On The Front Foot: Fans take to the ramparts in protest at steep rise in ticket prices
There is a kerfuffle about ticket prices for the First Test in Sri Lanka. Putting it baldly, they saw the English coming. Or thought they did.
Entrance to the Galle ground has been set at between 5,000 and 7,500 Sri Lankan rupees a day (£24.25 to £36.37), which at a glance compares favourably with what spectators pay in England. (Not only have the England and Wales Cricket Board marketed the game with abundant skill, they have never missed a trick either in calculating the amount with which people would be prepared to part). But in Sri Lanka prices have been traditionally lower – much lower. For the most recent Test match in Galle last August it cost 500 rupees (£2.43) to watch Sri Lanka and Australia. It was initially implied that for the match starting tomorrow there would be two different tariffs for this match, one for locals, who would pay the low rate, and one for the rich Brits. But this was so obviously discriminatory that the cash-strapped Sri Lankan board have now retrenched.
They claim that the lowest price for all tickets for both the citizens of Galle and the denizens of Sussex and elsewhere is 5,000 rupees. Inflation might be tightening its grip here but that is a tenfold increase in six months. Bear in mind, too, that the average blue collar wage in this country is barely 1,000 rupees a week. The authorities have made a mistake. Most of the 5,000 England supporters here are on tight budgets. They came because it is a (relatively) cheap break. Many of them will not pay for their tickets but simply watch the match from the ramparts of the old fort overlooking the ground.
No Silva lining for new board
The governance of Sri Lankan cricket used to be a matter of deep concern for the International Cricket Council. They were rightly distrustful of the interim committees that ruled the game and the perpetual government influence. As of last year, things have changed. A democratically elected board is now in place after free and fair elections. The ICC are satisfied. But things may not be all they seem. The announcement of Sri Lanka's squad for the First Test was delayed while the Minister of Sport, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, ran the rule of it, and its release was accompanied by the solemn pledge that he approved it. Hugh Robertson, our sports minister and a cricket nut, should be so lucky. Not that the selector and former Test player Amol Silva had anything to do with it. Since he was appointed three months ago, he has not attended any meetings or watched a single match.
School skirmishes are class act
Cricket dominates the sports pages in Sri Lanka. Why, even the England tour has had the occasional mention. But what really obsesses the public now, as ever, is schools cricket. Thus acres of coverage have been given this week to the Battle of the Mangoosteens, the 54th annual match between Kalutara Vidyalaya and Tissa Central College. Not to mention the 34th Battle of the Golds between Kegaku Vidyalaya and St Mary's College.
Slow coach for the tourists
England are staying in a lovely beach hotel called the Heritance Ahungalla. They would rather be in the surfer's hut that is home for OTFF. It takes an hour to get from the hotel to Galle cricket ground, so heavy is the traffic – that's with a police escort, and after a long day in the field a vexatious bus journey is not high on their list of priorities. Other, nearer hotels were too costly for the Sri Lankan Board, and by the time England agreed to make up the difference the rooms had gone. It rather makes a nonsense of the ultra-professional, painstaking preparation that has gone into making England the best team in the world.
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