Kid playing cricket in Galle. Photo by the inestimable Brett Davies.
I don’t own a TV, but when the cricket is on, all televisions are socialized. They’re all tuned to the same channel and anybody can watch. Last time I watched through the window at the TV store, along with like a hundred people. This time I just watched or followed wherever I was. People say that cricket is too long, but they misunderstand how it is consumed. Cricket really isn’t watched at all, it’s lived. It becomes part of the community, and part of your day.
For example. This morning I caught a bit at the badminton courts, as the coach told me all about the bricks and sand business. Then I went to my parents house and, as my mother fed me, watched a bit more over her shoulder. Along the way any trishaw driver knows the score, and I have an app for that anyways. 321 looked like a pretty damn high target to chase and I took a nap. I woke up and walked past the new shop where the neighborhood dudes were watching. Costa popped out and told me the score, which looked like Sri Lanka was actually chasing the thing.
Costa gives us a ride to tuition class and he peeks in their window, just in time to see Upul Tharanga get out. This was, in hindsight, the end of our chances today, but I didn’t know that. Auntie takes the child back to teach him and I sit with uncle to watch. In lieu of chairs they have some old car seats, but the TV works fine. Things are going promisingly until they’re not and Lasith Malinga comes in at the bottom of the order, just whiffing at the ball, looking for fours. He gets zeroes, and then he gets out. A neighborhood kid pops his head in the window and asks the score. I tell him all out.
So that match is over. This hood, however, always has its own local match on the weekends. Sometimes its the Muslims, playing in flowing white and skullcaps. Sometimes its mixed, like today. Waiting for a ride, I pop a squat and watch. They’ve marked out a boundary with string and everything and they’ve got two full teams. This is a serious game. They bowl with a bent arm and the batting is pretty bad, but the fielding is tremendous. Either they’re playing two-over cricket or the outs come that quick, that’s how much they switch sides.
The sun is setting. A cow ambles across the field. Another gets in my face and stares like, ‘you’re sitting on my dinner’. She eats something else and moves along. One batter gets out and gets mad, chases a fielder off the field, throwing his bat. They’re both joking around.
Sri Lanka lost, but we played pretty well. I’m not sure these kids are entirely keeping score, but they still run for every ball, throw for every wicket. A seven year old comes on and gets off just as promptly. The teams change sides again. Off to the side, a pair start throwing a ball around. Kids gather to watch, throw back anything that goes astray. I look again and this has metamorphed into a game of its own, with wickets and everything.
Sometimes I feel a great love washing over this island. Sometimes I feel like it loves me back. Sometimes you can squat in a field surrounded by cows and kids and feel like everything is all right, like it all makes sense. When the Sri Lankan cricket team is playing well, all is right with the world.