(Text of editorial appearing in the “Daily News” of September 14th 2017 Under the Heading “Turning the back on a legend”)
The Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter, the Most Ven. Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera, had an unusual visitor the other day. He was none other than Sinnaiah Muttaiah, the father of world record holder for the most number of test wickets, Muttaiah Muralitharan.
Obsequies over, Muralitharan senior had a complain to make to the Chief Prelate. Ven. Thibbotuwawe was told that the Pallekelle Cricket Stadium, which was re-named after his son, after the latter’s record breaking feat of capturing 800 test wickets, has had the name removed by certain parties for unknown reasons.
We are not aware as to the real reasons behind the scrapping of the Murali name, from the stadium.
Whatever it may be, it is only right that the Minister of Sports intervenes in the matter and have the name restored. We say this because Murali had placed the country in the world cricketing map in a way which even surpasses that of the country’s famous World Cup victory in 1996. Here is why?
Sri Lanka was dethroned in the subsequent edition of the World Cup and never again achieved the feat. But Murali’s record breaking feat, is, admittedly, insurmountable and will live on for aeons. Here is a son of the soil, who had achieved something lasting for all Sri Lankans to cheer and be proud about, unlike politicians, who have stadiums named after them for delivering little or nothing of any lasting effect.
An inquiry should be launched to ascertain who was behind the move to have the Murali name removed from the stadium. A sports facility, once christened after an individual, rarely has had it’s name changed in this country. There is, in Antigua, a cricket stadium named after the great Sir Vivian Richards, who, though, is a cricketing icon, who has attained immortality in the sport, has nevertheless statistically not achieved anything that is unsurpassable. Murali’s 800 wickets tally, on the other hand, is indeed a superhuman effort and is bound to stand the test of time.
There are other reasons why those responsible for this act should reconsider their decision. Murali had been a unifying force, through his deeds on the cricketing field, which has gone a long way in bridging bridges in ethnic relations between the two major communities. All cricket fans, irrespective of their race, rejoiced when Murali spun his web to snare in the best of batsmen in the world and bring victory to Sri Lanka.
The reception accorded to him at his final game at Galle, in the South, the Sinhala Buddhist heartland, where incidentally, he achieved his record breaking feat, was unprecedented. The entire stadium was bedecked with giant Mural cutouts and the sound of fire crackers that rang out when he claimed his 800th scalp and the carnival atmosphere that prevailed was certainly a spectacle that Galle would not have witnessed in a long time. It also has parallels, when Murlai was given the returning hero welcome in his home town, Kandy, where he was greeted by the multitudes, after almost claiming all twenty wickets to fall at the London Oval helping Sri Lanka rout England for the first time in their own den.
It is time that the Cricket Board panjandrums rid themselves out of their pettiness and do justice by a sporting icon who has done the country proud. Sri Lanka’s cricketing stocks have hit rock bottom and it is best that the Cricket Board officials divert their energies on reviving the fortunes of the national team rather than to remove name boards on cricket stadiums.
The Sports Minister, meanwhile, should lose no time in re-naming the stadium after Murali, if indeed, the name had undergone a change, paying heed to the pleadings of a father who had bequeathed to Sri Lanka, a national asset.