Spectators on the grass banks at Pallekele © Associated Press
Joe Root has written to England spectators inconvenienced by the booking fiasco in Kandy’s hotels expressing his sympathy for their trouble and his gratitude for their support.
Around 100 England supporters, some of whom had booked and paid many months ago, were told a week or so ahead of the second Test that their rooms at the Earls Regency Hotel on the outskirts of the city were no longer available.
Due to a remarkable oversight, the bookings of the teams and officials at the same hotel had not been confirmed. But, in a desire to ensure their accommodation was at a good-quality hotel in reasonably close proximity to the ground, the Sri Lankan government insisted supporters had to be moved to accommodate those involved in the game. The only other option, they suggested, was to move the Test.
As a result, those supporters were relocated to hotels much further from the ground. Some were anticipating journeys of up to three hours each way from Dambulla, though those times have been mitigated somewhat by police escorts. Spectators were also underwhelmed to be ‘compensated’ with a fruit platter in their hotel rooms.
While the ECB and England team are blameless for the debacle – such responsibilities lie with the hosting board – it is clear they have been embarrassed by the inconvenience caused to supporters who have spent their holiday allowance and money on watching them play.
So Root and his team met with around 100 of those affected on the outfield during lunch on the second day of the Test, posed with pictures and handed out letters expressing their sympathy.
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“As England Test captain, I would like to thank you on behalf of the team and the ECB for your support here in Sri Lanka,” Root wrote.
“We all feel the loyalty, commitment and passion that you and our travelling supporters show. It is unmatched in world cricket and must never be taken for granted.
“So it has been a huge disappointment to all of us that your plans for the Kandy Test match have been badly disrupted, with your accommodation moved so far from the Earl’s Regency.
“You would have made your plans some time ago and looked forward to an incredible experience, seeing this country and watching Test cricket.
“It was a big surprise to us to hear of Cricket Sri Lanka’s booking issue and the threat that the match itself might be moved altogether. I can assure you that the ECB has made its views clear.
“I also know how hard our tour manager here and his colleagues at Lord’s have worked to find a solution and that, whatever additional arrangement made by our hosts, this has had an impact on you and caused difficulties for your trusted tour operators.
“As leader of this group of players, I promise that we will do all we can to give you a performance to remember and thank you for your part in this Test match.
“Thanks too for your continued support – we hope to see you at the ground.”
Each letter is hand-signed by Root.
The relationship between the England players and their travelling supporters is genuinely warm. Each day of away Tests, a group of supporters sing the hymn Jerusalem – often accompanied by The Barmy Army’s trumpeter, Billy Cooper – during the first over of play. It is usually acknowledged or applauded by the players.
Meanwhile The Barmy Army have told supporters “don’t be an idiot” after the Galle Test was twice interrupted by streakers.
“Entering the field of play is illegal,” The Barmy Army said in a Tweet. “Streaking is considered the height of offence and an insult to the religious beliefs of the Sri Lankan people. Offenders will be arrested, placed before court and imprisoned. Don’t be an idiot.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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