When I first agreed to delve in to the World Cup for the mutiny, I did so because I knew it was important to South Asia, our diaspora and several cute commenters here…but I had no idea how powerful the sport truly is, until now.
Apparently cricket can do what diplomacy, prayers and tears cannot (all quotes via Reuters, Thanks Karthik):
Cricket fever has gripped Sri Lanka after their team secured a place in the World Cup final, diverting attention — at least for the time being — from a worsening civil war.
Cricket-mad fans sat glued to their television sets until the early hours of Wednesday morning to watch Sri Lanka defeat New Zealand by 81 runs in Jamaica.
The success of the cricket team in the Caribbean has provided a welcome distraction from the worsening military conflict between the government and Tamil Tigers, which has left a 2002 ceasefire agreement in tatters.
The two-decade civil war, which has claimed around 68,000 lives, has intensified in the past year with almost daily battles, denting business confidence and contributing to spiralling inflation.
One higher power, many paths; one fervently-desired wish, many prayers:
Multi-faith religious ceremonies are being planned in the lead-up to Saturday’s big game to bless the team, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa will even fly to Barbados for the final.
Yo, this is serious:
The Excise Department has even delayed the start of an alcohol sales ban for Buddhist Wesak holidays by one day. It will now come into effect after the World Cup final.
I got my hopes up…
Even many Tamil Tigers, who control swathes of land in the north and east of the country and are fighting for independence, are watching.
“There are people in the controlled areas watching,” rebel military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan said by telephone.
Then felt them sink, even though I’m not Sri Lankan, Tamil, or particularly conscious of this violent, on-going tragedy:
But he added: “Our activities will not change because of these matches. These matches are not going to make any difference.“
I hope he’s full of it. I stupidly and naively hope that cricket really will do for Sri Lanka what nothing else has been able to– give diverse communities a reason to stop killing each other, at least for a little while. As far as I know, it’s difficult to cheer effectively if you’re holding a gun. Yes, that was paneer-laden…but I’m serious. In 1996, Sri Lanka destroyed Australia to win the World Cup; I hope they do so tomorrow, too. If ever there were a country which deserved some cheer…::
For an alternate take on the significance of Sri Lanka’s World Cup success, I’d recommend a post by kettikili over at Pass The Roti.
I, like Mandira Bedi, am not capable of this kind of commentary:
Likewise, today in Sri Lanka, cricket appreciation at its best is hailed as a force of national unity, a testament to the plural, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, and multi-religious country we should aspire to be.
After all, our Murali is a Tamil, Sri Lankans, diasporic or not, are wont to say.
This is true. But is this enough? Can we simply rest on the laurels of the team? Sri Lankan cricket represents the ideal nation and its aspirations, not the realities of all its citizens. Sri Lankan cricket, in some sense, is what we hope to be. (Iâ€™m bracketing the gendering of that abstract model of citizenshipâ€“ for now.)
But, as is all too evident now, cricket fanaticism at its worst serves as a distraction from the war, and a convenient way to suppress debate and dissent in favour of a superficial image of national unity.
The rest of the post is here.