Cricket’s heroes, zeroes and gender equalityView(s):
They went as heroes. Came back as zeroes and were being obliterated from history but still survive with their fate swinging on a pendulum between fake patriots and politicians attempting to piggyback on them.
The Sri Lanka cricket team, once the world champions, hit rock-bottom this year, losing around twenty matches not far apart. The nation’s political leaders had gone nuts. A military man in command issued orders to farmers on how to grow rice assuming that plants would obey commands with military precision like soldiers on parade.
Then the Australian cricketers came along to play some games with the Lankan boys who were not the sons of local pukka sahibs — as they were some decades before — but rural boys and city dwellers not even of the Middle Class. The Lankan boys did well, beating the Aussies, among whom were world-recognised players, in some matches.
Then came the Asia Cup and the humble boys rose from zeroes to heroes not only on scoreboards but also for the Sri Lanka nation. They beat the mighty Indians that included their ‘King Kohli’ and also the Pakistanis who were a formidable force in the game.
In a country where leaders thrive on the reflected glory of true heroes, there were many who claimed to have fathered success. A clown prince tried to piggyback on the cricketers claiming he was responsible for putting the team together!
The cricketers became national heroes as the spirit of the Lankan nation rose even though it had to declare itself financially bankrupt. Praise was lavish in the media for our players in prose and verse. And they embarked on a Down Under tour with the nation’s hopes high that they bring back the T-20 World Cup.
But cricket has its glorious uncertainties, especially the T-20 variety. This columnist reminded the public when hopes were high about it, pointing out that the chances of winning in the game are as probable as in ‘Booruwa’ (Asking -Hitting), our national card game. What happened in Australia is known to all. We will only say that Lankans were prevented from entering the semi-final stage for losing to England — in the final over — who won the championship.
It’s sad to note that the enthusiasm of our commentators flagged down during our performances there. There was the magnificent performance of Pathum Nissanka facing the most fearsome bowlers yet stylishly belting them out for sixes. That failed to get any special mention. He scored two half-centuries, which got only perfunctory mention but a catch he dropped was harped upon many times. In contrast the Indian hero ‘King Kohli’ dropped a catch in the same position, in the same way, but the patriotic Indian commentators soon lost their memory about it.
Anura Tennekoon, a former Sri Lanka captain, considered by the authorities of the game in his time as the most ‘technically competent batsman’ earlier, in a special article to a daily newspaper, highly commended Nissanka for his style of batsmanship and advised him to go on batting in his natural style.
We have heard bits and snatches of Nissanka’s arduous progress to get into the national team, even sleeping in the back rooms of clubs, because he had no accommodation in Colombo and of his values in life. He had donated a part of this first earnings from international cricket to improve facilities at his village temple. It is an act that even an agnostic cannot help but cheer.
Back to the story of heroes becoming zeroes. The returning team was accorded a low-key welcome which was quite in order. But on the day of their departure from Australia news broke out about the alleged sexual adventures of top order batsman Danushka Gunathilaka. It resulted instantly in stories emanating from unnamed sources about the rest of the cricketers as well. They were partying well into the night in the homes of Sri Lankan expatriates while a match was on the next day, reports said, including other gossipy stories that do not credit them.
Shouldn’t our players be confined to rock caves in Australia — if there are any — or be placed in high-security rooms under lock and key by Lanka cricket officials and guarded by moral police during their off hours? Or should they be permitted to be hosted by the ardent expatriate fans and behave like normal people of Lanka?
True they are said to be professionals and should consider their responsibilities as ‘ambassadors of their countries’, an honour which is conferred on them by media pundits but not given any privileges ambassadors are entitled to. Professionalism comes with experience and the first tour is just the beginning.
About Gunathilaka’s arrest and court case, we make no comments. At the time of writing, he has been granted bail, and the Sri Lanka Cricket Board after much waxing and waning has retained lawyers for his defence. However, we hear that moralists and nationalists are still unforgiving because he has brought the ‘Jathiye Keerthi Namaya’ (national honour) into disrepute. Whether a single individual, though a representative of a national sports team, can disgrace a nation is a subjective opinion but we wonder what these conscientious objectors are doing about the ‘Jathiye Keerthi Namaya’ regarding those who have bankrupted the country and now are going around the world with a begging bowl in hand.
Gunathilaka’s case has brought into focus the status of the male of the homo sapiens species regarding sexual offences in these days of so-called gender equality.
Not being lawyers, we are not aware whether there are specific rules/regulations regarding two consenting adults in sexual relations. Gender equality, we are made to understand, generally implies that in allegations not only regarding sex offences but in most allegations against men, women’s allegations should be given much more weightage than the accused.
Does it imply that the law hitherto practised — that there should be evidence to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to find a person guilty of an offence — is now being overridden by gender equality when allegations made by females are considered? That, in our opinion, goes beyond gender equality and is the grant of Women’s Gender Superiority. We haven’t heard from jurisprudential authorities on the subject.
No civilised man would want a woman to be treated as a slave subjected to the dictates of men, as has happened through the course of history and happens still in some instances. But shouldn’t all humans be considered equals?
(The writer is a former editor of The Sunday Island,
The Island and consultant editor of the Sunday Leader.