olleyball is Sri Lanka’s national sport. But cricket, known as -the ‘gentleman’s game’ is by far, the most popular sport in the country, irrespective of gender, class, ethnicity or religious differences.
Yet how many of us know the names of our national volleyball team? A purely amateur sport, untouched by corruption or professionalism -a sport of rural Sri Lanka
Unfortunately, cricket has been in the news more recently not for its gentlemanly qualities, but rather for the worldwide publicity generated via a pre-meditated plan to win a match by cheating via changing the condition of the ball.
A plan formulated by the Australian Vice-Captain, sanctioned by the Australian Captain and forced on to a junior player for implementation.
The crime it seems was so heinous that even the Australian Prime Minister took umbrage and literally called for heads to roll -for ‘shaming Aussie cricket’. Take away the hype and hysteria and the charge boils down to “ball tampering”. Yet this is not the first time players have broken the rules... (unfortunately for the Aussie trio, they were caught on camera by the South Africans who suspected something was amiss when the ball started reverse swinging early).
Sad, but players have not always lived up to the gentlemanly qualities of cricket. The game has been shamed by match-fixing scandals, tainted by players providing bookmakers with insider information, refusing to accept umpires decisions, replete with instances of arrogance and boorishness... simply ‘not cricket’ to use a cricketing adage.
According to Mathew Engel a former editor of Wisden Cricket Almanac, way back in the 1860s the great W.G. Grace of England openly defied an umpire’s ruling... given out by the umpire in the first ball he faced, Grace refused to accept the decision with the famous words, ‘...they came to see me bat, not you umpiring’ when given out lbw! He continued batting.
Cricket used to be divided between ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Players’ defined by the British class structure at the time -Gentlemen from the upper and middle-class background, while Players were from the working class background. It was only back in 1963 the concept was done away with.
During the 1932-33 Test series between England and Australia, England’s captain Douglas Jardine hatched a plan of bodyline bowling specifically designed to combat the skills of Don Bradman, targeting the batsman’s body.
England won the series. But the outcry which followed the tour saw Larwood the bowler dropped while Jardine retained his captaincy...
Use of intemperate language by Aussie cricketers against their opponents are many. Disgraced Aussie coach Lehmann screamed, ranted and raved at Sri Lankan cricketers calling them ‘f*****g niggers’ and ‘c***s’ after he was run out during a test match. No charges were pressed either by Cricket Australia or the ICC.
Famous players reportedly provided bookmakers with pitch reports in return for cash payments, but cricketing authorities phoo-phooed the affair.
Within a short time, the results of matches began to be fixed with bookmakers paying captains and players to throw matches.
The rot had set in... cricketing authorities were forced to take notice. A few laws were set in place, but by and large, did not tackle boorish behaviour or unfair play squarely as happened in football for instance. The failure of the Australian and international cricketing authorities to put a stop to the increasingly boorish and arrogant behaviour, borderline tactics and win-at-any-cost approach of this particular team encouraged the present lot to believe they were beyond reproach.
In the end, it ultimately led to the blatant ball tampering incident in South Africa. The fact that one player protested the tactic, indicates the others also had knowledge of it.
But only three players suffered the consequences. The Captain his Vice Captain and a junior member of the team were, in the end, made scapegoats to save face for crickets administrators.
Sri Lanka Cricket too has faced charges of match-fixing and unfair treatment of players based on political clout.
The SLC needs to take urgent steps to ensure our cricket does not go down a similar slippery slope.