x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Team have shown spirit in diversity

Sri Lankan cricket has been mauled and marauded over the years but the sublime nature of the team has always won them applause and recognition.

Sri Lankan cricket has been mauled and marauded over the years but the sublime nature of the team has always won them applause and recognition. The passion for the game among us Sri Lankans has been consistently fuelled by the grit and determination of the little gladiators in the international arena. If the 1996 World Cup victory settled all doubts that they had been unjustifiably fast-tracked into the corridors of Test cricket, the recent end to the country's civil war coincides with the national team's mind-blowing performance at the Twenty20 World Cup in England.

Diverse in many ways, teams had the ethnic balance and supported themselves in the face of controversy. Arjuna Ranatunga stood by his Tamil teammate Muthiah Muralitharan in his early days in 1995 when Australian umpire Darrel Hair called him for "chucking". The bowler has justified that faith by becoming the highest wicket-taker in Tests and ODI format, and he still has some more fire left in his belly.

They have also had their share of political googlies and bouncers within the sports body but this did not take away the interest in the game by any standard. And now, as Sri Lanka witnesses the ending of three decades of war with the militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the team bounced back from a terror attack in Lahore and political protests at the start of the tournament to reach the final without losing a game.

What is unique about the Sri Lankan team is the camaraderie and team work to produce the best results on the field. Jayasuriya, who is 40 next week, is the big brother to the team, and yet he is prepared to listen to his younger teammates, the past and present captains Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Muralitharan shares his experience with fellow spinner Ajantha Mendis and Chaminda Vaas playing the "brotherly" role to the younger fast bowlers Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara, the best bowler in the world rankings.

The Sri Lankan cricket team have always been the paradise of players of all religions and race in perfect harmony, depicting team spirit in diversity. The country has also produced some outstanding players, those who don't play by the book, such as the mercurial Jaysuriya, Muralitharan, Mendis, Malinga and some in the classic mould of Roy Dias, Sidath Wettimuny and Anura Tennekoon. The Sri Lanka president, Mahindra Rajapakse, has gone on record to say that the word minorities has been eliminated from the country to bring the whole of Sri Lanka under one banner. Travel advisories restraining tourists and terrorism insurance premium charges are being withdrawn.

With the dawning of a peaceful era in Sri Lanka and the eradication of terrorism, the development of the economy in the future will take cricket to greater heights empowered by peace and ethnic harmony. Win or lose today, the cricket team have given much hope to a bullet-ridden country just ahead of the 2011 World Cup. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae