back at home it’s the same case. All the big Catholic schools ask big donations and apart from that their other various charges are unbearable too.

But here in South Africa the participation of the religious-nuns, brothers and priests- in education seems to be very active. Back at home, it’s not the case with the religious I feel. The Oblates (O.M.I. Congregation) for example were one of the pioneers in education in Sri Lanka, but they gave up governance of schools long time back and I am not sure whether any of their members have taken up full-time teaching in schools. Probably like their OSB counterparts they’ll take charge of an international school soon in Colombo 7 and start concentrating on the rich, forgetting their priorities. The Oblates are also going through a sort of a crisis at the moment. Some of their promising young priests are leaving robes, one of their key formation houses has just seen a major crisis and their vocations seems to be dropping. Some of these Oblates also do some funny things. They drive fast cars, wear thick gold chains and still get into the pulpit and talk of poverty. "Happy are those who are poor..........." they say. What a big joke. But luckily they’ve got a new administration and hopefully there’ll be better times ahead where we too can contribute something.

Wednesday

On my way to East London from Johannesburg I was thinking about the wonderful Wanderers. It was a superb stadium and one of the best that I have seen without any doubt. On the other hand, The Wanderers Press Box was also one of the worst that I have seen. The print media was put up at the grand stand to my utter surprise and you have to go through all sorts of nonsense there. Spectators walk in front of you all the time, the announcements made through the public address system doesn’t allow you to concentrate and you always hear the noise of the spectators. Also your belongings are unsafe as people walk across all the time. It was hard covering cricket at the Wanderers and after the match my body was feeling the strain. Quite a few others too shared the same views. And the worst thing is even the final on March 23rd would be played here. It’s a shame that this magnificent venue doesn’t have proper media facilities.

It’s not a major complaint though. After all we’ve covered cricket at De Zoysa Stadium, Moratuwa, or Tyronne Fernando Stadium as uncle Tyronne wants to call it. I must tell you that it’s a nightmare to cover cricket at that place. Probably the most irresponsible cricket officials in the country are found there and the BCCSL officials seriously need to rethink before awarding warm up games to this venue when touring teams come. But it’s going to be a tough one with uncle Tyronne.

Thursday

Arrived in East London and had dinner with Stephen Keet and his two daughters Clair (16) and Kate (14), his wife Sue had gone for another function and so she missed out. Stephen is a very knowledgeable man. He’s well aware about the happenings around the world and knows quite a bit of South African and World history. I guess he reads quite a lot. He educated me on some of the historical happenings in South Africa, which enriched my general knowledge. Clair shared her views in our conversations constantly and she made a couple of interesting points. Kate was a bit silent and spoke when it was only necessary. Her remark that the waitress was cute attracted the attention of the waitress towards us. Both the girls were very clever and I was impressed with their general knowledge. After meals we drove close to the beach and stopped there for a brief moment. Stephen suggested that both of us should go jogging the next morning. I agreed. What time? I queried. "Say about 5:30." That was a bit too early I thought.

Stephen’s place has got the pictures of the kids taken during every academic year. It was a very interesting thing I thought. Stephen attributed it to his wife Sue. It was her idea, he said. I made up my mind to do something of that nature when I am in similar shoes.

Next to Stephen’s beautiful house there’s a stream. Stephen’s friend Terry told me that when Stephen moved to East London the stream was polluted and Stephen had to put in a big effort to clean up the stream and to educate the neighbors on it. "It looks a lot better now," he said.

Friday

I moved from Stephen’s place to the heart of East London after spending two days there. Bumped into Grant Flower at a restaurant called Dros. I didn’t recognize him until he came closer. I saw three figures walking from the team hotel Holiday Inn Garden Court and easily recognized one of them. That was Ian Botham. On his right hand side was a lady and I figured it’s his wife Kath. I suddenly remembered Botham’s autobiography, "Don’t tell Kath," That was a nasty one. Onto his left-hand side was another young man. I thought probably it’s Botham’s son. It wasn’t. When he walked up to me only I realized that it was Grant. I told him that I initially thought it was Botham’s son who was walking along with them. "Oh no, Liam (Botham’s son) is huge," he said. "Does he play cricket still," I queried. "Not anymore. He’s switched onto rugby," Grant replied.

From there we walked to Ho’agans. An Irish restaurant and I asked Grant why he didn’t join his brother in wearing that black armband. "I was actually going to. We all felt the same. But then we thought it’s better to make a representation of the Zimbabwean team. So one black guy and one white guy did that," he said. After Henry Olonga and Andy Flower did that in opposition to Robert Mugabe’s regime back in Zimbabwe they had come in for severe scrutiny and it’s said that their careers and lives are in danger. It’s a pity that these politicians are meddling with everything nowadays. Hope you still remember my theory when it comes to the involvement of politicians with regard to sports................. Ya, that’s right. It’s got something to do with driving.

Flower left me as he had to get back to be with the team for Saturday’s game. I was alone having my dinner facing the sea. Some one patted on my back. I turned around it was Roshan Mahanama. He asked me to come to his table and I moved there. There was Roshan, Arjuna and a couple of other Sri Lankans. We talked about a lot of issues from Sri Lankan cricket to cultural changes back at home. Arjuna was making some interesting points during the conversation. Also spoke with Roshan about the activities of The Cricketer’s Association, which we have criticized in recent times heavily. He’s the General Secretary of the Association and was feeling that they are in their infancy and could do a lot of work to improve cricket.


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