Cricket may be the most popular and lucrative game in Sri Lanka, but it is volleyball which enjoys the status of national sport. While rugby union also enjoys wide popularity, athletics, swimming, football and tennis aren’t too far behind.
But an entirely different sport brings the fields alive and buzzing after harvest across the villages of the emerald isles — elle.
It's the local version of baseball, but played with a tennis ball and bamboo bat. Earlier, it used to be played with a rubber ball, but they now use a bald tennis ball. The main tournaments are held around the local New Year, which falls in the second week of April, with barren paddy fields after harvest serving as the playing arena.
"Unlike baseball, where the three batters complete a run by touching the bases, in elle, to complete a point, the batter has to cover all three bases at one go," says Uplai Warnapura, a former first-class cricketer.
"The other difference with baseball is that you don't throw at the base to get a batsman out. The fielder throws the ball at the batter and has to hit him."
And unlike baseball whe-re the pitcher is from the opposite team and hurls the ball at the batter with maximum velocity, here your teammate is the pitcher.
“The idea is to throw at a comfortable height so that the striker can hit to the maximum distance and cover all the bases at one go. That’s why you need bigger space and it is played in paddy fields after the harvest.” Elle may not bring the big bucks pouring in like the richer sports, but the sheer joy of its participants makes up for that.