I recall a recent article by reporter Krishnamurthy in Cricket Age which was marked by its mud-slinging character [as well as its poor command of the English language – jarring but not a major issue]. But his venal essay on Chandika Hathurusingha’s religious preferences is beyond the pale. It must be challenged and undermined.
For one, it neglects the fact that Sumathipala was among those who brought Hathuru into the fold. … and that Sumathipala himself has been an arch conspirator throughout his many years in the BCCSL and then in Sri Lanka Cricket.
For another, Krishnamurthy neglects the cricketing reasons for removing Mathews as captain (as distinct from a place in the team): namely, as Andrew Fidel Fernando clarified on ESPNcricinfo, serious issues attached to his running between the wickets: “If you look at his record, he has been involved in about 64 run outs, and 49 times the opposite guy got run out. That’s a world record” (a quotation from Hathurusinghe in Fernando’s article). Since Mathews bats in the middle order at a time when the team needs to raise the scoring rate, any cricketer will tell you this weakness – namely his sluggishness in running between the wickets — slows down the overall rate and increases panic in ways that could lead to more wickets falling.
However, the main issue here in Krishnamurthy’s muckraking essay is that of individual and collective religious practices in support of one’s on-field cricketing endeavours. As in any sport, cricketers confront determined opponents and face nerve-tangling situations and even some danger from a hurtling cricket ball.
Some seek reassurance and aid from the powers-beyond, the powers-below and powers all around. This could be a pirit nula; or strings blessed by a Hindu deity or goddess (as with paceman Srikanth and several Indian players). Over time we know of several Sri Lankan players who have visited the dēvāles at Kataragama or Munneswaram or Lunāwa.
They are pursuing standard protective practices that are also pursued by politicians, businessmen and criminals (overlapping categories these three and Sumathipala could fit ….).
Since cricket is a team effort, it has sometimes been the practice for the whole Sri Lankan team and its trainers to participate in a collective act of blessing before a bhikkhu or Buddhist symbol in a context where it is a basic understanding that the Buddha cannot intercede on behalf of anyone. Fairly recently, Alan Donald (then one of the bowling coaches working with Graham Ford) visited the Daladā Maligāva with the team and received all the powers associated with such a visit. In fact, the epic photograph of all the cricketers in white upasaka outfits has three Christians in the front row. It is very ecumenical and generates no problem.
Such participation in a collective act is a decision for each individual within the team and its supporting staff. It so happens that Chandika Hathurusingha, brought up though he was in the Wanathamulla area, fell in love with a good-looking lass named Benedict. When I met them in Nugegoda way back,*++* they had named their son “Cullen” after the Kiwi rugby fullback – a decision that indicates their openness to the world as well as an enthusiasm for rugger.
His wife’s name suggested to me that she was a Catholic; but it is possible that she was a born-again Christian of some Pentecostal stream of consciousness (whether Catholic or Protestant). Or, their religious affiliations may have subsequently moved in a Pentecostal direction. Be that as it may, it is the fundamental right of every individual to refrain from participation in invocations associated with a different faith if they so wish.
In bringing this charge up now, Krishnamurthy is pursuing dirty chauvinist tactics. If he is from India himself, he may well be planting time-bombs in an enemy camp as part of foreign affiliations. If he is a Sri Lankan, he is expressing his intolerant chauvinist leanings.
Krishnamurthy’s article is a low-down gutter act that is a blot on The Cricket Age and its editorial staff.
A COMMENT from Jagath Fernando in Colombo:
This review is fully endorsed by me, as it should be in a Collective Voice by all right thinking people !
In this age where everyone and anyone has access to Social Media and are able to voice their views and opinions, it is generally the few with “ vested interests“ who do so in pursuit of their agendas.
Whilst Mathew’s Case can be debated by all who may wish to do so, it is important that views such as those referred to previously are quickly rebutted in the interests of SL and SLC!
Quote “there is nothing worse than for good men and women to do nothing …”
*++* Way back in the 1990s Hathuirsingha played cricket for A district club in Adelaie and i had met him at Sujeeva Kamalasuriya’s place. In my informal chats with him on Sri Lankan cricket in the early 2000s when he was an Assistant Coach I was impressed by his insights and capacity. I thought DS de Silva took far too rigid a line in dismissing him over an issue that called for flexibility.
Michael Roberts: Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006.
Andrew Fidel Fernando: “The Axing of Mathews: A Key Factor divulged,” 30 September 2018, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/the-axing-of-mathews-a-key-factor-divulged/#more-11261
Andrew Fidel Fernando:”Sri Lanka Crash-land at Dubai in Woeful Effort,” 16 September 2018, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/11221/#more-11221