A Cricket Follower from Moratuwa
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) boasts of a pompous slogan which reads: “One nation, one team”. Are we to believe that, very soon, this will be made to read: “One nation, one team, one religion? Early this week, Sri Lanka Cricket President, Thilanga Sumathipala, dabbled in a subject, that not only raised hairs and eyebrows, but also raised concerns on whether some of the country’s cricketers, if they cannot defend their religious faith or conviction, are made to go against their conscience, as they sported pure white attire and visited the sacred Buddhist Temple of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, not on a sightseeing tour but, to worship.
In the forefront was Captain Angelo Mathews, a sworn Catholic, whose photograph was all over the newspapers, carrying a tray of flowers and walking into the Dalada Maligawa to worship and, according to Sumathipala, seeking blessings to do well at the upcoming Champions Trophy.
Not only Buddhists, but also everyone else, will be wanting to know how the cricketers, if they cannot bat well, bowl well and field well, are going to win the Champions Trophy by taking their case to a religious founder whose teachings had nothing to do with winning in sport.
All Sri Lankans who value their respective religions, should make it their conviction to tell Mr. Sumathipala to keep cricket away from religion, which the scholars will say is a personal matter to a person. It will be very inappropriate, if Mr. Sumathipala were to take the entire cricket team, most of whom are Buddhists, to an Anglican or Catholic Church and seek to receive what is called Holy Communion. It will not be tolerated in the first place, as Holy Communion is a sacrament and not a lollipop.
Official sanction for religion in cricket, in Sri Lanka, has gone too far over the years and, whenever the team embarks on a tour, the cricketers are lined up at SLC headquarters for rituals and prayers that every player, irrespective of his conviction and conscience, is compelled to do. When he was asked why it was necessary for him to walk into the Dalada Maligawa with a tray of flowers, Mathews, probably, passed the buck on the so-called Culture slogan that most people in this country hide behind, by saying he was there to pay homage.
How would it be for those priests and nuns who gave Mathews a grand felicitation at St. Anne’s Church in Wattala, a few years ago, when he was appointed Sri Lanka Captain, and the numerous sermons they bestowed about his faith? Did Mathews compromise or, was he made to compromise on his conscience?
My appeal to Mr. Sumathipala is to allow each and every player to decide what is best for him, when it comes to their respective religions, and not force it down their throats for some kind of cheap publicity, which has no place in the world today, in view of social media.
Religious convictions and beliefs cannot be altered to suit the whims and fancies of individuals in exalted office, who call the shots at SLC.