All the controversy surrounding fast bowler Lasith Malinga’s hair is astonishing, all the more since it shouldn’t happen at all. One would have expected critics to carp on a more serious matter, such as a (presumably) suspect bowling action. Instead, they have picked on his bleached head of hair.
The problem is that, for the first time in our cricketing history, we have a bowler who has become internationally famous because of his looks (in other words, he is the first we’ve had with genuine and marketable sex appeal). The girls in the Caribbean reportedly raved over him. His Afro looks and dark complexion undoubtedly have something to do with that – plus, one suspects now, his superb head of hair, which has left Lankan males with less conspicuous growths on their top decks (and even those with none at all) writhing with jealousy.
One good thing about the Lasith Malinga phenomenon, as one might call it now, is that it has advanced the ratings of dark-complexioned males in our marriage market. In a country where most, if not all, people are supposed to be yearning for a fair complexion, this is no mean achievement.
This is said to be more of a problem for women than for men. But men with dark skins too, can have an awful time here.
Sri Lanka has not won a Miss World contest so far, but Lasith Malinga being voted the sexiest player of this World Cup is certainly a consolation prize, and good news for all dark-skinned males who constitute a second-class citizenry in this country.
But back to the hair controversy. Fast bowlers everywhere are a virile lot, but I can’t recall anyone who has got into so much trouble because of his hair. The whole problem is enhancing one’s looks by bleaching the hair has become a fad in this country. This is especially true of those who have some sort of inferiority about their looks. It is quite possible that Lasith Malinga bleached his hair to offset the natural disadvantage of having Afro-looks and a dark skin – whatever one might say about that in the Caribbean, that combination is decidedly a disadvantage in this country when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex.
In a recent interview, the now internationally-famous fast bowler said that he has been admonished by a Buddhist monk for having bleached his hair, and he has therefore decided to revert to its natural state (the bleached hair, let’s face it, was a factor in his stardom. Even if he had been a big bowling failure at the World Cup, he would still have been popular among the girls).
He sounded chagrined, and I really don’t understand why. It’s about time he started growing and faced such silly criticism squarely.
He went on to say in the same interview that he was still the same village boy at heart. C’mon Lasith, we all know better. That’s what people like to hear. But the boy from a village in Ambalangoda will be transformed in some fundamental ways by cricket and the places it will take him. It anyone with those possibilities remains the same village boy even half-way through that career, then there must be something wrong.
He already sounds transformed, in that he knows what to tell the press. He claimed in the same interview that the bleached hair was a tactic meant to put off his opponents in the cricket field. This aspect has not been lost on some of his admirers and defenders. One local pundit said on radio that the young man with his flaming hair reminded him of the lion in the drama ‘Sinhabahu.’
But let’s not flatter ourselves too much. The lion analogy would be totally lost on a foreign batsman waiting at the wicket. It’s a safe bet that a Hayden or Lara watching the bowler making his run would be concentrating on his bowling hand, not the hairdo. If they get distracted or intimidated by bleached hair, they wouldn’t be playing international cricket.
Another aggrieved critic, writing to a Colombo English daily, has admonished Malinga for ‘forgetting that he’s a village boy.’ But why rub that in his face? Almost all the village boys I have spoken to share one dream – to get out of the socio-economic straightjacket of their rural poverty.
The same critic has admonished the Caribbean folk for being confused enough ‘not to know north from south.’ But why are the poor West Indians, a much more fun-loving lot any day than straight-laced Sri Lankans, being taken to task for finding one of our village boys sexier than the likes of Glenn McGrath, Sajid Mahmud and Ajit Agarkar?
The answer to that may well be that the sum of all parts was greater than the whole, but don’t underestimate the power of that bleached mane (at least to adoring females).
From historical times, hair has been a potent symbol of sexuality and virility (the well-known tale of Samson and Delilah is an example). With his hair back to ordinary black, will his bowling averages suffer? Only time can tell. Even if we disassociate the potency of hair from cricketing performance – balding Sanath Jayasuriya with his fiery bat makes nonsense out of that theory – we must allow people to have their own identities without soaking them in cultural correctness, which stems directly from narrow-mindedness and xenophobia. The frogs in the Lankan well are croaking louder than ever. -Wijeya Newspapers
The euphoria generated by Mahela Jayawardena and his distinguished group of sporting ambassadors keeps resonating over hill and dale in our war-torn isle. Despite controversial defeat all Lankans are proud of their performance. Allegations against the victors and umpires are countless and biting.
