11 March 2013

Rohantha Peiris’ lesson on ‘knowledge’

Big Matches are places to meet old friends.  Sometimes though one is introduced to total strangers.  On Friday, at the Royal Thomian I spotted Royal’s rugger captain of 1978, Rohantha Peiris.  He was chatting away with some friends as I passed by.  A couple of hours later, someone buttonholed me (not literally of course).  A stranger.  He knew my mother, who taught at Royal for 15 years.  He introduced me to another stranger: ‘This is Rohantha’s brother’.   Older brother, clearly.  Eminently recognizable. 

So I told him what I remembered of Rohantha.  No, not the Bradby legs of 1978, but the final of a Premadasa Trophy knockout tournament where his team, CR&FC was trailing the opposing team (‘CH,’ his brother reminded me).  I told him how Rohantha made use of a then largely unknown lineout rule, to take a quick throw-in (he was not the hooker), left everyone perplexed and engineered a win for his team.  I told him how important knowing the rules were, especially when the opponents (in a game, in politics etc) are ignorant. 
‘Yes, you have to know the rules and you have to know when to use them,’ he remarked. 

We don’t know the rules.  We don’t know the law. We don’t know customs, the reethi that goes hand in hand with neethi (laws), that ultimate textual encoding of propriety in any given society.  When we transgress, often it is out of ignorance: we don’t know the neethi or the reethi. When we fail, again it is often because we did not know the existence of specific rules which we could refer to and draw succor from.
Moreover, as Rohantha’s brother pointed out it is not enough to know these things but when to draw from what.  A quick throw-in at any other point in the game might not have altered the run of play in the way it was orchestrated by Rohantha.  There are many legal ways of responding to any situation.  Just like a lawyer would refer to X vs Y instead of P vs Q to buttress argument, one has to pick and choose.  Certain things work only in certain contexts or at least work better in certain contexts.  A spinner, for example, mixes up his deliveries to keep the batsman guessing so that when the wicket-ball is delivered he is unprepared and more likely to err. 

It is not of course only about bamboozling an opponent.  It is a lesson that can be evoked in noncompetitive situations as well.  After all, an individual being spend more time grappling with him/herself than with others or the world. 
The pertinent point is that you have to know the rules and know them well. You have to know all the rules in fact because this gives you the privilege of choice.  And if you take the broader meaning of ‘rule’, i.e. in relation to ethical frames, it would be less likely that you will be stumped by your inevitable human frailty. 

Reflecting on that conversation late Friday night, I realized that one could drop the ‘rules’ part of the story and focus on the broader term, ‘knowing’.  Knowledge is key. 
If we go along with the lessons of that rugger match, Rohantha knew the lineout rule and much more besides.  His teammates probably knew a lot too. All of them, whether or not they knew the rule, clearly knew what ‘innovation’ meant, what ‘adapting’ meant and what ‘team’ meant.  They delivered for themselves, for one another, the fans and the team.  

This conversation took place when play had been stopped due to rain (abandoned altogether later).  There was loud music, lots of singing and reminiscing, cheers and laughter and all the revelry that’s part of the Big Match experience.  There’s always something extra that one can take away from the Big Match, I realized.  Well, you could take something extra from anything, I suppose, but this time it was this observation from a man I had never met before and with whom I chatted for less than a minute before I was dragged away by some friends; too quick for his name to register.  Rohantha’s brother he was and will be until who knows when.  But what he said, remained.
We got to know.  It is as simple as that.   And as complex as that, Rohantha’s brother might add.


h. said...

"You have to know all the rules in fact because this gives you the privilege of choice."

True. But in the context of team-play, this applies to all members of the team. One cannot draw all the knowledge from the others and withhold from them, and expect to win as a team. If you trust your team members with the knowledge you have, they will trust you in return. It's always like that in life, isn't it? And good communication among teammates - without this, one will not know what the other is asking or wants to know, and the team will fail. So, for all that you are talking about in your article, having faith in the other and communicating with the other are the most crucial things for knowledge gain (or knowing the rules) in my opinion. Hope you would agree?

Anonymous said...

His brother's name is Nilhan Peiris, for those who don't know.

Anonymous said...

I think we can all learn a life lesson from Mr. Peiris

Anonymous said...

I played in this match in the opposite side CH & FC the unlucky team. Quick thingking is the game changer no doubt Rohantha exploited it greatly at the last minute of the game to bring Victory . However it was the ignorance and biased attitude of the linesmen who is no more should have kept the flag up to signal to the referee that it was CH throw in. Both the referee, General Kobekaduwe and linesmen Mohamed Moose is no more . The only surviving witness who knows this serious error is the great. Anton Benedict who was the linesmen on the opposite side.

Ravi Wijenathan