As of November 15, my husband and I have been travelling around the world in search of cricket for four months. I had expected to be tired of travelling by now, but am surprised to find that is not the case. I want to keep going – there is so much I haven’t seen yet.
This feeling may be partly because we just visited Sri Lanka, one of the countries I was most excited to see going into this adventure. I was not disappointed, and soaked up the coastal views, kind people, Lion lager, and pol sambol.
There was no official cricket taking place during our time there. Instead, we spent time in Colombo, went down to Galle and Tissamaharama for a wildlife safari, and made a good-in-theory-but-not-in-
We spent a few days in Galle, a sunny ocean town with clay-tiled rooftops and tuk-tuks decorated with knock-off English slogans: “All that glitters is not goled,” one said, “No money, no honey” said another. There I discovered “curd and honey”, a simple but incredibly delicious Sri Lankan dessert that I spent the rest of our time there tracking down and eating in all forms.
With no particular goal, we wandered the town, eventually drawn to the fort overlooking the cricket ground there. As we got closer, a number of boys still in uniform ran past us towards the stadium, and we were surprised to find a school game going on. We tried to get in to watch but were rebuffed. We played a game of cat and mouse trying to get into the ground, first standing just inside the fence while a guard looked warily on and then trying different entrances to see who would take pity and let us in. Finally, after being turned away from yet another “members only” doorway, we spied a space in the wall and just walked right through. After nodding to the families watching nearby as if we belonged there, we settled in and watched until it was rained out shortly later. Then, before anyone could notice, we escaped back through the gap, unscolded and unscathed.
Later in the trip, we took the train up to Kandy, a mountainous “hill-country” where moss-covered staircases wind up and away into the jungle along the road, and the streets curve up and down at impossible angles. One giant Buddha faces the train station, while another rests perched atop a hill in the distance, watching over the town. Walking back from town one day, we came around the bend to discover a game of street cricket being played right in the middle of a hairpin turn.
A portable wicket with one broken spindle was placed carefully in the centre, with an old bat leaned against it for the third stump. A large rock marked the other wicket, and a group of boys was in the middle of a match.
When cars came around the bend, which they did frequently, I was surprised to see that the boys didn’t even move out of the way. Instead, the car would squeeze carefully through between the wicket and a steep rock wall. Nobody said anything, honked, or even seemed angry. In fact, one man on a motorbike drove by right as one boy scored a big hit, and I caught his wide smile as he zoomed past. While in Kandy, we decided to visit Sigirya Rock, a historic world heritage site about four hours away by bus. We squeezed in with the jostling crowds and rode all the way there beneath the bus loudspeaker, which blasted high-pitched Sinhala songs at full volume. Finally at Sigirya, we discovered the giant price tag waiting for us. US$60 for us to climb the rock – almost our daily budget – was too steep both literally and figuratively, and we just went back to Kandy again, the eight hours on the bus the extent of our visit. Back in Colombo, we spent an evening at Galle Face beach, where families fly kites and eat prawn vadai, which is exactly what it sounds like: a vadai with three little shrimp placed on top like they are being tucked in to bed, whiskers and everything. Of course, as I am learning, where there is a few feet of flat earth there will also be cricket, and a group of kids played between two flip-flops stuck into the sand.
Maybe it is because I grew up without seeing cricket memorabilia, but after four months and seven countries, I still get excited when I see a cricket bat or a match report in the newspaper. “We’re in a place where this exists!” I think. I nudge Subash’s arm, pointing out a game as if it is something special just for the two of us, and not a sport played by millions all over the world, and I still think of it this way, as some secret we share.
In a strange way, cricket itself has become something familiar on this trip, the common thread that binds one country to the next and links all the people we have met together. I imagine it is how you would feel if you saw a street with the same name as the one you live on miles away in a new place. The consistent love of the game we have seen from one country to another feels familiar. The way kids across the world are really all the same comforts me. Even in Sri Lanka, with no official test matches or ODIs in sight, it was still there, winking at us from the streets and the beaches, making it feel like home.