By Stanley Jayasinghe
Critics and cricketers, barmen and busmen, young and old, intelligent and ignorant, through undiluted patriotism have given expression to their grief and pride. They appear to have finally subscribed to the belief that what cannot be cured must be endured.
A fresh dimension has however been added to the once inflammatory situation. Having reached the ripe age of discretion, and read the multitude of reactions and views in the print media, this writer is of the firm belief that the remedies suggested seem preposterous.
Inserting a pounded squash ball into a batting glove is absolutely freakish, highly unconventional and begs reason. Diverse scribes appear to have distorted the aims and findings of Adam Gilchrist and his coach Bob Meuleman’s experiment. That Gilchrist butchered the Lankan bowling whilst on the way to a world record is a melancholy truth. But to attribute his return to form to the slipping of a squash ball into a glove would be acceptable only to a distinguished dunce.
This writer would have refrained from giving dignity to such baseless allegations but some telephonic enquiries from genuine cricket enthusiasts warrant a response. Pointing accusing fingers at Gilchrist, who has displayed excellent sportsmanship on the field on earlier occasions is blunt slander. Have disgruntled elements overlooked the description of the wicket as a “batsman’s paradise”? It then follows that it is a bowler’s nightmare!
The successful reality of the experiment was brought to light by this Australian duo only subsequent to strident calls for their blood. The reasoning that the bat tended to rotate as a result of Gilchrist’s loose grip is logical and valid. There is no uniformity in size and shape of bat-handles amongst sports goods manufacturers. Some are round while others tend to be elliptical or oval-shaped.
The country-wide outcry against Gilchrist, alleging cheating should be vented with even greater intensity at the numerous politicians and their “pandankarayas” instead. They unashamedly grabbed the opportunity that our cricketers provided them and indulged in an all-expenses-paid holiday in the Caribbean. And this rampage disregarded a Presidential Decree that only the four invitees allocated the privilege by the hosts undertake the trip. What unfolded with the blessings of the Sports Ministry and Interim Committee however was scandalous, hair—raising and utterly immoral. Such profane defiance of a Presidential Decree dilutes discipline and calls for stern action.
Nondescripts with political affiliations, and vote-catching agents of the Cricket Board hierarchy, surreptitiously wangled themselves in and qualified to view the extravaganza in Barbados. Amongst the parasitic retinue was a former Sports Minister who had been much reviled in press and legal fora. Having been installed with a portfolio during the “Chandrika Chintanaya” era, he continues to enjoy the perks extended by the “Mahinda Chintanaya” much to the annoyance and consternation of the sporting fraternity. If such shady practices are permitted, then it can be safely stated that sports and the much bandied “Chintanaya” as heading for the rocks.
Having dignified the ill-founded Gilchrist controversy it would be appropriate to substantiate this writer’s dispassionate opinion with personal experiences.
Dickie Bird used the same tactic
Harold “Dickie” Bird and this writer were regulars in the Leicestershire County cricket team of the early sixties. His credentials as a Test umpire were near-unblemished. However, as an opening batsman he was absolutely pedestrian in run-making. Adam Gilchrist was certainly not in the land of the living when Bird habitually resorted to Gilchrist’s tactic. Yes, Bird wrapped a fragmented piece of sponge, no larger than half a cigarette packet, with a few strands of sticking-plaster, and stuffed it into his batting glove before going out to the crease. He most certainly didn’t dispatch the ball soaring skywards as did Gilchrist. Factually, Bird never scored a six, to the best of my knowledge, during our association of five years! His reply to queries from curious quarters regarding the padding was that it minimized jarring of the palm. So the biased suggestion from some scribes that the ‘doctored’ glove enhanced Gilchrist’s timing is pure fantasy.
Now, in retirement, Bird resides amidst lordly comforts, in Barnsley, Yorkshire, with his Rolls Royce and Geoff Boycott as a neighbour. Readers are welcome to seek further elucidation from Bird at the aforementioned address.
A diversion from batting to yet another aspect of the game should be revealing and amusing in the modern context. Reverting once again to the past, when fast-bowling was in the ascendancy, a unique strategy was practiced by a Test wicket-keeper whose name remains elusive.
