Why cricket unites, but politics unties!

Sri Lanka Cricket seems to have bounced back. Not only in terms of the players' form, but also as regards the national side's reputation. That we win or lose at home or abroad is no longer the issue, although the purists and patriots alike would like to have that cake and consume it as well.

More to the point these days is that "our boys" appear to have won (back?) some measure of self-respect. They've won back more than a modicum of the country's affections (if, indeed, they ever lost it!). And they've also earned no small soupçon of their opponents' esteem.

So much so that more than the mere outcome of the game hinges on how "the boys batted well, our guys fielded well" and "when the chips were down, our lads put up their hands" and were "willing to be counted" - the stock phrases of past and present skippers of the national side. Indeed.

Business and investor confidence oscillates around Sri Lanka's cricketing prowess and recent performances as a barometer; as do national sovereign ratings, and the stock exchange. Well, perhaps that's stretching the reading public's credulity a tad too far - but you get the point. The lark's on the wing, the snail's on the thorn, God's in His heaven, all's right with the world - as long as everything's bright and shiny in the sunlit garden of our island race's cricketing endeavours.

So much so that everyone wants a share of the glory that goes with it. Schoolboys want to be covered in glory like that of their flannelled heroes. Politicos crave a part of the borrowed glory. The cricket-loving public simply delight in basking in the dopamine-induced daydreams that 'our' triumphs, successes, and victories in arenas here and there bring.

The ethos of the powers that be, on the flip side, seems to have suffered corresponding reversals. The conventional wisdom is that they lack both form and substance. Whether we win or lose at home or abroad is also the bone of contention in this arena - and the purists and patriots alike will eat for breakfast anyone who dares to defy the standards of image, independence, and infallibility that we as a nation espouse or say we espouse. Even today, three and a half years after winning a supposedly unwinnable war on the battlefield, there are still many (a majority, even?) who are willing to cut the state some slack in human-rights matters.

They will take it lying down when the government asks the rest of us to tighten our belts. And they'd raise nary a cry nor whimper about crime, corruption, and cost-of-living issues. It does not cross the minds of many bread-starved and circus-saturated members of the hoi polloi (Greek for Sinhala kos polos) to ask the authorities to buckle down to winning the war on the economic front. In this, and other related areas of governance, our non-savvy mandarins may have finally ventured a bridge too far. The writing is on the wall, and it is beginning to say the same nasty things about our political messiahs and military saviours to their faces as it once did behind their backs.

To wit, that we want the government to tighten its tamasha-swollen belt in the same breath as we do ours. Eschew cronyism and nepotism at the same time that they decry the West's hypocrisy and partisan politics. And walk the talk they expect us to walk... all the way from austerity measures for all, through practising the road rules that they preach, right down to respecting the rights of the minorities and the marginalised - in the same manner that they expect the world's sole superpower to respect our tiny nation's rights.

Thus, if those who run the country don't want to be hailed for ever in the annals of our land as the cohorts who ultimately ran it into the ground, they'd do well to take a lesson from our cricket team. Don't get me wrong, dears; no one's perfect - not even the knights in blue, who win hearts and steal trophies. But at least they are real, united, honest-to-self, gutsy, daring, dynamic diehards who'd fight to the last drop of their own dying blood, and be open and transparent about their strengths and weaknesses, when the day's game is done.

There's no more hype and hoopla about our heroes out there in the middle - and I, for one, am wishing that our once and future national sport (forget ellé, volleyball, or football - those pretenders to the purple) will stay that way… warts and all. As a patriot myself (but please don't expect me to protest against convenient ogres, conjured up by cynical propagandists), I'd like to see Sri Lanka as a whole take a leaf out of our cricketers' book, turn from their sins, and seek to walk again the straight and narrow way. It will mean bidding adieu to arrogant posturing, bureaucratic bungling, and craven nepotism - but it will be worth it in the medium term... because in the long run, we are all dead anyway.

Editor's Note: Written after the second final between Sri Lanka and Australia, but before the final encounter at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday, March 8.

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