Oblivious in bliss to what horrors the morrow may hold, Lankans danced on the midnight streets in Colombo after Lanka pulled off a victory over India in a rain hampered damp final T20 cricket match played in Bangladesh last Sunday. Finally with Thisara Perera’s match-winning six, India’s insufferable insults delivered unlimited during the last few [...]


Lanka must guard against cricket ‘Doosra’


Oblivious in bliss to what horrors the morrow may hold, Lankans danced on the midnight streets in Colombo after Lanka pulled off a victory over India in a rain hampered damp final T20 cricket match played in Bangladesh last Sunday.

Finally with Thisara Perera’s match-winning six, India’s insufferable insults delivered unlimited during the last few months at various international forums, were finally avenged at Mirpur Stadium in Dhaka. No matter it was not the prestigious world test final. Never mind it was not even the highly prized fifty over world cup that Lanka won eighteen years ago, it was still cricket and, albeit limited to a mere twenty over match, the condensed mega fast 20G version of the long drawn game, it was still a world cup. Lanka finally had her day and gave India her comeuppance by delivering the ultimate blow where it hurts most.

We love cricket, we live cricket. Through cricket Lanka has finally found a way of showing her colours to the world. Pic by Amila Gamage

Ever since former UNP Minister the late Gamini Dissanayake introduced Lanka to the world’s cricket arena, and enabled her to gain test status in 1981, Lanka has never looked back; and in a short scoring innings has won almost every accolade cricket had to bestow. From being the ground boy at England’s Lords not so long ago, Lanka has catapulted to become the dashing all round skipper in international cricket.

Such has been the magnetic draw of cricket that this sceptred game of England has captured the Lankan imagination with such an infectious hold that the worship of the hallowed sport has now spread from the confines of its elitist suburban limits to the broad acres of the land and taken root deep in its rustic fields. In every village schoolboy’s heart a temple enshrines his cricketing icons and the faith is practised with a daily fervour no other religion can boast. Through cricket Lanka has finally found a way of showing her colours to the world and this harmless pastime has provided her people the easy opportunity to lap and live the glorious past created by their ancestors, in the cosy comfort of the living room glued to their television sets.

The hands that built the tanks, the cutting edge technology our forefathers devised, the engineering genius that enabled ancient Lankans to construct grandiose high rise stupas that rival the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the giant canals that channeled water from tank to tank at a precise gradient are the stuff that once made an island nation great and caused the world to marvel in disbelief; but, alas, such are the incongruous times we live in that today we cannot even cut a ditch on a road without a Chinese engineer present to show us how.

That is the ignominious fate that has befallen this nation which, even two thousand years after those wondrous feats, still do not hesitate, to prattle its past glories in pride at the drop of a hat. Mother Lanka’s larder maybe bare of present necessities but is packed to the hilt with ‘past the shelf life’ of uneatable golden memories. But no matter. Sixes and wickets have become the nation’s staple diet to feed the nation’s ravenous appetite for cups and trophies, the silver plated baubles of achievements.

Now the bat and the ball enliven and enthrall and offer a gusty mode to dispel the pall that years of mediocrity have shrouded us all. The spark of hope and glory that trembled in the embers of a once flamboyant history now finds the spirit to flare as cricket endows Lanka with the paved pathway to national triumphs be it ever so effervescently transient.

And today the nation is upbeat, injected with a new heady boost of adrenaline. For the Government, it is a welcome spurt of national exuberance, a convenient dazzle of sunshine to spin away the Geneva gloom. For the Opposition, a heaven sent pleasant diversion to gloss over their lacklustre showing at the provincial elections. For the politicians, a chance to be seen and photographed with the team and shine in reflected light. For the eleven cricketers, a bonus of Rs. ten million each or more to add to their tax free bank balances. And for the masses, a three-hour frenzied indulgence in an orgy of patriotic interaction.

But, lo and behold, beware, for an ominous storm maybe brewing in the western skies presently unseen; and if we do not discern the magnitude of its possible strength and descend fast from cricket’s cloud nine and get our bearings firmly embedded on terra firma and face the ground realities that confront us in sober light and take stock then the halcyon innings of cricketing bliss may well come to an abrupt end; and the nation batting on a sticky wicket may find itself stumped by a wily ‘doosra’ lobbed without notice.

On Monday, External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris rejected UN Chief Ban Ki-moon’s calls for constructive cooperation with the UN investigation into war crimes and vowed Lanka will not subject itself to the jurisdiction of the world’s highest rights body. Addressing the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka in Colombo, he said, “We will not submit ourselves to this process. Sri Lanka will not participate in this inquiry.”

The gravity of this declaration may still not have sunk through the fog of unbridled revelry into the masses conscience. But at least now they should wake up to what it may entail.

If Lanka has nothing more to say except a resolute ‘no’ to the UNHRC’s resolution demands, not even a counter proposal to conduct its own independent inquiry as a way out of the impasse, then such a stance may lead to the immediate listing at the UN’s main body of Lanka as a ‘non compliant’ state. Furthermore, the backers of the resolution will have to respond to Lanka’s firm refusal to cooperate and they will weigh the options open to them.

This in turn may lead to the imposition of sanctions either by individual states or by power blocs. Among the plethora of options available to them, will be an embargo on essential medicines but public opinion in their own countries may rise against the imposition of such a sanction on humanitarian grounds. Governments may consider trade sanctions but economic considerations may well inhibit them from taking such action as a first step. Would there be a softer sanction more acceptable and not directly infringing on their own interests that would relatively cause the most damage? Like a ban on sports, for instance?

