Rajpal's Column

3rd September 2000

The story of the old family vendetta

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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The face-off between a Sri Lankan cricketer and a senior cricket administrator at the Nondescripts Cricket Club offers some peripheral sort of relief for tired - of - politics Sri Lankans. It's a fight that at least does not have the future of millions of Sri Lankans at stake. Since Arjuna Ranatunge, the former Sri Lankan captain retired, there has been a developing sense of the "we did not quite treat him right.'' His ex-team buddy Hashan Tillekeratne's outburst at the NCC, against one of Lanka's cricket's revered brahamins may have been provoked in this spirit.

Hashan hit out aggressively according to Wettimuny, and he responded in the forward defensive. Tillekeratne has a different version altogether. But, the outburst may have brought to a head certain underlying animosities between cricket's old elite represented by Wettimuny, and cricket's ex-untouchables represented by Arjuna Ranatunge. Every modern day fable has its symbols, and definitely Wettimuny and Ranatunge are symbols for cricket's old guard and the new, though Arjuna himself is in a different context quite senior citizen by now. (And last week it was that an Editorialist wrote that Ranatunge did for cricket what S W R D Bandaranaike did for the common man.) There is also the old school tie that intrudes. Wettimuny represented the first - family of Ananda College, which was the new school which had usurped the old missionary institutions as cricket's new brave. Ananda had three Wettimuny brothers, who batted with panache, and possessed a startling name which was easy on the tongue but had enough twang to make it sound as if it carried unstoppable gravitas. But, the Wettimuny's were cricket's top hat - tailcoat gentry. They didn't want to trouble Englishmen too much, even though Mr. Sidath had played some good innings at Lords. They also didn't want to let the barbarians at the gate. To that extent, the Wettimuny's represented a ruling cabal, which generally called the shots in the elite and circumscribed Colombo cricketing circles. Ranatunge was a sarong boy in comparison, and his penchant for wearing the sarong at social functions these days is probably residual ( Sansoni cut too.). The new kid walked to the railway station with his light bat, got onto the sleepy train, which labored past Hunupitiya and Ragama to get to Colombo. From the Fort railway station Ranatunge took public transport to reach the exalted cricketing portals of the SSC.

Ranatunge was at first a curiosity at club, a Sarong-Johnny who didn't seem to know his place and was going to be shown it fast. But, the revolution was taking place, and to a great extent it had to do with Ranatunge's mastery of the sweep shot.

Story goes that one of cricket's brashest brahamins at the time was once introduced to Ranatunge subsequent to a century scored by him (Ranatunge) as "one of cricket's promising young lads.'' The Brahamin wanted to know the boy's school. "Another sarong Johnny'' was the riposte, when the Brahamin heard that Ranatunge hailed from Mariyakadde's uncelebrated cricket fields.

In car parks, and on the turf, the revolution continued which is one reason why this latest car park episode between Tillekeratne and Wettimuny has some special resonance. There were times when the sarong clad Ranatunge was given a dressing down, in the car park no less, for violating the strict club dress code. Ranatunge and the new boys at the gate didn't seem to know whom to respect in terms of cricket's protocol, which was the best thing. They had no special regard for Englishmen, and possessed no special wisdom about Wisden. This level of plainness gave them a special edge against the greats, which is probably why cricket's old ruling guard didn't know what to make of this revolution. Of course, to make a long story short, the World Cup victory was saluted at all levels, even by the old cabal.

But, residual scores had not been settled, and old family feuds, like unsettled business were not to buried until they were played out to the finish. That's probably the lesson emanating from the car park area of the Nondescripts Cricket Club Grounds

End-piece: Sunil Peiris says he doesn't know what hit him. He comes out with an album about Viagra, and now cries "ane me mokada mata wune.'' Sunil after his by - pass, which like some Hollywood nose job was know to the music cognoscenti here within a week, should have known that Viagra has capabilities of stopping the heart.

Sunil could have been, on the other hand and advertisement for Viagra, and being as commercial savvy as he is, how did that wisdom escape him? Sunil is a man who is seen at Colombo stag nights, especially in the month of March, exercising his libidinous urges in public without a care for the sate of his by pass. Any pimp in the Red Light suburbs will tell you that Sunil is as virile as he is glib just going by his stage performances, that is.

So, like some ex- US Presidential candidate, Sunil should have taken up the Viagra cause in the traditional way, the way he pumps up Singer cassettes and all kinds of noodles sardines and merchandise. But, he chose to sing it out aloud, and that was his undoing. What happened to me says Sunil. Umbalata nang mokada ithing?

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