Enjoy cricket yet eliminate unjust structures in its name in Sri Lanka

By Lakshan Dias

Lets enjoy cricket as well as let’s eliminate unjust political structures and agendas from our society”

Political Cricket

Opium of the Nation(s)

Cricket is no doubt be the most sentimental and madly worshiping interaction of urban Sri Lankans and in rural settings up to some extent. Sri Lankans are not as crazy as Indians whom treated their cricketers as demi-Gods and pelting stones when they loose. Except one incident around 1990’s we never heard that Sri Lankan fans pelted stones at cricketers’ residences. Sri Lankans treated cricket as their national sport or most favorite sport. Many Sri Lankans like to use cricket language and cricket knowledge to be prominent among others. I too belong to that category and enjoy cricket very much.

No exception

As well as many other interactions, incidents and happenings – in cricket also interacts politically, ethnically and religiously divided Sri Lankan society. Even though we see active political dealings in many other socio political issues, Sri Lankans are reluctant to accept that there are political behaviors in cricket as well. Sri Lankans tempt to think that cricket is more non-political gentleman sport that inspires the nations towards patriotism and a rallying point for unity among Sri Lankans (with a propaganda such as even Tigers loves cricket very much). Cricket simply does not mean only a rallying point and inspiration flavored with patriotism but also an issue of deprivation, marginalization and hegemonic expression of the dominant community and the dominant class. Further it has carrying forward the existing corrupted social and economical structures of Sri Lanka society. It’s also a symbol of unjust, unequal and macho styled social fabric of Sri Lanka.

[Oct 2005: Cricket game in Tsunami affected and then LTTE controlled Soodaikuda, near Muthur in Sri Lanka’s East: Pic HumanityAshore.org]

Imposition of Cricket

I purposely used cricket as predominantly urban game here, as it is not yet internalized by the rural settings of Sri Lanka. With the peculiar terminologies (silly point), elite heritage and artificially created economical elitism have sidelined the fans of rural settings as they don’t possessed any of the above . Backwardness in English language did not make rural communities fully comfortable to embrace cricket as their household commodity but serves as incidental and occasional entertainment offer. Today cricket is strong marketing commodity for the print and electronic media and the media impose mentality and an attitude invites non-urban communities to embrace cricket or experience the embracement in sophisticated world. There is a powerful project to impose cricket in to remote communities or non-urban communities through gimmicks and non-conventional means. One such efforts was bringing astrologers and films stars as commentators and commentating facilitators during international tournaments. Further trying to introduce newly created Singhalese words in to the commentaries. Practically these words cannot be applying international cricket but only to satisfy the above target group and erase the linguistic shyness of non-urban communities. In the actual world these nationalized (Singhalanised) or cricket does not provide acceptance in the cricket discourse as its strongly knitted with English language. In that sense cricket is political marginalization and socially cheating under privilege communities and freely allowed market forces to exploited them. Cricket will never become a national sport in true sense but will use it as a hegemonic power to deal intra community power issues and subdue impoverished communities. It hasn’t reached the hearts and minds of these impoverished communities and there is nothing for them to enjoy unless they embrace the patriotism flavored with cricket.

[Apr 4, 2007: Pietersen reaches his half century but chips a return catch to Muttiah Muralitharan to leave England 126-4: BBC Sports]

Cricket beyond unity

Puffing the ethnicity images of Muralitharan or Arnold doesn’t mean that Sri Lanka is an equal society, while some other cricketers had changing their names to survive in mainstream cricket. There is a serious ethnic and religious imbalance in our mainstream cricket. Sri Lankan Cricket has failed to accommodate more inclusive behavioral patterns instead they are moving towards more patriotic and towards dominant ethnicity. In brief Cricket in Sri Lanka serve to the market interests that dominates by majority ethnic group covered with nationalism as their urge to the deeply divided society. As well as media and other social enterprises, cricket also catering to the market interests or the interests of the sub conscious sentiments of the majority. Therefore its very much visible that cricket as whole expects to be singhala friendly, promote sinhala values, and establish singhala psyche in cricket.Imitating singhala slang’s and Ayya-Malli kind of language (which is very power related dynamic) adopted in the cricket field , “Prith nool” protectionism, chanting “pritih” to bless the team and behavior according to singhala values. Just before the world cup departure there was huge hue and cry from the Lankadeep newspaper that cricketers were unaware of Sri Lankans religious traditions (they are talking about Singhala Buddhist traditions). The newspaper complains that cricketers misbehaved or didn’t respect “Jayamangala gatha” (Buddhist chanting for blessings). The underlined tone of the lankadeepa article that came from a moderate Singhala newspaper is the growing psych in Singhala dominated urban and semi urban societies. In return we have to question how far these state institutions accommodate Muslim, Christian, or Hindu rituals and what the prominence given to these religions in cricket culture. There are many players in the national team who are non-Buddhist and non-Singhalese and how far their ethnicities and religions are respected and receive prominence in these activities. It is an issue that worth to discuss. The Sri Lankanness that propagate by the nationalist discourse is nothing more than building exclusionism even in the cricket.

