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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

Cricket Columns

Murali's 'doosra' legacy for Lankan cricket and unity
Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Colombo, July 27, 2010
First Published: 14:37 IST(27/7/2010)
Last Updated: 15:07 IST(27/7/2010)

Muttiah Muralitharan was the poster-boy of Sinhalese-Tamil unity in a country cut up along ethnic lines. At the end of his day, he played up to the focus, scripting a fairy-tale swan song to a fairly controversial on-field career and maintaining a low-profile off the field.

His grandfather migrated from Tamil Nadu to return later. Murali's father remained near Kandy. Murali might be the only Indian-origin Tamil to play for Sri Lanka but there are a few ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils to have done so as well.

Current all-rounder Angelo Mathews is one; Russel Arnold is another. Historical anthropologist and Australia-based cricket historian, Michael Roberts, shared more names over email: P Jayaprakashdaran, Brian Raja Durai and Vinodhan John.

In the middle '70s and '80s as violence spread like forest fire in the north and east of Sri Lanka - where Lankan Tamils are in majority - cricket took the sad but inevitable backseat.

Cricket at that time was anyway dominated by affluent Colombo and its prestigious schools and businessmen-patrons. Because many Tamils migrated to Colombo in the '50 and '60s, their sons were studying in its schools and playing cricket. The community already had the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club.

Roberts indicated that as ethnic violence escalated, cricket in the community was again hit, this time even in the epicenter of Colombo.

"From the 1970s, in the context of escalating ethnic tension and two (anti-Tamil) pogroms in Colombo in 1977 and 1983, there existed a situation where Tamil boys in these cities were usually discouraged by their parents from playing much sport. They were pushed into studying with an eye on migration out of the country,'' he wrote in an essay.

Between 1979 and 2005 only 12 Tamil cricketers played for the club, Roberts wrote, adding: "those too were mostly older players entering the twilight of their careers in the early 1980s. (However) Where Tamil propagandists occasionally allege overt discrimination against them in the selection of Sri Lanka's cricketers, they are utilising foreign ignorance to spin a lie in pursuit of political mileage.''

Post-war, a cricket revival has begun in Tamil-dominated Jaffna. I'm sure Murali would find a willing hand there to leave his "doosra'' legacy behind. And he could also do that in Sinhalese-majority Hambantota.


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