By Kithsiri Senadeera
I have the highest regard for our Sri Lanka’s cricket captain Dasun Shanaka not only because he lead a young team to win the T20 Asia Cup under extremely difficult conditions, but the statement he made at the post-match press conference after winning the Asia Cup. Dasun Shanaka said “Not only Cricket, but other sports should also be on top. But the media always speak only about cricket. It is a big thing if we talk about other games and bring them up,”
We all should admire his selflessness statement. Instead of asking for more benefits for his own sport, he is requesting to support other sports as well. I am touched by his bravery to make such a statement and his social conscience and empathy. As far as I am aware this is the first time a winning captain has made such a remark.
I too personally feel we have given too much prominence to cricket and have neglected other sports to a large extent. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, cricket is the only sport that we have come up to international level. However, it is a game mostly played in commonwealth countries. Further, cricket has a higher social status (‘gentleman’s game’) among Sri Lankans compared to other games such as Soccer (‘working class sport’) Volleyball, Hockey, and Athletics. In cricket, it can gain more individual achievements (best batsman, bowler, fielder, all-rounder, man of the match) than other games that are more collective. Further, today cricket is a big business.
There are several reasons why Sri Lanka should promote other sports. We all know that cricket is a very expensive game, especially in the recent past. Those days we played only with batting pads, gloves, and Abdominal (ball) Guards. Today there are many other items such as thigh guards, arm guards, chest guards, elbow guards, mouthguards, headgear (helmet), sunglasses, kit bags, etc. are used. In addition, due to the high competitiveness of the game, today newly invented machines and equipment are used for practicing/training. But for other sports, very few items are necessary and are far less expensive than cricket. Cricket is a very time-consuming game except for T20 (which is not true cricket!). Other games can be over in one or two hours.
Recently, our athletes have proved that we can perform at the international level even with the current economic and food crisis. Sri Lankan sprinter Yupun Abeykoon is currently ranked 20th in the world in 100 meters – the most competitive event in track and field events- and the fastest man in South Asia and the first South Asian to break the 10-second barrier. Isuru Kumara won a bronze medal in the weightlifting event at Commonwealth Games (CWG), Palitha Bandara won a silver medal in the men’s shot put, and Yupun Abeykoon 100m bronze. Nethmi Poruthotage gave Sri Lanka its 1st Wrestling medal at CWG beating an Australian girl. Nilani Ratnayake our 3000m steeplechase champion and middle distance champion Gayanthika Abeyratne have qualified to take part in the World Athletics Championships along with sprinter Yupun Abeykoon to be held in the USA.
The GOSL and sports authorities must make more effort to develop other sports throughout the country that have larger participation and are financially more feasible than cricket. Inter-school, Divisional, District, and Provincial level matches and tournaments must be organized with professional coaches.
It is high time we expatriates support other sports such as soccer, volleyball, hockey, and athletics that are far less expensive than cricket and it can help more youngsters to participate in sports in the Country.