ON TUESDAY, the Sri Lankan government imposed a state of emergency for ten days following communal violence in Kandy. But at the R Premadasa Stadium in the heart of Colombo, it was cricket as usual.
With the tri-nation T20 series, involving India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, unfolding Monday, office-goers at the World Trade Center walked out to have a meal and auto-rickshaw drivers queued up for their next passenger of the day.
The Sri Lankan government’s move came following days of unrest in Kandy after a Buddhist man was killed and Muslim-owned businesses were set ablaze. Though the state of emergency imposed did not affect the city of Colombo, which is 130-odd km from Kandy, the news Tuesday had families of Indian cricketers worried at home in India.
The BCCI even spoke to the Indian team management, and was also briefed by the security cover of the Indian team, who believed Colombo would remain unaffected.
While most Indian team members knew little of the political development, some got messages from family members, but no one was sure whether the emergency extended to the entire country or was just restricted to Kandy.
In the end, most players decided to take an afternoon nap before boarding the team bus to the stadium at 5 pm.
At the team hotel, an Indian group attending a seminar were busy taking photos and then there were two Sri Lankan fans – Gyana Senanayake and his partner Mohamed Nilam — who waited for match tickets promised by Indian captain Rohit Sharma.
The two Sri Lankan fans, who are close to the Indian team, had fans of their own too. A group of ladies from England even took selfies with them. “Nothing will happen here, don’t worry. The match is on and my tension is doubled. I’m yet to get tickets, see how many calls I am getting. I need ten tickets and Rohit has promised to give few. I’m waiting for him to come,” said Nilam, a well known Sri Lankan fan of Rohit. “These games are emergency time; everyone calling, you see.”
By afternoon, the BCCI has issued a statement that allayed any residual concerns. “There have been reports of curfew and an emergency being called in Sri Lanka. The situation in picture is Kandy and not Colombo. This is to notify everyone that after talking to concerned security personnel (Ministerial security division – in charge of team security) we have understood that the situation is completely normal in Colombo. If at all there is any update on the same we shall notify.”
At the R Premadasa Stadium, the venue of the first T20 International between India and the hosts – the worry was the weekday slow-moving traffic.
An English couple, were not worried about the situation. “There are things which happened, shouldn’t have happened. Don’t worry, everything will be fine. Things are good here, you don’t worry. You worry about your team who have come here with fringe players,” said Englishman Stephen Williams.