England in Sri Lanka – 27th October 2018

Today was the first time the media has had a chance to talk to Ben Stokes since the start of the legal process which resulted in his trial for affray earlier in the year. It was covered so extensively that one might have thought almost everyone would be just happy to move on and concentrate on Stokes the cricketer. But that would be naive.

It would have been even more naive to think that Stokes would play anything other than the deadest of bats to those questions considering he still has his ECB disciplinary hearing to come and might easily have compromised himself with any talk of ‘regret’ or apology. So, officially, it has been “a good year” for Stokes in which he has been “able to concentrate on my cricket.” Right.

Another all rounder, Chris Jordan, has been called up for just this game, Excellent, I say. If you are recognised as a ‘specialist’ then that expertise needs to be recognised at every opportunity.

The remarkably extended schedule of this tour means more time to explore and appreciate a city I’ve been visiting for over 25 years. The architecture, like most other things, can be taken for granted. ‘Colonial’ is not a dirty or even controversial word in this land. It’s hard to know whether that’s a good or bad thing, but the majority of Sri Lankans, strangely, appear to feel benefited rather than exploited by the presence over the last 500 years of the Portuguese, Dutch and British.

The architecture is a permanent reminder of the value the Europeans placed on Colombo as a trading port. The extraordinary amount of building and development taking place is a constant reminder of Sri Lanka’s ambition, but the care and preservation of it’s past is equally significant.

25 years ago I stayed in the ‘Grand Orient Hotel’, the original spot. The first hotel built to cater for wealthy ship passengers. It was fancy, smart and impressive. Today it has been overtaken by 25 more modern hotels. But it has not been left to deteriorate. Indeed, it has flourished in its new role as the elderly, pony-tailed merchant seaman, with faded but far from garish tattoos. Today, young people stay there and believe it is ‘the’ place to be, just as it was 50 years ago.

T20 International tomorrow, starting at 7:00pm local time. Exactly the time the rain has been at its heaviest for 14 of the 19 days we have been here so far.


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