By: Audrey Wang
A cruel government, tax cuts, money creation, a nationwide policy to shift to organic or biological farming, the 2019 Easter bombings, and the impact of COVID-19 have brought a heavy hammer down on Sri Lanka. Amid the chaos, many people, including Aadhil Siddhique, have found a haven in a long-standing tradition: cricket. Siddhique made time for cricket – between studying for exams and taking part in antigovernment protests. He watched his favorite team on television and followed them online. Of course, only when power cuts were not in place.
Lately, the men’s national team in Colombo have achieved some important victories, allowing them to rise from the ashes. This May, the Sri Lankan cricket team had won over Bangladesh in a five-day test, a third of cricket’s three rounds. This month, the team won over Australia, the world’s top-ranked test squad after a single loss. The match against Australia, held in Galle, was an important day for another reason – on the second day, protestors surrounded the president’s home, forcing him to hide, and in the end, making the president resign.
Over the phone, Siddhique described the team members as “Brand ambassadors during this time of hardship,” Siddhique said over the phone. “Whenever Sri Lanka wins, we feel motivated that his struggle against corrupt politicians could also be won.” For the citizens, the players on the cricket team are examples of motivation – an example to be brave and stand for what is right.
The sport is so loved by the population that professional matches and tournaments have continued through the crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Sri Lanka that has continued for decades. Even when the cricket team was ambushed during a trip to Pakistan in 2009, the tensity did not last for more than a couple of months – the team hosted a match with Pakistan in Sri Lanka later in the year. “Even when something goes really wrong, they will always try to find joy and happiness in the sport,” Abhishek Mukherjee, a cricket writer said, referring to the fans in the region. “And when I say sport, it’s almost always cricket.”
The public response of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people towards cricket lately have been delightfully surprising – even when Sri Lanka was losing a match, everyone in the crowds would be cheering. “What was noticeable was that, even when Sri Lanka was losing, people were partying in the stands” Estelle Vasudevan, a Sri Lankan sports journalist said. Many residents also saw cricket positioned with their attempts to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.
Rajapaksa was replaced by his ally, Ranil Wickremesinghe, after fleeing the country. “We are having tough time there,” Dimuth Karunarathna, the captain of the protest, posted on Twitter. “This win brings some joy to their faces.”
Yet there is still much to do. Protests against the new president are inevitable, and more cricket victories will become the new speck of hope for the citizens that lead their everyday life in Sri Lanka.