Written By Rasesh Mandani
Fans in sport go great distances to get close to the action. Remember the UK-based web designer Rob Lewis who shot to fame during an England-Sri Lanka Test match in Galle earlier this year? Lewis had stayed on in Sri Lanka for 10 months after a Test series was called off due to the pandemic, working remotely to keep his job, just to see England perform in the island city again?
He’s back supporting England in the World Cup in the UAE, and in greater spirits. Only this time, he’s supporting two teams, not one. The other one being Sri Lanka where he spent 14-and-a-half months, 10 of them waiting for cricket to resume from lockdown.
“I went for the original England-Sri Lanka Test match in March 2020 which was called off. I decided to stay back for work,” he recalled. “Then as UK locked down, it was an easy enough decision to stay. As time wore on, there were chances of England coming back to play in January, it became more than an idea and became the goal for me.”
When England’s tour of Sri Lanka resumed with the Galle Test in January, Lewis was the only English supporter chanting Barmy Army songs—the famous supporter’s club of English cricket—atop the Galle fort, which provides a rare vantage point for fans to watch live action 50 meters from the boundary. No spectators were allowed in the stadium, or, anywhere near the stadium for that matter.
“They kicked me off the fort after the first hour on the first day,” Lewis said. “Later, I was allowed to go back up there with media accreditation. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. But I am glad I got the permission. It was the best time of my life.”
After England won the Test, skipper Joe Root had thanked Lewis over a phone call. “It’s an incredible story and journey that you have been on over the last year or so. So more than anything I just wanted to say a massive thank you. We really appreciate you being here and making the effort to come down and support us,” Root told Lewis.
“The call was very surreal. I couldn’t believe, it was Joe. It was an amazing gesture,” Lewis said. With his new found fame, he’s made some good friends. “I messaged Jos (Buttler) after his hundred the other day, and he thanked me back which was pretty cool,” he said. “I was there at the ground and it was just incredible to see him bring up the hundred with a six of the last ball.”
England have won every game in the World Cup so far. Lewis calls Morgan’s team the “golden generation” that’s wiping off bad memories from the 90s and the 2000s. Lewis may have enjoyed the Buttler ton against Sri Lanka but in every non-England match, Sri Lanka is his de facto team to support. “I now make it a point to go and support Sri Lanka. I ask my friends if they want to come. They don’t, but I have decided to go on my own for the Sri Lanka games. Their fans are amazing. They come up to me to say hello, knowing I support their team which is nice,” he said.
Being back at the stands to near full capacity, Lewis is loving the experience buut he has a grievance. “They play that tune ‘live the game, love the game’ far too much over and over again at the grounds. They try and create an atmosphere and don’t give the crowd a chance to sing and make their own noise,” he said. “They try to make the crowd clap with them and have failed miserably.”