Island affair that leaves England cold

Letter from Sri Lanka

This may not be the World Championship of Test cricket, but it is difficult to over-estimate what it means to this fabulous island. Take a nonchalant comment from a high-placed chap at the launch of the series between Sri Lanka and England.

This may not be the World Championship of Test cricket, but it is difficult to over-estimate what it means to this fabulous island. Take a nonchalant comment from a high-placed chap at the launch of the series between Sri Lanka and England.

"Of all the matches we have played since we were granted Test status in the Eighties this first series against England is by far the most important," he said. "By far," he added to emphasise the importance not only of the taking part but of the winning.

In the days when Sri Lanka were trying to acquire the right to play Test matches, one of the reasonsoffered by the Imperial Cricket Conference was that the country did not have enough places to play. Visiting teams, it was said, would be permanently based in Colombo and play all matches there. Some tour.

By the time the initials ICC came to stand for International Cricket Council, in 1989, Sri Lanka had been playing Tests for seven years and had used six grounds. Galle, where the First Test of this series is being played, became the seventh in 1997.

"Not Lord's, is it," sniffed Chris, from St Helen's, on first encountering it. Indeed it is not, but it is a special ground: sweltering, humid, flat pitch, overlooked by a fort, lapped by the Indian Ocean on two sides, front entrance opposite Galle bus station on the frenetic main street. Sri Lanka, incidentally, which was supposed to be short of venues, has had as many in 19 years as England has in 118. England's last new venue was Edgbaston in 1909.

The launch was a formal, dazzlingaffair involving traditional dancers, music and interminable speeches. In England they still can't manage that sort of thing except for the speeches bit. A pity, but if it was to mean Morris dancers, then spare us.

Colour coded

Sledging is being officially frowned upon here, but England already suspect that they are the only ones who may be going into a battle without a toboggan. They have not said as much because this side are nothing if not diplomatic.

In the warm-up match before the First Test, there was some fuss about an incident involving the all-rounder Craig White when he was batting. He had an exchange with a Sri Lankan bowler and was visibly shocked by it.

White and England are reluctant to reconstruct events, but it transpires that he made an observation about Ruchira Perera being called for a no-ball, confirming the umpire's decision about the whereabouts of the line. Everyday chirp, cricketers would say.

Perera responded with disparaging remarks about the colour of White's skin and a general disliking for caucasians (all expletives deleted). The all-rounder is keeping his counsel about the incident (oh, diplomacy!).

Had England said something along reverse lines it would certainly have caused an international row. But then England should remember that centuries of colonial repression are hard to shake off, even on a cricket pitch. Or maybe especially on a cricket pitch.

A rights old mess

Two days before the opening match of the series, Patrick Murphy, BBC Radio's veteran and opinionated sports reporter, found himself without a microphone as he prepared to conduct an interview with Nasser Hussain. "As you know I yield to nobody in my esteem for TalkSport," he bellowed inthe direction of the independentstation's producer in the hope of cadging a mike.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Murphy, a Beeb man to the back of his throat, makes no secret of his animosity for those muscling in on their territory. TalkSport, the radio ball-by-ball rights holders to this series, were about to oblige before Murphy was rescued by one of his public-service chums. Embarrassment spared, but it was a portent of things to come.

On the second day of the First Test, Murphy, who is covering the series for the World Service, Jonathan Agnew, the BBC's cricket correspondent, and Peter Baxter, the producer, were locked out of the ground. The broadcasting rights holder, one WSG Nimbus, wanted cash for their admission. TalkSport had acquired their rights from Nimbus and were not entitled, said Nimbus, to give the Beeb the nod for eight minutes of reports an hour.

Aggers, Murph and Edward Bevan of BBC Wales, in characteristically stoic Corporation fashion, took up camp on the fort overlooking the ground and for two hours broadcast from there. Baxter stood heroically in the heat, letting them know he was going nowhere.

In the event they were allowed back in for the duration of the match. Cash negotiations will continue later. The entrance of the homecoming heroes was effected by the intervention of Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Lamb had a word with Nimbusto gain a reprieve which may yet prove to be but a stay of execution. But there is undoubtedly a principle at stake about news access for sporting events. A little longer at the fort may have provoked a siege, leading to a battle and a war which will definitely need to be fought.

Sign of the time

England, as mentioned above, try to be endlessly diplomatic. The other day they bowled up for a team dinner and Hussain was invited to sign the guest book. "Team Dinner for 18," he wrote. "We all eventually got served and some actually liked it. We may come back." The Diary can report that though the staff were friendly the wait for dinner was 50 minutes, it was cold and extremely unappetising. Hussain deserves some runs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform