Digging through the archive : Shooting from the scoreboard at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium

This post was originally posted on my column over on Island Cricket

Shooting from the Pallekelle Scoreboard

If there is one thing I dislike about covering cricket, it’s the stationary nature of the assignment. Occasionally, photographers do move around, but if you work for a newswire service, as I do, you’re generally stuck at your makeshift desk shooting, editing and uploading your shots.

During the ICC World Twenty20 2012 Super Eight match between the West Indies and New Zealand in Pallekelle, I chose to divert from the norm, and head elsewhere for a change. With the sun setting behind the picturesque Hunnasgiriya mountain range, I decided to venture up the scoreboard for a wide-angle shot of the ground and the sunset.

Scoreboard attendant looks out of the scoreboard

After opening the front door to the scoreboard, you’re confronted by a narrow set of stairs. As I head up, I come across large narrow rooms. On each floor are scoreboard attendants manually inserting numbers, names and moving a big wheel with numbers on it.

I would compare a manual scoreboard to an office building. Instead of the accounts department on the third floor, you have the ‘extras and bowling figures’ department. On the fourth, fifth and sixth floors are the attendants in charge of the batsmen’s names, and up at the very top is the total score.

Once I had taken the sunset shot that I was after, I hung around for a little while longer to take photos of the young chaps hard at work. The oversized signs, numbers and the ingenious mechanics of it all were intriguing.

Utilising a PA system inside the scoreboard, the attendants follow the instructions of the scorekeeper in a meticulous manner. Each attendant is in charge of a section of the board — overs, players’ names, runs, fall of wicket ect. This army of local lads from Kandy were at first shocked to see a photographer inside the scoreboard taking photos of them, and not of the match. They wanted to take a few shots with my camera. In return, I got to be a scoreboard attendant rotating the big wheel.

Scoreboard attendant pushes the scoring wheel

When you consider the manpower required for the whole operation, you begin to understand why many traditional scoreboards around the world have been demolished. I would imagine that the accounts department would deem it not so cost-effective. In an age of spider cams, hawk-eye and mammoth electronic scoreboards, it’s nice to see all the Sri Lankan Test venues still using the humble, yet iconic manually-operated scoreboards.

Two scoreboard attendants look out of the scoreboard

Digging through the archives: Following Sarath Fonseka Part 1 (pre-election)

With Former Army General Sarath Fonseka been released from prison on Monday the 21st of May 2012 I thought it was an apt time to revisit the time I spent following him during his presidential campaign in 2010 for my digging through the archives series.

Now for those unfamiliar let me try & summarise very quickly a bit about the man. The former Army General played a pivotal in ending Sri Lanka’s 26 year civil war.  Once the war was over, President Mahinda Rajapakse some argue in an attempt to sideline him from political activity gave Fonseka the post of ‘Chief of Defence Staff’, not long after Fonseka quit the post & officially announced his candidature in the 2010 Sri Lankan presidential election that he subsequently lost.  Two weeks after his loss he was arrested & found guilty for “committing military offences”; charges could best be described as dubious & varied from corrupt arms deals to plots to overthrow the government while in uniform. To date his has pleaded his innocence.  Fonseka was imprisoned for 3 years but was given a presidential pardon after serving just over 2 years & released on Monday.

For me id be lying if there wasn’t some sentimental feeling about his release, back in 2010 I had left Australia to try & forge a career as a photojournalist, I took up a post at the Sri Lankan Sunday paper ‘The Sunday Leader’. My first major assignment was to follow Fonseka on his presidential campaign. For over a month I travelled around the island from rallies in the outstations to the major cities, from press conferences to ‘kissing the babies’ opportunities.  It was exciting for a young ‘PJ’ , especially coming from Australia where I find election campaigns or politics in general dull by comparison; this campaign had a heavy weight boxing match spirit to it. In a sign of defiance against the Rajapaksa regime Fonseka not only formed his own party but had the backing & support of the major opposition party the right leaning United National Party (UNP) & oddly enough the Marxist ‘Peoples Liberation Front’ known as the JVP.

