Motion sickness in the city of Murali

So much has changed in India in the last decades that often it’s hard to keep up. More has changed in the country than anywhere else on earth.

The demand on the nation’s infrastructure  – and demand for new infrastructure – is mind boggling. Whereas something like 0.2% of the population had the means to consider air transport just over a decade ago, that number has increased more than 10-fold and is climbing all the time.

That means every city in the country, without exception, is having to upgrade or completely replace its airport. The new ones are making the old ones look like garden sheds. The state-owned national airline spawned ‘Air India’ and ‘Indian Airlines’ but there are now more than 20 airlines competing for the domestic market alone.

And let’s not even get on to the IT industry.

But one thing will never change. In fact, it will become more and more entrenched – and that is this: The more Indian cricket crowds want their team to win, the less of a help and more of a hindrance they will be. Take this wonderful rejoinder from Dale Steyn after Saturday’s stunning victory by the Proteas:

“I want to thank the crowd for helping to make an occasion I will never forget. I’d like to thank them for gloating and jeering at me when I was fielding on the boundary! I don’t blame them – if I’d been an Indian in the crowd, or anywhere in the world for that matter, I would have been bursting with pride and telling anyone within earshot all about it! But they contributed massively to my five late wickets, so thank you Nagpur!”

Just over a decade ago, when Muttiah Muralitharan was already well on his way to achieving ‘legend’ status in the game, he played against South Africa at Centurion Park and love the ground so much he vowed to have one built “just like this one” in his home city of Kandy which was making do with the attractive but inadequate Trinity College school ground to host international matches.

Murali was so serious about having the stadium recreated that he sought out copies of the original design and arranged for them to be given the developer. The World Cup marks the debut of that stadium at Pallekele, barely 10 kilometres from Kandy city centre.

You don’t need to look hard to see the resemblance. In fact, you don’t need to look at all. Anyone who has been to both will recognise them instantly as twins. Except in one the backdrop features palm trees and misty, mysterious mountain views and in the other it features the Gautrain and three highways. After the tournament the PIC (Pallekele International Stadium) will be officially renamed the Muttiah Muralitharan Stadium.

Sri Lanka’s greatest advantage about playing at the new stadium, however, might be the excellent Earl’s Regency hotel just a couple of kilometres from the ground. Especially if they are the only team staying there, as they have been during the World Cup.

New Zealand, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, meanwhile, have been booked into the Maheweli Reach Hotel on the other side of the city necessitating a gut-wrenching 40-minute bus ride along very narrow and even more twisting roads. It’s taken the opposition an hour just to recover their equilibrium and return to a normal colour on arrival at the ground.

Ahh…home ground advantage, and all that.

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