If you stand on the eastern grass margins of the Pallekele stadium and close your eyes, it feels as though the stadium is packed.
As the bowler approaches, the decibel level increases, and applause accompany each boundary or missed catch. India is accustomed to this in cricket matches. This time, however, it was not for them.
Pallekele is a charming community located approximately ten kilometers from Kandy. The roads leading to the cricket stadium are two-way and meandering, limiting your driving speed. Due to the difficulty of travel, the lines for security inspections at the men’s Asia Cup are not serpentine.
Fans in Kandy, Sri Lanka, on a Monday afternoon did not find the prospect of India playing nearby and Nepal facing them for the first time in international cricket alluring enough.
However, approximately 200 Nepalese supporters entered the stadium and took their places in various stands. As soon as the action began, their presence was inescapable.
A group of approximately 75 Nepalese supporters on the leg side of the broadcast end were creating and enjoying the ambiance.
In the sixth over of the game, the opener Kushal Bhurtel divided mid-off and mid-on with a direct punch. The fans rushed in the direction the ball was struck, to the right. The following ball was hit well over long leg. The direction was irrelevant; the fans once again wore running shoes.
A 45-year-old in the group had the same amount of vitality as an 11-year-old. Every member of the contingent was from Kathmandu. The cricket contest was a halt on Rajarshi Gurukul’s week-long educational tour of Sri Lanka.
Rajeem Dhungel, an economics teacher who was supervising the children, said, “We take a yearly trip, and this year we’re in Sri Lanka.” “The most exciting thing for us is the historic match between Nepal and India.”
The songs Raato ra chandra surya by one of Nepal’s greatest bands, Nepathya, and Kutu Ma Kutu, the Nepali song with the quickest ascent to 20 million YouTube views, were ideal for the group to sway to. The icing on the cake was Nepal’s sensational start: 53 for 0 in nine overs.
Even subsequent wickets and rain could not diminish the supporters’ spirits. Aasif Sheikh’s half-century, followed by Sompal Kami’s 48 off 56 balls to delay the conclusion of the innings, gave the crowd reason to erupt in jubilation. It was as if the athletes gave every spectator additional reasons to support them.
The stands appeared mainly desolate. If not for the Nepalese supporters, a game between India and Nepal would have had an unusually subdued appearance. Fans of India are not always outnumbered. And an India victory is not always a mere footnote.