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A Tale of Two T20s and a Tsunami



By Rajitha Ratwatte

The New Zealand Black Caps played a deciding T20 game in a five-match series. They had won the first two games convincingly and then lost the next two equally convincingly. The games they lost were played with no spectators due to a resurgence of Covid-19 and the consequent level 2 lockdown imposed on greater New Zealand. The crowds would have not been as interested anyway as the Rugby season had already started and Aotearoa – New Zealand is VERY much a rugby nation!

It started with the selection of the side. NZ dropped its multimillion-dollar IPL player, Jamieson in favour of another spinner. Jamieson had also underperformed ever since he found himself worth a fortune to the Indians. I wonder if our Selectors in the pearl would have had the courage or the conviction to make such a decision?

Australia won the toss and decided to bat first, The Blackcaps spinners bowled 12 out of the 20 overs, the highest number of overs bowled by an NZ T20 international side ever. The Aussies were dismissed for 142 a lot less than they would have hoped for. The Kiwi right-arm leg-spinner Ish Sodhi putting in a man-of-the-match performance.

NZ started with the under-pressure opener Martin Guptill, whom lots of pundits had been casting aspersions on, playing a blistering knock of 71 runs. An opening stand of over 100 runs when the NZ skipper and one drop batsman Cane Williamson walked onto the field. He was given out for a golden duck, an LBW decision, on an umpire’s call as to if the ball was striking the stumps or not, by a New Zealand Umpire. Imagine a Sri Lankan umpire having the guts to do that to one of our recent captains in an International game?! He would probably have never got another international in his career. This decision was hailed as a great on-field decision by all the commentators, as it should have been. Altogether a great time for Williamson to get a duck if he had to, to satisfy the law of averages, the match was well in the bag by then. A mild stutter in the early middle order was soon rectified by Glen Phillips who incidentally tried his hand at bowling for the first time in a T20 international and in this, the series decider to boot. Another fantastic choice from the leadership team. Phillips made his first 20 runs in boundaries and ended with 34 not out in 16 balls. A canter to victory by the black caps with 7 wickets and 27 deliveries in hand. Series clinched 3 games to 2.

A very important point and lesson to be learned is that empowered officials, with suitable qualifications and genuine motives, are the key to obtaining great outcomes. The decisions made by the selectors, further strengthened by innovative thinking and fearless, committed implementation by the coaches (all locals) and players made the difference.Sri Lanka also had a series decider, also a T20 to be played against the West Indies. A strange decision to win the toss and bat first, followed by a lacklustre batting display. A few innocuous swishes and play and misses from the top order and a total lack of boundaries from the experienced Mathews and Chandimal saw a below-par total. The Sri Lankan team was unchanged and the Thisara Perera did nothing but earn his match fee, doing no bowling or batting. One simple catch and another possible match-winning catch went down from Gunathilake.

The Windies batters laughed and joked their way to a win despite their best efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of a gifted victory. A victory gifted by a team with leaders and senior players who refused to take responsibility and bowl at least an over at a crucial stage of the match. A team whose selectors refused to change the playing eleven and give a youngster a change in spite of proven and regular failures from so-called senior players. A team with no innovation, no plan, and very highly paid foreign coaches!New Zealand had a series of offshore earthquakes ranging from 7.1 to 7.4 and even 8.1 on the Richter scale last week. Anything over 7.8 is supposed to virtually guarantee a Tsunami and quite rightly Tsunami warnings were triggered nation-wide. Local sirens and SMS messages to all registered phones accompanied by a loud alarm tone started from around 2.30am for some parts of the country until around 11 am for Auckland. The people reacted with great discipline and restraint, following drills and heading for higher ground. The morning news shows that usually finish at 9 am stayed on-air and updated us all the time. The minister in charge, a young Maori lady we had never seen before, as she was newly elected. Ms. Kiri Tapu Allen gave a great account of herself at press conferences, staying calm and giving the public real information. At one stage we had a schedule available telling us when each area could expect Tsunami waves and approximate timing.

Even though the waves didn’t come in most cases and even if they did, the effects were minimal, the people stayed on higher ground until the official all-clear was given at around 2.30 pm. It was a scorching hot day too, and wonderful to see how the schools had organised tents and refreshments for their students and buses to take them to higher ground all with just minutes of warning. Subsequent interviews from a cross-section of society seemed to reach a consensus that what we Kiwis’ do is “follow instructions and do as we are told”. We also seem to be having more and more trust in our government and officials. It is easy to do so when relatively unknown ministers give such sterling performances on their debuts. There is a full review of the warning systems and the evacuation procedures underway. The idea is to find ways to improve a system that seems to work rather well.Spend a minute or two dear denizens of the Pearl, think what will happen when the next Tsunami comes to our motherland. It is not that we do not have the people to arrange a proper response or have warning systems and response infrastructure in place. Will the general populace have the discipline to do as they are told or enough confidence in the leadership provided by those in charge?

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Strong on vocals



The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.



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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year



Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.



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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations



Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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