Errol Fernando in Melbourne **
The events of the past four days in Sri Lanka have been earth-shattering, Michael, and reporters and journalists would not have had a moment’s rest. Even the cricket was pretty riveting although it paled in comparison with the resignations of the high and mighty and the occupation of the presidential palace.
When Pat Cummins walked out to toss last Friday he and his team would have felt on top of the world having trounced Sri Lanka in the first test in a completely one-sided match. When he won the toss, decided to bat and ended the day nearly 300 for 5 with Smith one hundred not out, he would have had a most peaceful night’s sleep knowing that the match was ‘in the bag’. Suggesting that he would lose would have been hilarious, and any thought of losing by an innings would have been completely insane. Not even in my wildest predictions would that thought have crossed my mind.
And that is when completely unknown Jayasuriya, bearer of a famous surname, decided to announce himself to the world of cricket. The Sri Lankan batsmen were obviously inspired by Jayasuriya and needed to show their appreciation and pay homage to him. They did so magnificently, with captain Dimuth leading the way. Even Chandimal, hopelessly out of form, decided to make a small contribution. Fortunately he remained not out at stumps.
The next day Chandimal suddenly turned into Viv Richards. He produced an innings which would have surprised even himself. He was absolutely superb – taking every opportunity but also being perfectly disciplined. When he ran out of batsmen he batted magnificently with the tail and inspired them to stay with him. It was superlative, world-class batting. To the relief of the Australian bowlers he simply ran out of partners and remained stranded at 206 not out. Even Roy Dias, Aravinda, Kumar and Mahela would have taken their caps off to Chandimal today. Viv Richards may well have nodded to him too.
However, Chandimal’s moment was short-lived because Jayasuriya quickly asked captain Dimuth to give him the ball. The rest is history because Jayasuriya surpassed himself in the second innings and reduced the Australian batsmen to beginners. They simply had no answer. As for the Man of the Match, everyone had long forgotten Chandimal. Even Jayasuriya himself may well have forgotten Chandimal !
I didn’t, of course, because I had already chosen my MOM. It was neither Jayasuriya nor Chandimal. My choice was undoubtedly the Sri Lankan spectators ! They were quite glorious and awe-inspiring. They supported their team with all their hearts and demonstrated their sheer joy by their ecstatic dancing, singing, clapping, laughing and wonderful goodwill. Presidents and Prime Ministers were far from their thoughts and it would have been an honour to belong to that gathering. My lasting memory of that match will always be those Sri Lankan spectators.
All the best, Errol
** Errol Fernando was — and is — a Trinitian, He was a student at Peradeniya University in my time in the late 1950s …and we played cricket together for Peradeniya. We were even there together (sort of) when the Peradeniya cricket team played Trinity at Asgiriya and were rolled over for a majestic 17 runs by Eric Roles, Nimal Maralande and company!
NB: I could not find photographs of the cricketlovers within the Test Arena [whom i had seen during the TV coverage). However there are several postings of the political protests on the outer perimeters of the gounds and on the Fort ramparts [all on the first day as far as i cd gather).