I don’t like cricket!
I make no apologies for this and as alien a concept as this might be to the average Sri Lankan on the street, it’s true. I just don’t get it.
I once asked a man who knows all about this strange “sport” to describe to me the point of playing a game for five days when it can still end in a draw despite one team scoring more runs than the other. His reply simply confused me further.
“That’s the beauty of it.” he said.
From that moment I washed my hands of the whole idea. But being in Sri Lanka, it is impossible to escape the curse of cricket especially when the English are in town. Also, the last nine months alone have provided healthy doses of directly injected pride into Sri Lankan hearts with heights being achieved (World cup runners-up), records being broken (Murali’s 709th test wicket) and eminent players retiring after illustrious service (Sanath Jayasuriya). So how can a bewildered English journalist abroad hope to avoid the one thing that unites a divided nation?
Simple, you can’t.
There is a saying; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So having packed away my pre-conceptions with my prejudice I wandered the streets of Colombo in a desperate attempt to come to terms with a national obsession that has so far eluded all of my tentative approaches.
Apparently, some chap named Muralitharan has been hogging all the headlines so I shifted the focus onto Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara in order to unearth some understanding.
Sujeevan Perera is 39 years old and works for the Federation of Chambers of Commerce. “Jayasuriya is the man that everyone fears.” He says. “The biggest celebration for opposition players is reserved for when they get Jayasuriya out. It is his ability to turn a game around that makes him special. Sometimes he looks out of form but then he will do something amazing.”
If fear is Jayasuriya’s weapon then what has Sangakkara got to offer?
“Sangakkara is a different prospect. He’s a thinker, a much more cultured player. If you want to get him out, you have to out-think him.”
This opinion was pretty much representative of the majority but Sujeeevan’s face dropped at the next question. You are head of the selection panel and you have to drop Jayasuriya or Sangakkara. Who’s it going to be?
Why not ask yourself that question and we’ll come back to it later.
Mohamed Rizan, 35, drives a trishaw and is of the same opinion about the different attributes that Jayasuriya and Sangakkara bring to the Sri Lankan game but I’m still none-the-wiser about the fundamental appeal of the game. Who would he drop from the squad? Not yet.
I asked hotel guest relations officer Arlene Jansen, 25 what it is about cricket that piques her interest. For instance, how does it feel when Malinga takes a wicket? “There is a feeling of joy especially when a ball is caught.” She says. “When a ball is hit high there is intense anticipation before the catch. When the ball is caught it makes me feel so happy.”
I asked Arlene if she could think of anything else that unites the country in the same way that cricket does. She agreed that cricket brings a divided people together but could think of no other entity that had the same kind of power. I’m beginning to understand now. This kind of mutual appreciation is good for an island’s troubled soul. But, as a tool, could cricket work harder to reach its full potential as a peace maker? Test cricket is a war between nations where the only thing being damaged is the losing team’s pride. To my knowledge, no-one has ever died as a direct result of playing cricket.
Maybe I’m thinking about this too hard.
Who would Arlene drop from the squad? Jayasuriya or Sangakkara? Wait and see.
I still don’t get the appeal of the game itself though but then, during a bit routine research, the reason for this inability or unwillingness to understand presented itself in a blinding flash and like most solutions to complex propositions, the answer was right in front of me all along.
It’s the terminology.
A brief look at Wikipedia’s list of cricket terms has put me off for life. There are no fewer than 419 different terms for things can occur during a game of cricket. To me, that’s not recreation, that’s hard work!
But live and let live. I won’t think less of you if you need to discuss the details of a recent “Hairy duck”. I won’t poke fun at you behind your back if you confuse your “Frog in a blender” with a “Dibbly dobbly”. But I may have to join the conversation if you don’t know that the female equivalent of a “Nightwatchman” is a “Nightwatchtperson”.
I’ll soon be back in the U.K. to wallow in the warm uncomplicated embrace of my beloved football and just in case you’re still wondering who Sri Lanka would drop from the squad if they had to, they were unanimous but dream on. He might be reading this!
Long live football!
This soccer loving Englishman is presently living in Sri Lanka.