Trauma and Joy in Cricket …. and Abusive Lankan Aussies

Ajit Jayasekera — Email Memo to Michael Roberts, 15 February 2021

When we went to Australia for the Tri Nations tournament with England and Australia in December 2002/January 2003, the team was captained by Sanath Jayasuriya and the Coach was Dav Whatmore. We were after a rather disastrous tour of South Africa, where we were roundly beaten in both formats of the game and started this tournament in similar disastrous manner getting smashed by both England and Australia in the opening games.

Sanath, Marvan & Ajit
When we played Australia in the second game at Adelaide, Australia bowled us out for something like 65 runs and knocked off the required runs in next to no time. The match was over even before the spectators all came into the grounds. It was farcical. An ‘Exhibition’ game was arranged for the benefit of the late comer spectators. That was even more farcical. Sri Lankans in Australia had obtained my mobile number and they started calling me and abusing me.  During this game, I invited Joe Hoad to the Team Dressing Room and quietly got him to speak some inspirational words as and when the opportunity arose, to the players. From there, we flew to Sydney for a double header with England and Australia. Sri Lankans in Australia abused me and the team relentlessly.
When we played the double header,  would you believe it, we smashed both teams and won convincing victories. Sanath scored centuries in both games and Marvan scored one against Australia, with Aravinda and Hashan chipping in with some good scores, helping us tremendously. It was a sensational turn around. From the gutters at Adelaide to the stars at Sydney. Heady stuff indeed! Joe’s interaction with our team at Adelaide perhaps set the stage for this remarkable turn around in attitude and form.
We played well in the rest of the games and built up our confidence and went to South Africa for the 2003 World Cup, where we progressed to the semi finals and lost to Australia – the first occasion that we had progressed beyond the first round in a World Cup, besides the 1996 win.
Such is my memory of the remarkable personality, Joe Hoad.

A COMMENT from Michael Roberts

I got to meet Ajit during the team’s stay in Adelaide in Dec/January 2002/03 as one member of the Adelaide Friends of SL Cricket and may well have introduced Joe Hoad to him and the team.[1] Ajit told me then about the abusive phone calls he received and I recall that at least one of these calls had been made by a Burgher Lankan in Melbourne.

Here, therefore, we have witness to the vicious strands of behaviour reposing within Sri Lankan society.[2] Speculating somewhat, I suggest here that some of the individuals who verbally assaulted Ajit and some of the team members on this occasion would be among those who expressed effusive praise when the Sri Lankan team performed well. If this suggestion is valid, this means that the same persons had veered from one extreme to another – a momentous phenomenon IF a SUBSTANTIAL body of people in A NATION are prone to take political action in this manner.

Be that as it may, it is a socio-political truth that over the last two hundred or so years the extremist outbursts of the Fascist Right in some countries have bounced off the extremisms of the Left (or vice versa). In Sri Lanka, moreover, the chauvinisms that emerged within the Sinhala political order from the 1940s stimulated the extremism of Tamil nationalists[3] –some of whom became Tiger zealots; while both these currents provided unwitting stimulation for Islamic strands of extremism within the island from about the 1990s — strands which, in turn, made some Muslim young men and women open to the Wahabi zealotry that promoted the Easter Sunday atrocities of April 2019.


Ameer Ali, ACL  2009a “The Transformation of Muslim Politics in Sri Lanka and the Growth of Wahhabism from the 1980s,” 5 May 2009,

Ameer Ali, ACL 2019b “How Extremisms have fed off Each Other in Sri Lanka, 1950s-to-2019 … and still proceeding,”  6 May 2019,

Fernando, Asiri 2019 “The Thinking and Operational Capacity of the 21/4 Jihadists,” 14 May 2019,

  1. Kanapathypillai 1990 “July 1983: The survivor’s experience,” in Veena Das (ed.) Mirrors of violence. Communities, riots and survivors in South Asia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 221-44.

Obeyesekere, Gananath 1975Sorcery and Premeditated Murder: The Canalization of Aggression” Ethnology, XIV:1, 1-23.

Peiris, Gerald 2009 Twilight of the Tigers, Oxford University Press.

Peiris, Gerald H. 2017 “A Study of Contemporary Buddhist-Muslim Relations in Sri Lanka,” 14 September 2017,

Roberts, Michael 2007 “Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol 30: 857-88.

Roberts, Michael 2019 “Slippages: Where ‘Muslim’ is An Ethnic Label as well as a Religious Typification,”  3 May 2018,

Roberts, Michael 2019 “The Clash of Civilisations and Hate at the Heart of 21/4 in Sri Lanka,” 14 My 2019,

Roberts, Michael 2021 Joe Hoad’s Paintings in Celebration of Sri Lanka’s World Cup Triumph 1996,” 5 February 2018 ,

Roberts Michael 2014 Tamil Person & State, Essays, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications,

Roberts Michael 2014 Tamil Person & State, Pictorial, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications.

Roberts, Michael 1996a “Filial devotion and the Tiger cult of suicide,” Contributions to Indian Sociology 30: 245-72.

Roberts, Michael 1996b “Teaching lessons, removing evil: strands of moral Puritanism in Sinhala nationalist practice,” special issue, South Asia 19: 205-20.

Roberts, Michael 1997 “For Humanity. For the Sinhalese. Dharmapala as crusading bosat,” Journal of Asian Studies 56: 1006-32.

Roberts, Michael 1998/99 “Emotion and the person in nationalist studies,” Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities 24/25: 65-86.

Tambiah, S. J. 1992 Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[1] See Roberts, “Hoad’s Paintings,” 2021.

[2] And I add probably within most societies in the modern era. For Sri Lanka readers should make it a point to read Obeyesekera’s article on the resort to powerful gods/goddesses in order to dispose of enemies or those deemed to have wronged one by a wide range of personnel in Sri Lanka (Ethnology, 1975).

[3] See Roberts 1996a and 1996 as well as Peiris, Twilight, 2009.

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