The Sunday Times on the web

Rajpal's Column

17th January 1999

Playing pandu in lotus eaters' land

By Rajpal Abeynayake

Front Page |
News/Comment |
Business | Plus | Sports |
Mirror Magazine

Front Page
Mirror Magazine

Cricket has been cited as the Sri Lankan national pastime in international magazines, yet, there is always a search on for excuses when we columnists write of cricket.

On the one hand, it's the subject that has spawned so many petty experts that there is a justifiable fear of drowning in the babel of voices. To put it another way, it's a question of joining a battered bandwagon. But there is a thing about the bandwagon. Today it is bulging with critics or devotees, and the critics are on a roll these days. But critics do not generally see the fact that the Sri Lankan team represents, a microcosm of Sri Lankan society in many ways .

The critics see cricket as a special enterprise with rules that only experts know about. But broadly speaking cricket seems to suffer from the same malaise that attaches to most other enterprises in our lotus eating land. We are at the core, relaxed fellows. Or as outsiders such as Leonard Woolf observed ''Jak Fruit eating types'' whose way of life is to crack a coconut, eat something that grows on a tree and go to sleep under its shade.

So, when Aravinda De Silva plays cricket we cannot expect for instance ( can we ?) a great deviation or sea - change from general Sri Lankan attitudes. He is undoubtedly one of the most talented cricketers we have seen in the past but his fans would protect him from any aspersion cast on his general attitude. So when a cricketer of his calibre loses touch or gets injured they would either say he is out of form or that ''things like injuries happen.'' But being as we are Sri Lankans it would not be a great revelation if we were told that Aravinda de Silva takes things a little too easy, for example. In our book it is as if he is entitled to it. He is a star batsman, he can play his shots, and therefore he is entitled to call the shots also. That's not the way professionals in Australia play cricket for instance. .

Australians , descending from the convicts may have an inherited mean spirit just the same way that Sri Lankans have a built in lackadaisical spirit. So Australian aggressiveness spills over to the cricket team and no Australian would ever take it easy the way Aravinda De Silva does for example. Though Mr. De Silva is only the example, the Sri Lankan cricket team is governed generally by this trademark relaxing spirit. The first two matches of any tournament are for the Sri Lankans, the practice matches because being laid back , Sri Lankans do not believe in training to peak professional form before a tournament the way the Australians or the South Africans do for instance. As we Sri Lankans are used to, we prefer on the other hand to depend exclusively on our prodigious talent. But this talent business seems to be a highly overrated quantity especially when international sporting competition is concerned.

The recipe for disaster among the Sri Lankan cricketers seems to be simple. The other teams, even with minimal talent, rely on thorough professional practice to beat the competition. We, though fairly oozing with talent prefer to see things fall into a comfortable groove and a status quo in which things are cosy. The way these things are generally said, it must be an "open secret'' in this country that most senior players exempt themselves whenever they can from rigorous practice sessions. With the past accomplishments that dot their CV's they can get away with thinking that being really talented, they can justifiably miss the grind of the practice sessions which are meant for lesser players. Since we are a generally hierarchical society that loves to bend and genuflect collectively to people at the top, these attitudes are never challenged. The coaches and managers are hard put to challenge these attitudes because some of the star players have more star quality than themselves and therefore command more authority in the scheme of things than the coaches.

It's another one of those open secrets that cricket in those days was managed by an Australian who had enough Australian culture rubbed off on him to develop a professional cutting edge. ( Never mind that this person may have had Sri Lankan origins.) What's more important is that this man was reputed to brook no nonsense from senior cricketers and idols. Regardless of the pecking order they all had to be at practices and at peak performance at all times. Its another thing about Sri Lankan culture that we got rid of this match winning coach almost as soon as we won the World Cup. There too the culture of the lotus eater plays its part. Most relaxed Sri Lankan fellows , being so relaxed, do not always work hard enough to acquire kudos. So when there is something which is ready-made in the public spotlight, there would always be several shortcutters who would see the opportunity to earn some free and obtainable kudos. Those who jump into the ready-made spotlight will naturally want to assert their ways for one reason or the other which explains why the best Sri Lankan coaches etc., are also the ones with the shortest contracts. Now a person with just spectator interest in these matters such as myself may know only a smattering of these issues. But we Sri Lankan have a nose for Sri Lankan life. Its not difficult to deduce the shape of things when a few outlines can be made out. With the cricketing scene the outlines can be seen quite clearly and without the aid of any sightscreeens. We lotus eaters are jaded. Our top notch of overachievers have decided they can relax because they have earned it. Our administration has nobody with the spunk and the guts to call the bluff . They are essentially laid back gentry who have walked into the spotlight because that's better than being rich layabouts? So relaxed and rested, we lose.


Editorial/Opinion Contents

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Hosted By LAcNet

Rajpal's Column Archive

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.