By Prasad Gunewardene
This tribute is paid to man who readily accepted and embraced the national bosom to be loved by all communities in his country. I have never met nor associated this young man.
Thrilled after the magical spin. File photo
But, I have studied his elegance of the game he played, that had a sequence to his achievements to become a world figure. Therefore, I thought to pen this deserving tribute to this man who became a folk hero and a national icon in this country, once tragically flawed by a self induced communal division. He belongs to a special niche in the social firmament. This man with a mellifluous smile is world’s ace spin bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan.
This tribute will not speak much about his glorious achievements on the field. It will recognize the virtual legacy he leaves behind from a long innings he played for his country that brought glory. Muralitharan displayed to all, the true meaning of being identified as a Sri Lankan. That virtue bestowed him with a chapter not only in the cricketing annals of this country, but also in the contemporary social-cultural saga.
Muralitharan the bowler with much wisdom was named one of the Best Five Test cricketers by Wisden, the Bible of Cricket, at the age of 27. Just two years away from the fourth decade of his life, Muralitharan has decided to hang his boots though he has enough stamina to bowl a few more hundred overs to achieve that remarkable mark of claiming 1,000 test wickets. That shows this man is in no hunger or greed for records.
A product of St Anthony’s College, Kandy, Muralitharan is very much an outstanding figure of our times. His entry into the national level of the game signaled the advent of a new rebellious generation impatient to accept challenges on the field. By the time he entered the game at national level, the monopoly of the old established schools like Royal, S Thomas’, Trinity, St Peter’s and St Joseph’s had already been challenged with lesser known schools emerging with talent. The entry of former Sri Lanka skipper, Sanath Jayasuriya from St Servatius College, Matara, could be cited as the beginning of that process. Thus, the elitist hold was irremediably broken.
Muralitharan hailing from Indian origin Tamil background emerged into cricket from a comfortable middle class family. Therefore, he had the good fortune of playing the game quite comfortably on the field. He felt a little uncomfortable when he was targeted time and again by the ‘white cobbler’ breed.
He faced criticism from that breed at regular intervals which habitually looked down upon the coloured skin. But, a steady Muralitharan stormed such citadels and bastions of the established ‘white order’ of the game, known to be ‘god fathers’ of the oiled willow and the red leathered ball.
The callous attitude of the ‘white cobbler’ breed helped Muralitharan to become an emblem of the oppressed class in the Third World. Virulent attacks launched at the level of Prime Ministers of that breed, proved to the world that here was a man from a minority class in the Third World ready to accept challenges from the established old imperial hegemony imposed from historical times on the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Let me write here for record and future reference that Australia, itself a British colony was in the vanguard of slings and arrows aimed at this Sri Lankan spin bowler who was a challenge to Aussie spinner, Shane Warne. Muralitharan fearlessly faced all such illiberal instincts that demonstrated deep seated feelings and animosity against the coloured people from time immemorial.
Why did the British introduce cricket to its own ‘white’ colonies? The paradox was an attempt to civilize those heathen tribes who were beyond the law. Muralitharan’s patience and braveness proved to the ‘white breed’ that he came from a nation which had a proud civilized history that spanned over 2500 years. This world class spinner was aware that the moment a coloured man was in a position to outdo the white - bells, telephones, books, candles or any implement at their command would be thrown at him, contrary to the liberal democratic inhibitions, the whites preached as a daily prayer to the coloured people.
This demonic bowler, who shook the ‘white order’ and took the whole world by surprise, struggled to overcome his congenital turn of the wrist. The ‘white cobbler’ breed attempted to crucify him for that natural physical cause. The mealy-mouthed white gods of the game, time and again, miserably failed in such attempts. Stepping from success to greater success, Muralitharan displayed to the white breed that laurels and plaudits were not meant to be worn on the forehead, as rampantly seen in the West.
Muralitharan was a unifier on and off the field. He is a good example for all our Tamil political leaders. The ace spinner played a very long innings with a team as a member from a minority. He calmly faced all slings and arrows aimed at him from the ‘white cricket’ order. He forged unity waging a long struggle against the western hegemony of all types. He took victory and defeat in stride.Muralitharan has his heart in the right place. That is the true and authentic patriotism needed at this hour, when our nation has once again come under pressure from ‘white merchants’ of the world’s political black market.
Thank you for the colourful glorious innings for Sri Lanka. Well done, Muralitharan!