[Mar 28, 2007: Arnold plays a sweep shot during the game against South Africa: BBC Sports]

Ethnicity

The entire Sri Lanakn cricketing psyche is Singhalese dominated and there is no space for minorities unless you are coming from Colombo or Kandy cities. I am saying these things, as there are no proper products from north and east for last 25 years. Only a player appeared recently with northern background due to the peace created by CFA. If any body claiming that there shouldn’t be any influence of politics on cricket then I would like to question why there is no development in cricket in north and east, which is the political pattern of Sri Lanka. Why state or cricket authorities failed to develop cricket in north and east? Is it because they follow state politics as tools of their expansion strategy or is it because singhala psyche doesn’t work towards those sensitive issues. No wonder that people of north and east feel marginalized and neglected as the found there is no one from their community for the last 25 years in the most lovable game of them. Representation is a basic requirement for democracy and lack of representation indicates there is no democracy in this most visible game in Sri Lanka. The other representation issue comes in the cricket commentaries , Tamil limits only to 5 minutes when ever some one got out.Tamil listeners or views have to satisfied with that and I never heard that a full match is commentated in Tamil in my life may be I am wrong but I never heard its so rare if it is happened. Therefore cricket became a property of one community. There were many emails circulated on one talented Muslim cricketers selection in to the team abusing his ethnicity. These are not just coincident but the reflect of psyche of Sri Lanka majority.

[Apr 4, 2007: Lasith Malinga then traps Ed Joyce lbw to have both England openers back in the pavilion for just 11 runs: BBC Sports]

Cricket as Entertainment

In sports many seems to look at sportspersons as representatives of the country. It is getting challenged by the recent past even among sports fan and factually many of these sports people are more or less becoming individuals of the relevant sport and portraying them selves as entertainers. This has given individual value for each of them and its clearly visible when sponsors bidding for players. Instead of communities sportspersons or artists need to represent themselves or their belongingness instead of the country as countries are created entities loose in belongingness in diverse societies. Therefore we should begin to look at cricketers as entertainers of the country as peoples enjoy the way of their entertaining. If we look at Sri Lankan teams as bunch of entertainers we must be happy that they did their job very best for many years since world cup even before that with some few lapses. If we look at them as entertainers then we wont loose our affiliations and expectations. Taking away the ambassador sentiments and patriotism and its subsequent characteristics it will make things more easy to absorb and many can enjoy it as mode of entertaining. We should not forget that large segment of the society are not cricket fans and they do not contribute to the cricket madness even though there is strong mechanism to be dragged them in to this entertainment field. Again if we analyses the cricket in Sri Lankan we can see how many villages are still without electricity a how many doesn’t have televisions or radio and how far the first minority in Sri Lanakn which is women are attracted or allowed to enjoy to cricket. So this is again an entertainment only of a one-power block in social structure and entire society is paying the cost of few people’s entertainment (I don’t wants to bring facts and figures to justify this).

Cricket and Gender

As I explained in the previous paragraph we are talking about a sport of which women are not taken seriously. Men are allowed to drink, shout and dance while cricket is going on both at the stadium and at home. But culturally women are influenced to be silent viewers or facilitators of the enjoying men . Women in the home front are mainly play the supportive role even at the home their role as usual is preparing bites (when husbands drink) and silently observed what’s happening on the ground and rarely women in the stadiums cheering but it’s not a common in Sri Lanka. In the other hand no body is serious when women playing cricket and also there are no heroines in cricket in Sri Lanka may be other parts of the world as well. This is another angle of Sri Lankan cricket and Gender politics that is very much biased towards men.

[Oct 2005: Cricket game in Tsunami affected and then LTTE controlled Soodaikuda, near Muthur in Sri Lanka’s East: Pic HumanityAshore.org]

End

I don’t want to get in to debate on Amnesty International campaign in Caribbean Islands. I would like to say that government and authorities got the message what AI wanted to convey even before they launch it. AI already reached its objectives as government reacted so defensive as they have skeletons in their wardrobes.

Secondly it was not only against government and it’s against LTTE too. Therefore one should not that offended and may address the point they raise. I don’t think whatever campaign AI do will affect the Sri Lankan cricket team. As entertainers they performed well at the England match and all cricket lovers must be happy over their performances.

Lets enjoy cricket as well as let’s eliminate unjust political structures and agendas from our society.

Social Justice Activists: Contact: lakshandias@yahoo.co.uk

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Other Articles by author: Sinhala-Tamil Nationalism and Sri Lanka’s East Coast Veddas

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