02 October 2011

Peter Roebuck on the brink

Some people like horror stories.  Some are doom’s day prophets.  Some write about things they know about. Some think that when they know something (e.g. some fact) about something (cricket, for instance), they have the right to strut around as though know everything about everything.  I am thinking of Peter Roebuck and his recent article ‘Sri Lanka on the brink’. 

Sensationalizing is an art.  ‘Whatever makes one happy’, is a way to respond to such thing.   Peter Roebuck has a reputation and therefore could do better than use his reputation and his slightly more than a smattering knowledge of cricket to sugarcoat what can only be called malice and ignorance.

The article sets out to analyze Sri Lanka’s cricketing future on the occasion of the appointment of Geoff Marsh as the new coach.  After some necessary and cursory accolades Roebuck starts to chew, ticking off all the negatives.  He is correct.  There are off-field controversies, the natural ups and downs of an outfit in the process of rebuilding after the retirement of exceptional performers and so on.  He throws in Kumar Sangakkara’s much-celebrated comments to underline his conclusions.  All good, all good.
On the other hand, though, it is not as if Sri Lankan cricket’s success or failure is dependent on the health of the island’s cricket administration.  There have been more interim committees than regularly elected bodies and the nature of the administration has had little bearing on what happens on the field, in terms of success/failure that is. 
Indian cricket is always embroiled in some controversy, but the team is still among the top in the world.  England, South Africa and New Zealand have cricket boards that are largely free from controversy, but has this translated into consistently superior on-field performances?  None of these teams have won a World Cup. South Africa and New Zealand are yet to reach a final and England hasn’t shown any sign of making it in more than two decades.  What this means is that Sri Lankan cricketers have something special about them which allows them to be unaffected by off-field controversies, right Peter?
Intrigue regarding team selection there always was and always will be, not just in Sri Lanka but elsewhere too, but there is a lot of room for improvement of course and that point is valid.  
Sri Lanka, he laments also, is being led by its third best captain.  Now that’s a big claim, considering that Tillekratne Dilshan hasn’t really had the time to demonstrate skippering credentials.  India once had 4 or 5 former captains on board, all led by a younger skipper.  Sri Lanka doesn’t lack in talent or determination.  Sanath Jayasuriya was not the best ‘leader’ on the field when he became captain.  Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva were certainly known to have better skippering credentials.  Hashan Tillekeratne too, while one could not rule out Chaminda Vaas or Muttiah Muralidharan, given experience, longevity and cricketing knowledge, not to mention the respect they enjoyed from their team mates, seniors included.   
Stephen Fleming (New Zealand) and Graeme Smith (South Africa) were wet-behind-the-ears when they were asked to captain their respective teams.  I can’t remember Roebuck dissing either at the time.  Pooh-poohing Dilshan is therefore a bit whacky, to put it mildly.
If things national (the baddies enumerated by Roebuck for instance) impact players, then the ‘goodies’ must too.  Like the resilience and single-minded determination that helped deliver a comprehensive defeat on the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization.  A slip in the rankings can be explained in many ways and as Roebuck points out the chaos in the administration has not helped.  This doesn’t explain why England has for years languished in the middle and lower part of the rankings nor New Zealand’s consistent just-above-Bangladesh status. 
Geoff Marsh has taken on a challenge, Roebuck is right all things considered.  Dev Whatmore and the other Aussie coaches who came before had the same kinds of issues to contend with.  They delivered and there is no reason why Marsh will not.   So we can conclude that while Roebuck makes some points, he fudges a lot too.  I would give him a B Plus for his assessment. 
Roebuck does know something about cricket, that’s why people read him.  That’s where he should stop too, for his knowledge of history, geography and politics is abysmal, going from what he has written about Sri Lanka’s ‘situation’ in this very same article.
He states "Sri Lanka can be inward-looking, and sensitive about intrusion from other countries, especially India, and including the West, whose condemnation of the cruelty that marked the closing stages of the civil war (and afterwards) is resented."  Now on what basis has he come to this conclusion?
First and foremost, no one condones cruelty.  But what is this ‘cruelty’ that Roebuck claims ‘marked the closing stages’ of what he calls (inaccurately) a ‘civil war’ and, lest we forget, ‘afterwards’?  Does he not know that over 4000 security forces paid with their lives to rescue close to 300,000 people who were being held hostage by the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit?  What’s the cruelty in that?  Is he by any chance referring to the fact that the hostage-takers shot hostages at point blank range as they tried to flee and reach safety, with, mark, the security forces of the Sri Lankan State? 
Does he not know that in the before, during and after of the operation the Sri Lankan State continued to send and to facilitate the sending of food, medicine and other essentials to terrorist-held areas, knowing very well that the terrorists would pilfer most of it and distribute the rest as though it was engaging in charity? 
Does he know that almost all those displaced have now returned to their homes and to infrastructural facilities they had been denied for decades courtesy the wanton destruction by the LTTE?  Does he know that in the IDP camps, where they were resident until the Army cleared thousands of square kilometers of land of landmines buried by the LTTE, they were treated like no IDPs anywhere in the world were treated, with food and medicine, water and care, counseling where necessary and with all arrangements put in place so children could learn and sit for examinations?
Does this man know that of more than 10,000 hardcore LTTE cades captured or surrendered, more than 8000 have been rehabilitated, given skills and reunited with families and reintegrated with society?  Does he not know that over 500 child combatants abducted and trained to kill by the LTTE were quickly reunited with their parents and families so they could recover their childhood and dreams? 
There is no resentment about wild allegations, Peter.  Just pity at ignorance. 
Most important, however, is the strange fact that Peter Roebuck is blind to what ‘The West’ has been doing in terms of ‘cruelty’ in almost all parts of the world, but most particularly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya in recent times.  How about ‘being cricket’ as per the saying ‘that’s not cricket’, about the West, Peter? 
He says a lot needs to be done in the country.  Yes. In all countries, especially his. Agreed?
Let’s try this.  Let Peter talk about cruelty in India and Pakistan. Let him educate us about Kashmir and how NATO is going about handling ‘terrorists’. Let him tell us how Britain is batting in Libya, partnering Uncle Sam.  Let him tell us about Australia’s racist laws and criminal treatment of the ancient people in that country that was captured by a set of English thugs and peopled by English criminals.  Will he? 
I am not sure.  Maybe he does not have those things that are tossed around the cricket field so necessary to take on such a task. 
As for us, we have our tumours and thanks Peter for pointing them out.  We will try to do our best.  I have no doubt that Dilshan and his boys will brush aside the negatives when they stride on to the field.  We cheer them all the way, venerate them when they win and are sad when they don’t. We don’t burn their houses or toss bricks in their direction.  That’s something now, isn’t it?



Dulan said...

Once again par for the course as far as Roebuck's journalism is concerned.

In Roebuck's defence there is one very "unRoebuck" line in his article, "Certainly the West can be hypocritical - 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in an illegitimate war fought on spurious grounds by leaders who remained intact."

Well other than that, as one guy who commented on the cricinfo article said it's like beating a dead horse. Lots of exaggerations but saying the same thing all over again.

It's amazing that such a journalist refers to lots of non facts & rumours.

Eg - 1. "Sri Lanka cricket appears to be a house divided" - Note the word "appears"

2."During the third Test against Australia, the country's most celebrated players were summoned to see the president, for a routine "friendly chat", as officials insisted, though others suggest that division in the team was the issue." - others "suggest", who are these "others?"

3. "though his (Mathara) constituents take a dim view of his long absences" - about Jayasuriya - I'm absolutely certain that this is a mere shot in the dark.