Groundviews

Say No to ‘Dharmista Cricket’ in Sri Lanka!

Sri Lankan cricket fans look for villains who (almost) ruined their national game

By Banyan News Reporters

The crisis may be over, but Sri Lankan cricket fans are still fervently debating who very nearly stole their most cherished cultural heritage: the island’s own version of the quaint English game of cricket.

They are trying to discern sinister motives behind the short-lived ban on all fun and merry-making at ICC World Cup cricket matches currently being played in Sri Lanka. The most ardent fans have even launched a nationwide search to identify the originators of ‘Dharmista Cricket’ — a heavily sanitised version of the game that was very nearly forced on 20 million cricket crazy fans.

“We are hugely relieved that diabolical attempts to ruin our cricket have been defeated,” said L B W Bolawardana, spokesman for Save Sri Lanka Cricket (SSLC), a people’s protest movement that sprang overnight via Facebook and Twitter.

“But we have to remain vigilant. We believe there are forces working to ruin the people’s game – the one thing that unites the whole of Sri Lanka no matter what,” Bolawardana added. The period from 18 to 21 February 2011 was probably the longest four days that Sri Lankan cricket fans have known.

On February 18, on the eve of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 tournament’s commencement, the Sri Lankan police chief threw a huge wet blanket over the entire island. He announced strict rules of conduct for all cricket fans watching the 12 matches to be played in Sri Lanka, which is co-hosting the World Cup along with Bangladesh and India.

The spoil-sport police chief prohibited a long list of items from being carried into the three World Cup venues in Sri Lanka: banners, placards, musical instruments, alcohol, glass bottles, fire crackers, laser lights, sharp instruments and knives.

These were excluded supposedly to ensure player and spectator safety. Meanwhile, carrying out a request from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the global ruling body for the game, professional photographic and video cameras were prohibited inside all venues.

Irate cricket fans reacted to this wet-blanket ban with loud protests. While some lobbied with Sri Lanka Cricket and the government for a change of heart, others organised an online petition.

Part of the petition read: “The whole point of a fan opting to attend the match instead of watching it at home on TV, where they can easily and more comfortably follow the game, is to experience the atmosphere and energy and share the sheer excitement of other fans firsthand, where there is noise, song, dance, street food and drink.”

The petition was scathing about the over-zealous police. “It is not the job of The Police to ban harmless fun and violate our fundamental rights… Instead of making their lot easier by disappointing the public they are supposed to serve, they should be doing a better job by being alert, coordinating, apprehending and ensuring justice in case something does go wrong.”

A national tragedy was finally avoided on February 22, when the Minister of Sports announced the unfair ban has been revoked.

“The match without bands is like going to a hotel without the most favourite dish,” the minister was quoted as saying. “I had a discussion with the Inspector General of Police, and we have removed the ban on bands and musical instruments.”

Earlier, Sri Lanka Cricket also dropped the ban on banners and placards. But Save Sri Lanka Cricket (SSLC) urged ‘eternal vigilance’ to ward off any future attempts to reintroduce what it called ‘Dharmista Cricket’.

‘Dharmista’ is a Sinhala term for pious or sanctimonious, used to describe actions of self-appointed guardians of (their narrow interpretation of) local culture and public morals.

Meanwhile, the heavily foreign-funded and completely unregulated the Sri Lanka Institute of Conspiracy Theories (SLICT) has solicited possible explanations for the short-lived attempts at ‘Dharmista Cricket’. It has already received a number of conspiracy theories, which have been leaked to Banyan News Reporters by an insider who loves spilling beans.

Well, what do YOU think? Join the BNR competition to Save Sri Lanka Cricket while laughing all the way to….the next cricket match.