Sri Lanka’s Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy took on an unusual role on Monday – coming to the rescue of the country’s struggling national cricket team.
In an impassioned plea for understanding after the team lost yet another game to India, Dr. Coomaraswamy – no stranger to sport having captained the national rugby team and played first class cricket – urged sports fans not to be unruly and noted that it was a rare but unfortunate incident where the cricket team was subjected to unruly crown behaviour. The third ODI between Sri Lanka and India at Pallekelle on Sunday was stopped just as India needed a few runs to the win the match after disappointed fans throw bottles of water at Sri Lankan fielders. After play resumed, India went on to win the match, the third in a row and winning the 5-match series. Earlier Sri Lanka was wiped out by the Indians in the test series.
Sports lovers, particularly cricket fans, must be highly concerned about the unruly crowd behaviour at recent ODIs. Last week, there was the wholly unbecoming experience of the Sri Lanka cricketers being booed at a home match and then having to remain in their dressing room until they were escorted away from the stadium by the Police. Then there was the unacceptable episode where play had to be suspended because of unruly crowd behaviour. Fortunately, it was possible to complete the game eventually, he said.
In a lengthy statement pertaining to cricket, unusual for a Governor, Dr. Coomaraswamy said that while such unsavoury crowd behaviour has been experienced in other countries - in fact, cricketers in some countries have been subjected to much worse treatment -, such “despicable actions” have not been known within these shores.
Sri Lanka fans have supported their national teams, particularly the cricket team, loyally through both successful and challenging times. It should not be forgotten that the Sri Lankan cricket team has brought great honour to the country. Even during the country’s darkest hours, Sri Lankan cricket was a beacon of excellence and success. Since the World Cup 1996 victory, the Sri Lankan team has had a record that has been surpassed only by Australia in ICC tournaments, involving all the major cricket playing countries. The Test team has also been highly competitive. The Sri Lankan brand was both respected and admired, even loved, throughout the cricketing world. Sri Lanka has also produced a number of iconic players who have thrilled fans throughout the cricketing world,” the Governor, who captained Sri Lanka rugby in 1973-77 and played first class cricket for Tamil Union, said in a statement issued through the Central Bank media unit.
He said it was extremely disturbing that these lofty standards of behaviour among the fans is showing signs of deterioration just when the young team is in transition following the retirement of some world-class players. Lack of stability off the field has further complicated matters.
“The behaviours of the fans at the last two ODIs is particularly unacceptable because the young Sri Lankan team played with plenty of spirit in both games and competed vigorously against a strong Indian team which is currently ranked number one. The unruly crowd behaviour not only demoralizes our young cricketers and hampers their development but it also brings disrepute to the country. During a 20-year career with the Commonwealth Secretariat I had the opportunity to visit all the major cricket playing countries and several other ICC members around the world. Sri Lanka seemed to be everyone’s second favourite team after their own country. With the waning of the powers of the great West Indian teams during the 1990s, Sri Lanka stepped in to fill the breach as crowd-pleasers who played an attractive brand of cricket with players who were fine ambassadors for the game and the country,” he wrote.
Cricket has become an important window into the country. International matches are beamed to large audiences well beyond our shores. Unruly crowd behaviour demeans the reputation of the whole country in the eyes of a large part of the world. This is not something that the country or its cricketers deserve.
Such behavior, he said, can also have negative economic and social ramifications. Sporting tourism is a rapidly growing phenomenon. Large numbers of fans are increasingly following their national cricket teams abroad, combining it with a holiday. “Seeing crowd unrest on their screens or reading about it is likely to act as a deterrent to visit the country. Such indiscipline, if it worsens, can also influence a wider group of tourists who have many countries to choose from. Tourism has a strong multiplier effect in the economy with its diverse domestic supply chains. Anything that hinders its development will have an impact on a wide cross-section of our people,” the Governor noted.
“Crowd misbehavior also undermines basic values which are important in a stable society. An inability to accept negative outcomes after a rule-based sporting contest runs counter to the outlook of the vast majority of Sri Lankans. The bad behaviour at cricket matches by a small minority must therefore, be condemned. It is out of character and wholly unacceptable. Showing disrespect to our cricket team and the country they represent should on no account be part of our sporting culture,” he added. - ENDS-