Thick maybe the mud slung at the Sri Lankan cricketers from time to time, yet no matter what hits the headlines of the national dailies, for the twenty two million fans on this island soil they are the paragons of sportsmanship. For a citizenry to whom cricket is not a religion but a way of life, those who play the game are no gods who walk in the sky; but eleven ordinary men who rose to the extra-ordinariness through perseverance, endurance and courage. They are as vulnerable as any one of us. They could be hit by bullets. Away from the sharp-eyed cameras, they could cry over the World Cup losses. And when there is a win, we take the pride in claiming its ownership. Every win and defeat becomes a public property.
And then there is the money factor.
If the cry is that match fixing has become rampant in the recent past, the authorities that operate above the players should also be held responsible for it. In fact, it is their duty to see that the players’ discipline is maintained, irrespective of the bad times the local cricket authorities go through financially. Instead of counting their money in the dark, it is high time they open their eyes to the ground realities.
No doubt, with the emergence of the IPL (Indian Premier League), cricket administrations around the world have lost the reins of their players. Here in Sri Lanka, the story does not differ much.
The titled 'Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy' by an award-winning sports journalist Ed Hawkins made ripples in the island with its shocking revelation that the Test match played between England and Sri Lanka at Cardiff in May 2011 - which was won by England - was fixed. In the wake of the exposé, Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has requested the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to probe the match-fixing allegations involving Sri Lanka.
This is not the first time such an allegation has been directed at the Sri Lankan cricketers. In this instance however, one should not convict them without a fair hearing; nor should they be labelled ‘match-fixers’ if their hands are genuinely clean. After all, how could one give much credit to the content of a book, when the author being an award winning journalist did not think it was newsworthy enough to go in a paper?
The fans who support the National Eleven are under no illusion that what goes on behind the curtains is as bright as what one sees on the television screen. They may be the envy of the politicians who have to go from door to door begging for public support in their maiden run to popularity. There is a reason why people lock their doors and walk into stadiums.
It is up to those who stand under the floodlights to make sure that they do not become popular for wrong reasons. It is their duty to see that the twenty-two million hearts that beat in accordance with theirs do not throb for a lost cause.