The Cricketing World in 1975: Glaring Anomalies

Michael Roberts

Sri Lanka entered the high-profile scenario of world cricket via its entry into the first and second rounds of the World Cup in 1975 and 1979 held in England, the bastion of cricket. As a pertinent aside let me note that at that point in 1975 the cricketing world at the top had not witnessed the transformations in financial returns for its personnel or the revolutionary technological media coverage that commenced with Kerry Packer’s intervention via World Series Cricket.

However, in dwelling once again** on that eventful match at Kensington Oval on 11th June 1975 when the minnows of Sri Lanka faced the giant Aussies, I happened to seek more information from one of the players featuring in a photograph of Duleep Mendis being carried off after he was felled – yes hit on the head — by paceman Geoff Thomson.

This picture shows two Thomians, Mevan Pieris and Dennis Chanmugan, carrying Mendis (another Thomian) with the Manager of the side, KMT Perera immediately alongside and the incoming batsman, Anura Tennekoon (yet another Thomian)[1] trailing along with deep anxiety etched in his face.

Mevan Pieris[2] clarified matters thus in a recent email response to my inquiry:

“There was no official Sri Lankan doctor in attendance on us. When Sunil Wettimuny’s leg was smashed up by Thomson and retired hurt, there was no first aid in the dressing room. The only one who attended on him was myself by rubbing the Wintergeno I had brought from Sri Lanka. Nor was there a stretcher handy to carry an incapacitated player.

The dark guy [in the Pix of Duleep being carried back] may have been some volunteer doctor or busy body that emerged from the crowd. KMT and this guy joined Dennis and me carrying Duleep back only after we had carried him half the way back to the dressing room. Duleep was conscious and grabbed me with his arm around.

Not a single Australian offered to help and had done nothing until Dennis and I reached the middle (quite a journey from the dressing room) to see Duleep’s eye balls turning backwards.” ………………… Regards, Mevan

Reflections

One: The absence of a team doctor indicates a failure on the part of the Board of Control for SL Cricket (and possibly also the ICC). If this was a general rule, it marks the amateur attitudes of the cricketing ‘bishops’ THEN and highlights the contrast with present-day practices. If the leading countries did have their own doctor in attendance, then the BCCSL stands condemned for not inviting Sri Lanka medics resident in England of suitable competence to serve in a voluntary capacity as “team doctor” – for there would have been several who would have grabbed the opportunity.[3]

Two: the absence of a first-aid kit of any kind in the players pavilion is a startling fact and an indictment – a serious accusation that can be directed at both the Surrey CC and the BCCSL jointly and singly. Bloody amateurs? perhaps marking the amateurish aura of the ICC and MCC then?

Three: the Australians of that day led by Ian Chappell, with tough blokes like Rodney Marsh, Thomson and Lillee, seemingly took the field in the manner of Anzacs entering the battlefield trenches of World War One. They would take no prisoners. When speed merchant Thommo hit Sri Lanka’s opening batsman Sunil Wettimuny on the ankle  (shortly after Mendis had been  hospitalised and the  score read something like 140 for 2 wkts) and the latter hobbled in agony in front of the batting crease, rumour alleges that Thomson threw the ball at the stumps to run him out.

Give no quarter, man, you are not a mate! He did not say that …. but that was the spirit in which he, Thommo, seems to have played the game.

In this connection, then, mark the most resonant aspect of Mevan Pieris’ ethnographic note: Not a single Australian offered to help [Mendis] and …. [They] did nothing.”

This little ‘sidelight’ is a damning indictment. It raises questions that defy definitive answers. Would the Aussies have reacted in a similar fashion if the batsman had been X and Y from the England side? Was there a measure of Orientalism in their perspective?[4]

These assertions and speculations also lead me to suggest that the cricketing world has changed for the better since the 1970s. In conjectural manner I say that most cricketers on the world stage today would rush to aid an opponent who was seriously hurt.

However, the will to win persists still in the “green fields of cricket” today and can push some to stretch the borders of sportsmanship[5] – while the whole bloody world and the ICC-plus-MCC permit verbal assault by clothing it with the euphemism “sledging.” The universe of cricket will remain besmirched in my eyes[6] until the ICC and the MCC link hands to install a punishment of sin bin, the most effective being eviction from  the field of play for a stipulated period for offensive remarks – that is a sin-binning.”