While there was minor difference in policy, the presidential battle was becoming increasingly spiteful & acrimonious. Election violence was becoming progressively worse with “pro-governement thugs” threatening & terrorising opposition supporters. The homes of opposition party members were being firebombed, buses of fonseka supporters were shot at & political rallies in themselves became violent battlegrounds between supporters.   People were getting killed & severely attacked on a daily basis.

As the campaign drew to its end you couldn’t help but feel something big was going to happen, it was a very tense time, many sleepless nights, clutching onto my phone in anticipation for a big story to cover. From a photographic perspective it was a great learning curve in terms of covering large gatherings & rallies, as a foreigner one thing that stood out for me was how passionate supporters of the various parties are, in Australia its seems rather contrived by comparison.  Capturing this ‘passion’ was equally as important as getting a good photo of Fonseka himself.

Election day arrived, people went to the polls & I sneaked my way into the polling booths (media arent allowed inside the polling halls). By midday I had got my photos & had been warned enough by army personal not to enter any more polling booths. By mid afternoon I was back at the newsdesk going through my work from the month. The only things left in the campaign were taking photos of the victor & the loser the following day…so I thought.

Part 2 to come…

Digging through the Archive #1 : Grand Theft Auto Jalalabad

While killing time in Jalalabad waiting for our escort to take us to the Pakistan border, my fixer wanted to have a break & suggested we go and have some tea. Not far from our hotel was the youth park known as Zwanano Park. As customary, there weren’t any women or young girls, just young boys & old men. Large groups of men would sit on the grass conversing, while the children would be playing cricket, shoot pellet guns at balloons or fly kites.

We then came across much to my surprise a video game arcade.  Video game arcades were a preferred pastime of mine in my youth & I decided to walk in & have a play. The video game parlour was no different to any other parlour in the  world, pool tables near the entrance surrounded by the local pool sharks, a guy in his late teens at the counter juggling loose coins, onlookers peering over the shoulders of the players but above all young boys transfixed by the images on the screen as they punish the controls like a heavyweight boxer.

Kids were playing a wide array of game ranging from Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter but by far the most popular game was Grand Theft Auto.

Now for those unfamiliar, Grand Theft Auto commonly known as ‘GTA’ is a highly acclaimed & very popular video game franchise that has gained it’s fair share of controversy over the years with both lawmakers & conservatives. Its garnered notoriety for the fact you have to kill civilians, commit crimes such as car jackings & peddle drugs to succeed, all while the game glorifies American gang culture. If there was a video game that symbolised American freedoms this is it, it’s a game which pushes the social & moral boundaries, it features all the vices & sins so vigorously deplored upon by groups such as the Taliban. Grand Theft Auto is to video games as ‘Gansta Rap’ was to music during the late 80’s; it was brash, controversial but embraced by the youth much to the displeasure of family groups & the establishment, yet no one could stop it. So in that respect maybe i shouldn’t have been so surprised to see a once repressed youth happily shooting villains & driving over bad guys while dropping off a kilo of cocaine to the mob boss in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.

I think what surprised me was how quickly things had changed, it had been only 8 years prior that the Taliban roamed the streets of Jalalabad & would severely punish a young boy for as much as flying a kite or listening to music.  Walking out of that parlour my fixer asked what I thought was so funny, I tried to explain the irony of it all & that these kids playing Grand Theft Auto is quite symbolic in terms of how far his country had come even amongst the backdrop of war, I don’t think he understood but he laughed anyway & that was fine, at the end of the day its all just fun & games…

These images have come from my photo essay titled ‘ Beyond the conflict’, which can be viewed on my website here http://abrfoto.photoshelter.com/gallery-slideshow/G0000ZZ23bNCP_gM/C0000D202HshoVU4?start=

I hope you enjoyed the first of what i hope will be a fortnightly post under the ‘Digging through the Archives’ section of my blog. I intend to pull up old images of mine which may or may not have been seen much publicly but have a interesting story behind them. If you seen any images of mine that you’d like me to discuss, feel free to let me know & i’ll talk about it.