Upul Wijayawardhana in The Island 29 July 2016, with title Murali is no traitor
What cricketers do in retirement is their business; some take to politics and do a very bad job; others create Ministries, not of government but, of crab and make a great success of it; most do coaching, many of our cricketers having successful coaching careers. It looks as if it is the norm for most teams to have ‘foreign coaches’. Well, it was so even in 1996 when we won the World Cup; our coach was Dav Whatmore who though born in Sri Lanka, migrated to Australia and played test cricket for Australia but helped us defeat Australia in the finals. Murali should be free to coach any team that pays him well and we have no right to object at all if we never offered to employ him.
Unlike many Sri Lankans I am no cricket fanatic, may be because the first time ever I faced a cricket ball, in my schooldays, I ended up with an injury, though minor, to my right thumb diminishing my enthusiasm for the gentlemen’s game. I say I am not a fanatic because often I find that my English friends know more about our cricketers than I do. However, I have been a great supporter of our cricket team and have been very proud of their achievements. I have proudly failed the Norman Tebbit’s ‘Cricket Test’. For the sake of those who are too young to know what it is, I should reiterate what the Conservative politician said in 1990:”A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?” Fortunately, my English friends are more understanding than Lord Tebbit and, in fact, many of them are ardent supporters of the Sri Lanka team, except when they are playing against England.
It is true to say that Cricket is the only sport in which we have produced players and officials of international repute, distinction and recognition. In recent times, without a shade of doubt, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Muthiah Muralitharanhave been the brightest stars and it is their retirement that has put Sri Lanka cricket in the perilous position that it is in today but am sure it is only a matter of time before new stars emerge.
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka Cricket, the governing body, has come into prominence, often, for the wrong reasons. The brother of one of our superstars of yesteryear, who was the president not so long ago, nearly bankrupted it. The new president has hit international sporting headlines by calling Murali a traitor, which BBC gleefully reported today (July 26). I do not know whether it is mis-translation of a Sinhala word he used but Murali accepting the position of ‘bowling coach’ for the visiting Australian team cannot be interpreted as an act of treachery. Apparently, Murali ‘bullied’ ground staff to allow Aussies to play on the Pallekele grounds the day before the first test. If Murali broke rules he and the Australian team should be punished according to rules, not slandered.
According to the BBC report: Sumathipala added: “Professionally, it is OK for Murali to coach any foreign team, but the irony is that he is supporting Australia which tried to get him out of cricket. He is creating long-term damage for himself among his fans. I feel sad.”
I am sorry, I am not in agreement and feel any sane observer will take a totally different view. Aussie action is the total vindication of Murali and Sri Lanka cricket. True, it is they who tried to slander Murali about his bowling; Australian umpires reported him for suspect bowling in 1995 and again in 1999; John Howard, then Australian Prime minister, called him a ‘chucker’ but the International Cricket Council cleared Murali after rigorous testing. Egg was on their face! True, Sri Lanka Cricket spent a lot to defend Murali’s honour but that was their duty and they would and should have done the same for any other player in a similar situation. Australian cricket’s action is either ‘eating the last bit of humble pie’ or gross hypocrisy. Whatever it may be it is Murali that triumphed and brought credit to Sri Lanka, again.
Murali retired from international cricket in 2011 with a record tally of 800 wickets in Test Cricket, 92 more than his closest rival Shane Warne of Australia in 43 fewer innings and 534 wickets in One-Day Internationals, 32 more than the closest rival Wasim Akram of Pakistan. These records remain intact even today and what is surprising is that we have not explored ways of using his talents after retirement.
What cricketers do in retirement is their business; some take to politics and do a very bad job; others create Ministries, not of government but, of crab and make a great success of it; most do coaching, many of our cricketers having successful coaching careers. It looks as if it is the norm for most teams to have ‘foreign coaches’. Well, it was so even in 1996 when we won the World Cup; our coach was Dav Whatmore who though born in Sri Lanka, migrated to Australia and played test cricket for Australia but helped us defeat Australia in the finals. Murali should be free to coach any team that pays him well and we have no right to object at all if we never offered to employ him. I am in agreement with the sentiments expressed by Mr G. A. D. Sirimal in his piece: ‘Cricket consultant –Murali’ (The Island 27 July)
Murali, a man who had brought so much of credit to our Motherland. We should all be proud of him and wish him as much success in coaching as in bowling. It is still not too late for the Sri Lanka Cricket board to look for ways to utilize the talents of Murali and other Greats of Cricket.