**** ****

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alan Gibson: “Sri Lankan prospects please until Thomson injures two batsmen” in Roberts & James, Crosscurrents, 1998 Walla Walla Press, pp. 88-90.

Mervyn Pereira: “Sri Lanka’s gallant display talking point in the press,” in Roberts & James, Crosscurrents, 1998 Walla Walla Press, pp. 90-94.

Michael Roberts: “The Grunt, The Spit and the Snarl in Sports,” in Roberts, Essaying Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publishers, 2006, pp. 96-97.

Michael Roberts: “Sin-Bin for Verbal Intimidation,” in Roberts, Essaying Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publishers, 2006, pp. 98-102.

Michael Roberts: “Landmarks and Threads in the Cricketing Universe of Sri Lanka,” Sport in Society, 2007, 10(1), 120-142.

Michael Roberts: “Wunderkidz in a Blunderland: Tensions and Tales from Sri Lankan cricket,” Sport in Society, 2009, 12(4-5), 566-578.

Tony Cozier: “No Place in Cricket for Sledging,” in Roberts, Essaying Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publishers, 2006, pp. 208-09.

Thuppahi: “Sri Lanka at ‘War’ at Kennington Oval,” 1 August 2016 https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/sri-lanka-at-war-at-kennington-oval-london-on-8th-june-1975/

Michael Roberts:Tamil Demonstrations and Thommo’s Thunderbolts: Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval at the 1975 World Cup,” 1 February 2019, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/tamil-demonstrations-and-thommos-thunderbolts-sri-lanka-at-kennington-oval-at-the-1975-world-cup/

END NOTES

[1] It is sheer coincidence that four Thomians are in the centre of this tale (with Sunil Wettimuny of Ananda the only exception). As I have argued elsewhere, the high proportion of Thomians in the Ceylon sides of the 1950s to 1970s was due to the coaching skills of Lassie Abeywardena and the flow-on of good practice via generational overlaps (see Roberts, “Landmarks,” 2007 ).

[2] HSM Pieris from Colombo 7 and S. Thomas’ College received a University Degree in the Sciences where his skills in polymer science earned him an executive post in leading companies in Colombo.  He still works and lectures. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mevan_Pieris for his cricketing history.

[3] Dr Siri Kannangara in Sydney and Dr “Ravi” Ravindran in Adelaide happily attended to the needs of Sri Lankan teams when they were in town.

[4] “Orientalism’ is the title of a book by the Egyptian intellectual Edward Said –one that generated a sociological concept that describes the patronizing and superior attitude of the European world towards the people and the countries of the “East” — notions of superiority encoded within high literature as well as everyday productions in the early modern and modern periods of world history. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism_

[5] Clearly the sandpaper incident in South Africa will be raised by many in support of this contention. But that was only one instance. There has been a long history of verbal intimidation in the practices of the Australians. The Sri Lankan touring sides who visited Adelaide in the 1980s were quite stunned by the animus and displayed in gamesmanship by even the country town sides they played against (they were killing time while the Commonwealth Games in Auckland?) interfered with their tour. The epitome of this spirit lay with the Aussie keepers: for e.g: Healy, Haddin Wade (but not Gilchrist). The blokes from New South Wales seem to have been committed to these tactics over the years –especially when they were playing minnows and newcomer Asian sides in the 1980s and 1990s [before the IPL began to influence White Aussie cricketers). McGrath shouldered and abused Sanath Jayasuriya on one occasion (See Roberts, “The Grunt…,” 2006) and Michael Clarke was no exception as captain. Hence the arrogance displayed by Smith and warner in South Africa is grounded in a substantial and ‘venerable’ (!!@!!) lineage.

[5] See Cozier 2006 and Roberts, “Sin-bin,” 2006

1 Comment

Filed under accountability, Australian culture, centre-periphery relations, cricket for amity, cultural transmission, disparagement, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, life stories, performance, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, Sri Lankan cricket, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

One response to “The Cricketing World in 1975: Glaring Anomalies

  1. Pingback: No Duty of Care: Cricket in the 1970s-and-Before | Thuppahi's Blog

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