(Pics by Sassanda Liyanarachchi)

Visitors who frequent Sri Lanka during the month of August do so for quite a few reasons. The most significant reason among them is to watch the Kandy Esala Perahera (pageant). If there is also a cricket Test match on during these visits, then it offers these tourists an added bonus.

Tourists who watch this pageant in the cool climes of Kandy are mesmerized by the magnificent elephants on parade. Most Europeans can’t believe the fact that these islanders have special skills in them to tame and rear these four-legged animals. Most tourists also observe the passion these islanders have for cricket. It mesmerizes first time tourists to the island when they see kids play aggressively on roads, sometimes quite dangerously.  But regulars to the island already know that cricket is the only discipline which has put Sri Lanka on the global map of sport.

Feats like beating a giant like Australia at cricket seldom happen, but the islanders producing this kind of feat can’t be ruled out. These islanders are known to ‘dream’ a lot. If you take most teenagers who play the bat and ball game, they dream of representing the country at cricket. Sportsmen and women who engage in other disciplines might not entertain such lofty goals. But when it comes to cricket, they do.

There were questions raised by the Aussies whether the islanders were fair when preparing the pitch for the third Test  in Colombo. When you read some of the reviews on the third Test, penned by writers for foreign newspapers and websites, you have enough substance to defend the fact that the host nation prepared a fair pitch.

No host nation needs to be taught how to prepare the pitch for a Test cricket. Sri Lanka knows jolly well how to prepare a turf wicket for a game of Test cricket. Cricket analysts have opined that the islanders, when preparing the wicket, were this side of the line which marks the border that indicates what lies ahead is ‘unfair’.

The islanders must often blame themselves for not being aggressive enough against foreign opposition when taking to other sports. The country’s cricketers decided to change their mindset during the captaincy of Arjuna Ranatunga. It is this world cup winning captain who stood strong against the Aussies when they started targetting the Sri Lankans after the 1996 world cup winning feat.

Ranatunga himself told a local newspaper in a recent interview that Mathews will turn into a great captain. As much as the captain must be a performer out in the middle, you also need someone to replace the likes of Ranatunga and Sangakkara, who could face storms both in and outside the playing field. Ranatunga and Sanga couldn’t be pressured out of the game and now Mathews is showing enough signs of following in the footsteps of these two captains.

It is quite wrong or rather a big mistake to think that a Sri Lankan national cricketer will watch passively in the face of pressure applied by an opposite team. The culture that Ranatunga cultivated some years ago has taken a deep root. Today, we see even some of the debutants at Test cricket standing up to show the ‘Lion’ in them when the opposition appears in front of you in a threatening manner. In Kandy, it was Kusal Mendis and in the Colombo Test which just concluded, it was  Dananjaya de Silva and Kaushal Silva who wielded their willows to give Sri Lanka competitive totals and help Sri Lanka record a 3-0 whitewash against the Aussies.

As much as the cricket played by its players helps define a nation, a business like tourism also helps in this endeavour. Sri Lanka is now slowly moving towards being competitive in the global tourism business. Someone told this writer the other day that foreigners wish to see quantity whether it is a papaya juice they are drinking or a new novel they’ve bought to read during a holiday in this island. These Australians have found an opposition which can assure them both quality and quantity when playing cricket. When you come to think of business from a cricket angle, top executives can take a cue from the national cricketers in how to build a team and increase productivity.

 It mesmerizes first time tourists to the island when they see kids play aggressively on roads

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