Elmo at Candleaid welfare function
Currently [September 2010] it is all cricket and cricket in Sri Lanka and the theme is in full swing with the Indians, the Kiwis and us playing musical chairs as to who would be lime-lighting in Rangiri Dambulla or on the Dialog TV screens. If time permits, this is great entertainment. Amidst the ball and willow trend we saw the greatest of them all bowling his farewell overs in Galle and retiring into a glorious sunset, giving a crystal clear lesson to everyone on what greatness is and how professionals behave especially when twined with humility.
Yes! It is only at the going down of the sun one would know how beautiful the day has been; Mr. Muttiah Muralitharan played the best and walked tall to a sunset filled with glory, his dignity totally intact. I wonder what he would have said if he had to bowl without umpires? 800 wickets in the bag and the name embossed in gold in the record books, it would be interesting to know how he would have fared if there was none to judge “out” or “not-out.”
From the dawn of independence to the day I am writing this article in 2010 we Sri Lankans have been bowling without umpires. Lend me your ears dear readers, my aviation sodden scatter brain still has some notions left that I need to share with you. Look back and give it a thought, ours has been a sojourn of only bowling, demon fast bowling, spinners twisting and the medium pacees revelling in accuracy. We have all bowled our hearts out in this paradise island where the “powers that be” batsmen have hammered us to all corners of the field in gay abandon simply because these matches of my imagination never had umpires. True or false? Let’s take a look.
Talk about judge-less cricket, that’s what we are playing and it has become so common that “no umpire” existence has become a way of life in Sri Lanka. The funny part is – bad enough there is no man to judge, but the field placing too is done by the batsman himself so that he can wriggle his singles or cover drive at will or leg glance through gaps that had been created in the system purely for the benefit of the batsman.
The cheering squads too who fill the stands add to the dilemma of the bowler. They cheer loud and clear, the minions who are peripheral at best; the ship’s cabin boy kicking the ship’s cat. Haven’t we seen all this before?
A young girl with a degree laments to me. She has been sponsored by an organisation I am associated with. “Sir, can you get me a job even to work as a domestic help looking after children?” She hails from the pavements of poverty, father dead, mother sick, breadwinner with a degree and no place to win her bread. What kind of bowling is she doing? Where is the umpire for her? Going for tertiary education wrapped in rags and fostering hopes for four years to come out of the university and pick gold from the streets like Dick Wittington did. She certainly is bowling on a dead wicket to a field placed by the batsman and none to judge the right or wrong of her tragic tale?
Is this isolated? Not by a long shot. It is the systems that came to life from 1948 to date that had strangled the denizen of paradise and placed this young girl on a possible path of suicide.
Of course there is always the show, the hora umpires who when supposed to raise fingers say “nay’ to the whims and fancies of puppetries that come in all classes and all places. That too is the system. All aimed at ridiculing the rights of the ordinary which has become the often spoken lingua franca, so much so the resilient Sri Lankan knows no better and has accepted the inevitable or is converting to accept the worse without protest.
Most of us by now have learnt to laugh like clowns and cheer in counterfeit as there is no other game at the Oval of life. Not for Sri Lankans unless you are on the batting side.
Don’t blame the present Government; blame all governments and the big guns and the big names that fired “puss wedi” in the name of democracy throughout our independent walk. Paths of progress that we inherited sixty years ago got weed clogged by the negligence of the leaders. They have all chipped in to bring this “no umpire” situations that are a plague to our paradise. Each had weaved a few shreds into the whole cloth that shrouds the shame. Accountability has been erased or subtracted and replaced with batsmen who score at will. They attack through fieldsmen they themselves placed and knowing there would be no LBW, no stumping or caught behind the wicket and even if they are yoked and clean bowled Malinger style, the claim is always available that it was a “no ball.”
Are there answers to these one sided cricket matches? Yes, of course the solutions are always there for man’s mismanagement of event, be it secular, religious, ethnic or political. The need is for the “mea culpa” to be a visible feature, admitted or forced to admit so that the ones who erred know there is a reckoning and perhaps some retribution. Or better still, if umpires are appointed at all levels so that there is a system of appeal to the frustrated bowler.
The miracle year has come and gone. The last bullet was fired at the Nandikadal lagoon and the promise of dawn for a better day became the hope of everyone. The battle scared climb out of poverty was a sure step for prosperity and bowlers like you and me got ready to bowl as we’ve done so many times before.
Did it happen, or is it happening? I really don’t know.
And we hope for the umpires to come to the field wearing their “Fly Emirates” white coats and fair play dominating their minds. Let them be ready to raise the finger at the irresponsible batsman. Let those who bowl in the shadows of gutter-glitter be given a fair deal in life and not be exploited at every street corner. Gallery ballads we’ve seen enough, they shower and shine and leave us none the wiser. Reality is a bigger picture that should be handled by bigger men who see bigger visions for the country.
Let life go on, in this paradise land and let the umpiring begin. This is a golden opportunity Sri Lanka has earned for a golden era to arrive. We are all ready to bowl; we only need an appealing path that respects the scales of justice.
Muttiah Muralitharan is gone from Test cricket, retired; even his incomparable magnificence needed umpires. Yes, they may make their mistakes and call “out” what is not or refuse a “right” appeal. But that is all in the game, as long as we have someone to judge reasonably when we bowl.
Count your paces and measure your run-up and shine the ball and bowl: I like to think the umpires will soon be in place. At least I still have hope.
If not we will be playing one sided cricket all our lives leaving the legacy for the generations to come, irrespective of the political winds that change.