In the heydays of Frank Tyson – Fred Trueman – Brian Statham (England) – Ray Lindwall – Keith Miller Bill Johnston -Alan Davidson – Ron Archer (Australia) and Wesley Hall -Roy Gilchrist – Charlie Griffith (West Indies) there performed a wicket- keeper who tucked into his wicket-keeping gloves a strip of raw steak. He deemed it mitigated the jarring of his palm when gathering the fast-moving ball. Perhaps a more knowledgeable and better read scribe would be able to enlighten readers with the name of the stumper.
Not surprisingly neither “Dickie” Bird nor the “steak-gloved stumper” was reckoned a cheat.
Steadfast believers in Gilchrist’s secret formula need only arm themselves with the squash ball and ready themselves for World Cup 2011. Manufacturers of sports goods would readily offer sponsorship to wearers of “squash ball gloves” should they be in the Sri Lankan World Cup 2011 line-up.
Charity with a vengeance
“The living need charity more than the dead”, was a saying of old. The Interim Committee of the Cricket Board has practiced charity with a vengeance. It is an exercise in corruption and abuse of power and position. Most of the beneficiaries of this magnanimous gesture have contributed not an iota for the furtherance of the game. It is this writer’s unshakable belief that the thuds have been squandered indiscreetly in sponsoring questionable elements on all-expenses paid holidays.
A wrong is a wrong, whether committed by the President of the Interim Committee, President of the Republic of Sri Lanka or even the Queen of England.
It is this writer’s intention to propose three individuals a nonagenarian and two octogenarians who have grown old with good grace, after over half-a-century of service to the game. They have reached the stage of being too low for envy and too high for contempt. It would indeed be fitting if the Interim Committee focuses on the trio hereafter on festive and celebratory occasions. The nominees along with their contributions to the furtherance of the sport would follow in my next article for readers’ consideration and comparison. -Wijeya Newspapers
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The International Cricket Council has lost the confidence of the players and is being urged to launch an immediate review into its “outdated” structure.
In a World Cup survey conducted by the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, 56 per cent of players doubted the ICC’s ability to govern the game.
And the same percentage of players polled stated they had lost confidence in the ICC’s ability to organise World Cups, with 89 per cent rating the recent tournament in the West Indies as average or worse.
The ICC were seen as being “out of touch” with the rest of the cricketing world and FICA chief executive Tim May called upon them to launch an immediate review.
May said: “There has been a growing amount of dissatisfaction amongst a wide variety of cricket stakeholders over the past 24 months, regarding the governance of our game.”An independent review will determine what is the best and most applicable structure for cricket’s international governing body.
“We strongly believe that the present structure…is outdated and not in the best interests of the game.”
May insists the scrutiny should not fall on chief executive Malcolm Speed but on the decision-making committees.
May claimed it is the committees who are responsible for the recent issues which have dogged the game – the length of the World Cup, the Darrell Hair situation, anti-doping issues and Zimbabwe’s status in international cricket.
And he believes their self-interest is undermining the ICC’s responsibilities as a governing body.
May said: “It is these committees that are ultimately responsible for the performance of the organisation.
“These committees are mainly comprised of individual representatives of its full members.
“These committees’ composition are more than likely to deliver outcomes that are decided on party lines and the self interest of its members rather than the overall good of the game.
“Affiliation and loyalty to other committee members constituencies must take second place to their duty to the international board and the best interests to the game as a whole.”FICA fully supports a strong and decisive International Cricket Council.”
May conceded that if a review was to decide the current structure is the best way forward, then at least it answers those critics who are demanding change.
He added: “The review may well decide that the present structure is the most applicable – if so, all well and good, at least crickets’ stakeholders will then know that it is the best structure for our game.
“But at the moment we don’t know whether it is and increasingly stakeholders want to know if there is a better structure.”
FICA’s World Cup survey showed 64 per cent of players believe the same tournament structure – ie four groups of four and then the Super Eights – should be for the next World Cup.
A huge 87 per cent felt the tournament was too long and FICA insist the ICC take on board the players’ general dissatisfaction with the World Cup experience.
The survey concludes: “Despite the better than expected playing and venue conditions, the better than expected travel arrangements and other logistical arrangements, the players have returned a less than average rating of the event.
“The death of Bob Woolmer, the early exit of India and Pakistan, the long and laborious Super Eights, the lack of exciting matches, the rain-affected final, the unfortunate umpire/referee error at the final, and the long periods that players had at their disposal between matches all affected the players opinion.
“The less than average rating for the event is consistent with general viewer experience – small crowds, lack of enthusiasm, one-sided matches are not the recipe for a great report card.”
The survey of the world’s best cricketers revealed most players were underwhelmed by this year’s World Cup and have little faith in the ICC’s ability to govern the game.