On Wednesday, addressing the British Parliament Hugo Swire, the British Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, warned Lanka that it must listen to the voice of the international community and gloated with glee how delighted his Prime Minister David Cameron was in keeping the pledge he made at the CHOGM to have Lanka’s war record probed by an international commission of inquiry. He said: “The international community has spoken through the United Nations Human Rights Council, it is important that the Government in Colombo listen to what has been said and what is asked of them, and that we can conduct an investigation through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make that country a better place for all, We got through the resolution that we wanted. The Prime Minister showed tremendous leadership on this.”

With Lanka’s sworn enemy British Prime Minister David Cameron at the helm of the braying pack out for Lanka’s blood, the Lankan Government must brace itself to the possibility that the British, armed with the UNHRC approved resolution and spurred with Lanka’s adamant refusal to cooperate with it, may well lead a campaign amongst other cricket playing nations to blackball any Lankan team from playing cricket in any country or in any international arena, including a ban on any country’s team from playing on Lankan soil in the same way South Africa was banned from international cricket and made a sporting pariah for over thirty years for its condemned policy of apartheid and its intransigent refusal to bow to international opinion.

In the event of Britain spearheading such a campaign would the other cricketing nations extend their support or scuttle it?
Can Lanka depend on her fair weather friends in the ICC, the cricket club of nations like Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies representing twenty Caribbean countries, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India and the associate members like Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Kenya and the US controlled Afghanistan all of whom have savoured the bitter taste of defeat at the hands of the triumphant Lankans, to put friendships before self interest and, in a spirit of pure altruism hitherto unknown in the conduct of international affairs, to thwart such a move?

Can Lanka trust them? Will they publicly oppose the move for a ban but privately endorse and vigorously promote their hearts’ secret wish to see Lanka excluded from the competition until it is too late in the day to reverse it? Will India keep us on tenterhooks and then abstain from voting and thereafter give a litany of reasons why she sat on the fence in the self same manner she did in Geneva, as if such a confetti of reasons could offer one crumb of solace to Lanka when the ban is in place and the boycott has begun?

The international sport ban on apartheid ridden South Africa was only lifted in 1991 when South Africa officially ended its policy of segregation. India which had vehemently opposed the South African policy and had been at the fore front of the movement to isolate the great cricketing nation also lifted its ban only in 1991 as did the International Cricket Council which readmitted the nation as a member after thirty years. During the long years in the wilderness South Africa experienced a scorching drought of sporting activity with only a rag bag assembly of rebel players paid big money and willing to risk being blackballed by their own nations, undertaking rebel tours.

In 1982, a Sri Lankan rebel squad AROSA led by Bandula Warnapura as captain and Tony Opatha as player and manager toured South Africa in flagrant violation of the international ban. Upon their return they we roundly condemned and the entire squad were never to play for Lanka again. The South African ban extended to other sports as well including participation at the Olympics.

The External Affairs Ministry together with the Sports Ministry must be prepared to meet this possible threat and, without dismissing it offhand as something far-fetched or impossible, should from now on co ordinate and formulate a course of action to thwart such an attempt being made. We can no longer afford to be naive and suffer the belief that the world is a playing field of Eton and all the players are gentlemen of the game. Old Etonian David Cameron is living proof that times have changed. Now they cannot see a good man down without wanting to hit him in the groin.

If America using her economic and political muscle could bring and see passed a damning resolution that violates Lankan sovereignty, there is no reason why Britain may not successfully use her commonwealth clout and her ICC dominance to see such a sanction introduced soon. Weeping tears and crying over the injustices of the world superpowers after the last ball has been bowled and the ban is in place, ruing the fickleness of friendships after the side screens have been cleared, lamenting the faithlessness of nations held to be lifelong friends after the bails have come off and end of play has been declared will be to repeat the diplomatic follies committed in the recent past.

Today, like a Derby winning prized racehorse paraded in the owner’s enclosure, the winning Lankan team is feted in regal style in the ornate halls of pomp and power. They are displayed on topless double-decker buses on the streets, passed from hand to hand, toasted from house to house, embraced from cheek to cheek, and worshipped from head to toe by a nation lying prostrate before cricket’s winning altar.

But victory is a mind blowing drug. And like all drugs, one fix leaves one craving for more. All’s well as long as it keeps steadily coming. But what will happen should the ‘uppers’ stop? When the orgasm is over? When the tap is turned off? When the hangover starts, without even the traditional cure of a hair of a dog at hand?

Like love can turn to hate and heat can turn to cold, ever springing hope can turn to brooding dark despair, and downright depression. The collective Lankan psyche, so pepped to the brim with cricket cheer, may find that man does not live by bread alone but needs cricket even if it means letting the alpine wolf in through the door to deliver it.

As every century scorer knows, it is at the height of one’s triumph that one lowers one’s guard and becomes most vulnerable; and, whilst the present celebration continues, it is prudent not to let the deafening applause drown the kill-joy voice of sanity and to keep a watchful eye on the unpredictable ‘googly’ that could make Lanka come a cropper. A surprise ban on cricket will be the easiest sanction for the international community to impose and the hardest for the Lankans to stomach.


Tonight as the Sun enters Aries and becomes exalted in Lanka’s astrological House of Victory, may the dawning Sinhala and Hindu New Year bestow upon you Health, Prosperity and Happiness born of contentment.



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