By Nishthar Idroos –
A determined Narendra Modi makes a brisk walk to the crease. It’s a great day for cricket here at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in the deep south of Sri Lanka. Blue skies, soothing breeze and simply gorgeous weather. The wicket playing true. Modi is at the wicket because Xi Jinping was just dismissed caught in the deep off the bowling of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Introduction of spin has brought first blood for Sri Lanka. The doosra from Ranil Wickremesinghe got Xi Jinping truly and completely flummoxed. Xi Jinping did not negotiate the line well; he tried an exuberant sweep and completely mistimed the stroke. He top edged it; the ball ballooned and was comfortably caught by Mangala Samaraweera in the deep fine leg region. It’s kind of ironic to see Ranil Wickramasinghe doing well at Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium. It’s certainly not his best hunting ground.
Ranil Wickremesinghe has been working on the doosra for some time now, almost devoutly in the recent past. It’s nice to see the vice-captain of the present squad under the able leadership of skipper Maithripala Sirisena being among the wickets. He is bowling true to his reputation. Xi Jinping’s scalp was a prized one. His prolonged drought would have been a personal worry. Many were calling for his chop. Many more tried to coax him for an early retirement. The bloke had nothing of it, instead steadily worked hard to improve his bowling. The special training he received in Washington paid off. It’s believed he had met a couple of renowned exponents of the doosra in Washington; all came in handy at the right moment. Credit should also go to New Delhi for extending special supportive work. Its speculated by some in the top echelons that he got a “raw” deal. This dude was too good a bowler to be pulverised perpetually and get propelled to perdition. The chap has come of age and looks insatiably voracious. It’s now an opportune moment to rechristen him. I am thinking of calling him the Rejuvenated Wildcat. Do you have something better for the initials RW?
The bearded Indian, the veteran of many matches and respected for his enviable skills has to click today. Much is expected of him. A good score today would certainly change the course of the game and perhaps the history of the two nations. He got to score and score generously. He should give in excess of a billion US dollars for Sri Lanka’s economic development. That’s the expectation. Nothing less and anything more would not be rejected. Xi Jinping’s scored quite heavily and freely. We are reliably informed for some mysterious reason the scorer did not recorded most of Xi Jinping’s runs. We are unable to definitively inform l how much evaporated to thin air. Experts are currently busy making an investigative assessment. As of now it’s all about Narendra Modi, his reputation and what he’ll do to get a firm stranglehold on the game. Much is at stake. He will have to either put up or pack up. He will have to score in excess of Xi Jinping if he is to have any realistic thoughts of securing control and vie for the much coveted man of the match award.
Narendra Modi takes guard from umpire Tarak Banama, the African American umpire coming all the way from Illinois, Chicago. He’s officiating in his inaugural test match and we wish him all the best. His partner for this game is Ravid Dameron from Bristol, England. Tarak Manama looks very involved and confident. Isn’t it surprising Americans too are beginning to show interest in cricket? The Americans true to their reputation love to put their hands on to almost anything and everything. Umpire Panama stridently shouts “that’s your leg”. Modi does some gardening and stretches a couple of times. Takes a good look at the field placement. He looks at the northern end of the ground and turns back and looks even more closely at the southern end.
Departing momentarily from the cricket, Sri Lankans in general have a clear message for Prime Minister Modi. He will have to do much more than flag off trains. If he’s sincere he will have to first and foremost submit a sincere apology to the people of Sri lanka for undermining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. Sri Lankans have not forgotten the infamous parippu drop in 1987 by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Confidence building is a people to people affair primarily. When the smaller neighbour’s dignity is threatened by the bigger neighbour it does not auger well for good relations. At least an open commitment not to try any of the failed strategies of the past will go a long way.
Prime Ministers initiative to give Sri Lankans visa on arrival will do wonders in building strong people to people contact. It will also be a great fillip for business between the two countries.
It’s also significant Indian investment comes pouring in. This is another way people to people relationships could flourish. It’s excruciatingly ironic that really close neighbors have behaved like arch enemies for too long and missed out on the enormous economic potential. This is catastrophe if not a terrible tragedy. Let’s hope billions of dollars will come Sri Lanka’s way by way of Foreign Direct Investment. Time is tantalizingly opportune for India to come in big time to capitalize on the burgeoning tourism sector. India should think big and come with a plan to build atleast 10,000 hotel rooms in the next five years. By 2020 Sri Lanka no doubt will be making grand plans to welcome in excess of five million or more tourists. This is realistic and very much achievable.
Getting back to cricket proper, Sri Lanka and India should play three tests matches and at least 5 ODIs and 5 T 20s every year. This has to be a definite annual event for the two countries. This is long overdue. This could also enhance sports tourism to a truly different level. The Mahinda Rajapaksa Cricket Stadium and International Airport after all need not become cattle sheds or grasslands for dhobi’s to put washed linen to dry. Sri Lanka should be able to put those white elephants to good use with the assistance of the best brains in the industry. Sports are a great healer and even stronger agent for bringing people together. I cannot understand why these two giants in cricket did not engage on a regular basis and demonstrate to the world the unique Asian cricketing prowess. I also wish India considers favourably the constructing of a fully fledged international cricket stadium for Jaffna. This would be a great boost for cricket in Jaffna and the region. Hopefully the plan would be a catalyst to churn great cricketing talent in the region and enable northern youth represent their motherland one day.
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe stoked controversy suggesting that Indian fishermen may be shot if they intruded into Sri Lankan waters. Most Sri Lanka would support the premier for his stand. His rationale “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed…Law allows me to do that.”The premier’s position is very much in keeping with international law. The fishermen’s issue has got escalated and its time an amicable solution is found. If the Indian side senses the persistence of this issue despite sincere deliberations both in Colombo and New Delhi, it’s up to the two governments to work out a mechanism and also look at ways of compensating local fisherman. The people in the north cannot be losers in this deal. It’s their livelihood that’s in jeopardy hence a just resolution.
Coming back to the cricket at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in the Deep South of Sri Lanka, at the end of the days play the Rest of Asia Team managed well not to lose any further wickets. A confidant Modi remained unbeaten.