When at work, Gamini Silva loves to wear tracksuits and a white Panama hat. Even at the ripe old age of 54, he is fighting fit and looks after his ‘babies’ (cricket grounds, of course) well.
Silva is a Sri Lankan who is now Bangladesh Cricket Association’s (BCB) chief curator. He has been here for the last four years and is in charge of all seven cricket grounds in the country. Cricket allows him to relax, and this bit of relaxation he deserves thoroughly, for he led a life of enormous struggle, danger and pain during his youth.
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Back then, Silva was the assistant superintendent of the Sri Lankan police force. For 15 years, from 1982 to 1996, he lived on the edge during the years of strife. Then he quit the job, acquired a diploma in agriculture and finally concentrated solely on cricket.
“While LTTE was at the height of its power, I was in the combat force when the government was dealing with the Tigers. And I always had death at my doorstep,” Silva recounts, as he speaks to The Indian Express while standing in the middle of the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.
“Everyone in the police force, army, and also the civilians — we always had the nightmares that the next day could be our last. I went to combat operations in Jaffna and Trincomalee and saw dead bodies lying in heaps. I went through the horrific experience of watching my colleagues and innocent people being ripped apart by bombs and Kalashnikovs. I was lucky to survive.”
According to Silva, life in Sri Lanka wasn’t easy during those days. “The biggest challenge was their unpredictability. You never know when and how they could hit you, the tightest security measures notwithstanding. And they had human bombs which made things almost impossible to counter. We checked and rechecked but still some of them managed to sneak through. It was inevitable,” says Silva.
He had many acts of valour which were commended by the Sri Lankan government. A medallion for bravery was the reward. What makes his passion for the game even more incredible is the fact that Silva found time to play serious cricket — he nearly represented his country — by taking time off his work as a cop.
“I played trial matches for Sri Lanka but never got a chance to play international cricket. I don’t regret it. My life as a police officer taught me to put things in perspective,” he adds.
“I was always very passionate about my cricket and completed the Grade 2 coaching course after my playing days were over. I also became a qualified umpire. But curatorship was my first preference. My education in agricultural science prompted me to go that way. So I went to England, passed the curatorship exam and here I am, looking after the grounds in Bangladesh.”
But why in Bangladesh and not back home in Sri Lanka?
“I applied after the BCB came up with an advert and was selected. I took it as a challenge, coming to another country and help their cricket.” Silva’s contract expires in July. Will he seek an extension, or return home?
“I don’t know. I am comfortably settled here, but it’s up to the BCB to decide. If I am retained, I will stay. Otherwise I will go back to Sri Lanka where I have a small business,” Silva says with a smile.
The work at the main stadium is almost finished for the day, but Silva is summoned by the board to the BCB academy ground to attend a women’s game. The man is as much in demand here as he used to be in the Sri Lankan police force. But back then, that job was to live to fight another day.