Most of the 45 elite players surveyed admitted they were not satisfied by the governing body’s ability to organise World Cups or the game.
The survey found 56 per cent of players were both not satisfied by the ICC’s ability to deliver World Cups and lacked confidence in the ICC governing cricket.
Significant numbers also said they had not been educated properly on matters such as corruption, doping and racism.
The survey found 89 per cent of players rated the recent World Cup in the Caribbean as either average (44 per cent), below average (38 per cent) or poor (eight per cent).
Only three per cent of respondents said the tournament was excellent, while eight per cent rated it good.
Australia’s win over Sri Lanka in the final was also marred by rain and the inability of the umpires and match referee Jeff Crowe to call the match off because of light even though both sides had conceded the game over.Those scenes of chaos made for an anti-climatic finish when the match eventually finished in darkness.
Just as alarming for the ICC, significant numbers of players said they were not properly educated on anti-doping, anti-corruption and anti-racism measures.
Fourteen per cent of players said they had not been properly educated by the ICC on its anti-doping policy, 16 per cent said they had not been adequately educated in anti-corruption matters and 18 per cent said they were not aware of their obligations under the sport’s anti-racism code.
FICA said the players’ responses towards the ICC’s governing the game were “disturbing” and should be of “great concern” to the controlling body.
FICA said despite better than expected playing conditions, venues and travel arrangements, the players returned a less than average rating of the World Cup.
“The less than average rating for the event is consistent with general viewer experience – small crowds, lack of enthusiasm, one-sided matches are not the recipe for a great report card,” it said.
“The ICC should review the format, the length of the tournament and the need to ensure that the longest part of the tournament (Super Eights) consistently produces competitive cricket.”
The vast majority of players – 87 per cent – thought this year’s eight-week World Cup was too long. Thirteen per cent thought it was just right and three per cent not long enough. FICA said players wanted the tournament reduced by between 10 and 14 days.
Fifty-nine per cent of players thought the World Cup comprised too many matches, 46 per cent said 16 teams were too many and 36 per cent said this year’s format should not be used in future tournaments. -Wijeya Newspapers
The Coffers of the cash strapped Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) will swell by over a billion Sri Lankan rupees shortly when the island receives its due entitlement for participating in the World Cup and for emerging as runners-up in the tournament.
By Marlon Fernandopulle
A top official of Sri Lanka Cricket confirmed to The Sunday Times that Sri Lanka will receive US $ 8.5 million as participation fees. ‘‘As one of the test playing nations this is our entitlement for participating at the World Cup” The Sunday Times learns that part of this money will be re-distributed among the world cup players while the balance will be utilized for the development of the game. SLC expects this money next month.
In addition to this amount Sri Lanka, who emerged as runners –up in the tournament pocketed US $ 1 million as prize money and also collected a further sum of money for wining three games in the first round and five games in the super eight round.It is believed that the financial position of SLC in 2006 was not satisfactory. This was mainly due to the reduced income on account of the cancellation of a triangular tournament last year featuring South Africa and India. The final Accounts of Sri Lanka Cricket for the year 2006 is to be finalized shortly.
However this year(2007) SLC will be on a better wicket following the income of approximately US $ 10 million (SL Rs.1100 million) from the world cup and the expected revenue from England’s tour to Sri Lanka later this year.
Moody to decide
Meanwhile Coach Tom Moody is expected to meet the hierarchy of Sri Lanka Cricket today and discuss his future. The former Australian cricketer ends his contract with SLC this month but is widely speculated to remain with the team for a further period following his success in the last two years.
Under Tom Moody’s guidance Sri Lankans have had a fine run overseas. They swiped out England 5-0 in an ODI series while drawing the Test series 1-1 in the summer of 2006. Earlier this year they drew 2-2 in an ODI series in New Zealand before capping off the season with a World Cup final appearance.
Moody was appointed Sri Lanka’s national coach in 2005 succeeding John Dyson, the former Australian batsman. He has been linked with Western Australia, the Australian state side, after his contract with Sri Lankan expires. -Wijeya Newspapers
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The politicos were up to it again. They flocked to where the cricketers were in droves, this time at President’s House on Tuesday evening where President Mahinda Rajapaksa hosted the team for a felicitation after the World Cup.
Some of the politicians were attired in casual wear that even the players were unsure of the people who came up to chat with them.
Pix: Sudath Silva – via Pat and Mangala LA
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