Cricket, Lankan Muslims And Pakistan

"One cannot hide the fact that some talented cricketers from the Muslim community have chosen to come under the names of other communities merely to get into representative cricketing squads. "

by I. S. Senguttuvan
(March 30, Sri Lanka Guardian) In his present lengthy piece (March 30) Izzeth Hussain takes far too much than he can chew. As to my earlier intervention, I took exception to his baseless charge Tamils here back India when the National team takes them on Cricket. I also pointed out to his earlier aberrations on the Tamil issue where he uncharitably proposed that the Tamils in the North be starved - meaning the food the government was sending from the South should be stopped - to break the backbone of the Tamil resistance in the pre-May 19, 2009 period. His choosing not to comment on both tell their own tale – loud and clear. I will leave it there momentarily.

Mr Hussain has this penchant to make a short thing too long and assume the role of pedagogue on almost all subject he choses to impose his "expertise" on.. In his piece here he battles in many fronts simultaneously. Characteristically, he takes on the role of teacher in several subjects and pontificates – leaving large holes in his “arguments”

Tarring all Pakistani cricketers with the same brush he dares “Pakistani cricketers as the greatest exponents of the art of match-fixing….unchallenged leaders of Casino cricket” and much more. Many will disagree and these are pernicious statements against a friendly country and people. The spoil sport was fugitive gangland chief Dawood Ibrahim – an Indian. Cricketing greats Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas and earlier the great Hanif Mohamed, Fazal Mahmood et al certainly conducted themselves honourably. There could be dozens more. Shane Warne is unduly brought into the argument to strengthen Hussain's unsubstantiated argument “ Pakistan produced great cricketers but hardly ever performed to perfection” Surely, with what he knows of Cricket Husain could not be unaware the great Pakistani team won the World Cup in 1992 under Imran against exceptionally formidable opponents then. That is performing to perfection for me. While seeking to speak well of Pakistan one wonders why Hussain goes to say “an image of Pakistan as an irredeemable – and, in every way, a corrupt country” With all Pakistans troubles and faults, I think she is a vibrant and powerful country in the region and the world.

I do not think even Mrs.B’s government in 1971 would commit the faux pas he ascribes to her. Mrs. B in allowing Pakistan fighter jets to re-fuel during the East Pakistani War was acting to “preserve Pakistan’s unity” says this former diplomat In fact, this miscalculation in strengthening Pakistan’s war machinery was, arguably, to lower Mrs B’s image in Delhi with Indira and with every administration since.

To say Pakistani fans in Lahore backed Sri Lanka in 1996 in gratitude to this contested position is a new and strange one. Anyone familiar with Pakistan knows the average Pakistani who goes for Cricket matches and who forms the bulk of the huge crowds is unlikely to remember - 25 years after the event - the nitty gritty of one of the many wars between India and Pakistan. They were cheering a friendly neighbour, a S.E. Asian friend and an underdog – a parvenu in Cricket then, if you will - against an established superpower in Cricket playing the game for nearly two centuries. They were rooting for a small country that had gained Test Status recently - thanks also to Pakistan. That they were about to defeat a Cricketing giant that produced Bradman, Lindwall, Miller, Benaud, Harvey, O’Neill and hundreds more of highly esteemed Aussie Cricketing stars added to the enthusiasm of the Pakistani crowd that day cheered on by Benazir Bhutto herself. . Political or religious preferences had nothing to do with a Pakistani cricketing crowd expressing their delight in our favour in the finest spirit of sports.

For the want of space, I will not get drawn into the divisions he tries to create among the Muslim community here – Coastal Moors, Moors etc – or even his characterization of the 1915 Sinhala-Muslim events other than to point that a Moor is one of North African Berber origin. Whereas the vast majority of our Muslims came from South India – as he seems to reluctantly admit. He has here also denigrated the Muslims of Dematagoda and appears to portray them as some form of poor cousin. I will leave to them to meet this unprovoked comment

I must again point out his comments – this time that the Diaspora Sinhalese are better than their Tamil counter-parts is unfortunate and needs to be dismissed with the contempt it deserves. I might remind him that the SLMC, representing probably the largest composition of Muslims in the country, have already – and appropriately – taken steps to unambigiuos terms re-assured the majority where they stand in the Cricket issue. They stand solidly with our National Squad lads. Her I must make a distinction. If an individual or a group - racial, religion or otherwise - want to cheer any side they want this should not be viewed as unpatriotic or racial. I have gone to matches at Lords and the Oval in London and cheered the Lankan side joined by my English friends when our lads played England. The English took no exception to this and is unlikely to take a narrow position. It is, however, possible some Muslims here - suffering a sense of insecurity against minorities that cannot be put under the carpet - may have allowed their feelings to spontaneously come out. The way to meet is not to view them in hostility but get the government to ensure they are made to feel part of all of us. It also cannot be denied that some talented Cricketers from the Muslim community have been left out for reasons that appear to be other than merit.

One cannot hide the fact that some talented cricketers from the Muslim community have chosen to come under the names of other communities merely to get into representative cricketing squads.

However, I am with Mr. Hussain all the way “we cannot allow racist jokers to go on wrecking this country” I will also agree with him “our immediate need is ethnic reconciliation and to build a multi-ethnic nation” This has to be done without making attempts to set one community against another or hurting the feelings of other communities. Being a man of letters he will remember the wisdom of Will Rogers “the advise we give others is the advise we ourselves require”

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