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Young smokers at the R Premadasa Stadium during the Sri Lanka vs Pakistan ODI on July 19. (courtesy Island Cricket)

July 19 was a sad day for cricket in Sri Lanka. Not because of Sri Lanka team’s poor display of cricket in the middle but due to the bad behaviour of our crowd. As a cricket fanatic nation, we dropped ourselves to a new low – too many fights among the crowd and throwing stuff at opposition players led the match at Keththarama into chaos.

The smoking culture
I have been watching live cricket ever since the war was ended in Sri Lanka back in 2009. Since then I have been to Keththarama Stadium many times including two World Cup semi-finals. We all know that it is prohibited by law to smoke in public in Sri Lanka let alone smoking at a cricket match. There were so many smokers that day – none of them watching the matching though – and I have never witnessed this many smokers among a cricket audience.

Police were not doing their job
I being a non-smoker, it was so hard for me to tolerate the smoke in the open. I’m not talking about smoking here and there by a few people. There were smokers everywhere. The real worry though was that, almost all the smokers were smoking in front of police officers. Sri Lanka Cricket has a rule not to bring cigarettes to the ground and security personals do their routine checks too looking for cigarettes. Yet, these police officers turned their blind eye on these smokers. Take a look at some of the smokers I photographed (There were plenty more)

How smoking culture kills cricket?
This smoking culture kills the cricket ambience then and there. How can a pregnant lady or a child withstand this much smoke around them and watch a cricket match? How can a person with lung problems watch a match in peace? Why these show-off kinds of smokers decide to smoke freely among a large gathering while the law says otherwise? Why didn’t the Police take necessary action against these people who ruin others’ liberty to watch a match breathing clean air?

A new level of low
There was this foreigner who was supporting our team and he had politely asked some of the young guys blocking his view to be seated. This has turned in to another uneasy situation and the foreigner had to complain to a police officer. Police officers’ words were not taken in to account by those ‘youngsters’ by any means. Foreigner finally had to leave the ground and ‘youngsters’ booed the guy. I was so ashamed.

Tooth-less Police
The simple action of smoking a cigarette in front of a police officer dampens the authority of that officer. There were many fights among the crowd, mostly among the parties who had too many beers. Too many drunkards, too many smokers. Police should have stamped their authority then and there and they should have taken necessary actions to protect the law and order at first sight. Some were offering police officers with beers, some were asking to take selfies. Biggest worry is that most of this misbehaving people were youngsters.

Fights and throwing stuff at players
Police let things to escalate and we all saw what happened during the latter part of the game. There were too many drunkards, none of them, I can assure, were not cricket fans by any means. They put a huge black mark on Sri Lankan cricketing culture by fighting among each other on the stands – for no viable reason at all. An entire block was being cleared by police by the 30th over –which is something I have never seen before. Then a Pakistan player had been hit by a stone or something and everything was a chaos afterwards. There was one guy who started a fight for no reason and he was smoking a cigarette and a police officer has turned his back.

Law has become a joke hence the fights, hence the chaos, hence a huge black mark to Sri Lanka as a nation. Look at those comments on Cricinfo. What a shame!
More fights sprang up in the stands. The players sat down in the middle of the ground for safety.

An object had been thrown into the ground and had landed near a fielder. This object was thrown from a top tier. Police looked embarrassed andhassled. Play was halted for a while until some safety measures were taken. Match referee Javagal Srinath was out contemplating on the next move.

We had to leave the ground
I came out of the stadium with my wife as there was a huge fight among two parties near where we were seated. It was all chaos outside the ground and a police officer asked us not to take the usual route out of the ground as there was a huge fight among two parties outside the ground, as we were speaking. We walked 2kms and came to Maradana. My car was parked near the stadium and all the roads were closed by police to handle the situation. Somehow we walked another 2 kms and reached the car. Some vehicles too were hit by stones and luckily we left Maradana without facing any more drama uttering to my self “I won’t go to this shit hole again to watch a match”. – [Island Cricket]