Colombo: Sri Lankans are known to enjoy good food, drink and cricket.
So with Sri Lanka playing their Super Eight matches in the Twenty20 World Cup in Pallekele, all the pubs in Colombo are expected to do roaring trade.
I was returning to the hotel after pre-match interviews with the India, Pakistan, Australia and South Africa captains on Thursday evening when I heard loud applause from inside the Dutch Hospital shopping precinct that hosts a number of pubs.
A board outside a pub invites you to enjoy cricket with the tag: “Roar for the Lanka Lions.” At the entrance, a door keeper welcomes you saying: “Soak into cricket by dipping yourself into our best drinks.”
And customers literally embraced message on the outside board when they roared for the Lanka Lions every time a wicket fell or a boundary was scored in Sri Lanka’s Super Over win over New Zealand on Thursday.
The match in Pallekele was shown on a huge screen set up in the courtyard of the precinct with a projector beaming the action. Some 300 fans were seated on concrete seats. Around the courtyard are pubs called WIP — Work In Progress and O! Pub.
Some pubs offered free drinks for the loudest cheer and best comments. But surprisingly, when Lasith Malinga began his Super Over, there was pin-drop silence all around, which was punctured by loud roars at the end of every delivery. A few fans even fell off their chairs when Kumar Sangakkara dropped a catch, but in the end everyone jumped off their seats in joy when Malinga bowled the tournament hosts to victory.
Although most of the fans present could not get their balance right due to heavy drinking, all of them managed to hug each other.
Discussions about the match gained momentum after the match.
“Malinga is the super man for the super over,” remarked a man standing next to me.
Despite sipping his drinks and being under the influence, he identified me as a non Sri-Lankan, and added: “There is no batsman in the world today who can play Malinga confidently. Coaches teach you to hold the seam upright and towards the slip or leg slip to swing he ball. Malinga holds the seam parallel to the ground and still swings the ball. He is a genius.”
Another customer, introducing himself as a former cricketer who studied in the same college as Malinga, said: “I studied in Malinga’s Vidoloka College and used to practice with him. His idol was Pakistan’s Waqar Younis and he wanted to bowl yorkers like him. His bouncers are deadly, they once hit a batsman named Bradman Edirweera on his head.”
After soaking up the fantastic atmosphere, as I was about to leave, he reminded me: “Please do not forget to visit Bradman bar before leaving Sri Lanka. It is a bar that is dedicated to the great Sir Donald Bradman [legendary Australian cricketer] and the walls there are adorned with newspaper clippings on the great batsman from the 1930s. It is owned by an Australian who has settled in Sri Lanka.”