23 June 2023

Feet that walk

Adam Gilchrist 'walking' during the World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka in 2003

‘Aevidda paya dahas vatee’
is a Sinhala saying that refers to the value of walking. Literally, it means, ‘feet that walk are worth thousands…’ Thousands of kahavanu or masurang we don’t know. If we talk in rupees, we would have to talk of hundreds of thousands or millions and not thousands considering inflation and of course the fuel crisis that crippled one and all.

Walking is good for many reasons, including of course fund-raising activities. But there’s another kind of walking. One associated with cricket. It refers to a batter who knows he/she is out (for, say, having nicked a delivery ever so faintly to the wicket keeper or slip cordon) and although appeals from fielders haven’t swayed the umpire nevertheless decides to walk back to the pavilion, outing him/herself, so to say.

Today with DRS and third umpires, the bowler, fielders and umpires have the opportunity to press the point home should they feel they are right. Today, as it was the case before the ICC pencilled in review options and the development of technology, there are no laws that say you can’t wait for the umpire’s decision. Doesn’t mean batters cannot walk though. Some still do, still.  

What’s important is that it is a moral rather than legal issue. Anthony McGowan explores the moral prerogatives in a wonderful article titled ‘The ethics of walking in cricket: from Socrates to Nietzsche’ in www.theguardian.com published in December 2019.

Based on the ideological or even philosophical predilections of well known Western historical figures who made morality, among other things, their concern, McGowan speculates on whether or not each would walk.  Here’s the gist.

‘Socrates would have walked. Plato would have too, if he hadn’t got rid of cricket altogether. The next is hilarious: Diogenes the Cynic ‘would have marched out to the wicket and defecated on the pitch, just short of a good length. Epicurus would have walked and advocated walking to boot. Aristippus and the Cyrenaics would say ‘do not walk, just enjoy your time out there.’ Pyrrho of Elis and the Skeptics who insisted that nothing is certain would not have walked. Stoics, trusting fate and convinced that if the umpire hasn’t given it then it must be the right decision, would not walk. Aristotle would have walked but only if he was sure that the umpire was about to give him out; otherwise he would stand his ground. Kant, who believed that fellow crickets are owed the truth would have walked. The Utilitarian does not walk for there’s no utility value in doing so. Nietzsche would not have walked.’

There you have it. The particular batter will think through the dilemma as per the moral tenets he/she subscribes to. Judgment on the act (of walking or not) will likewise be informed by the morality each ‘judge’ has embraced. So ‘walkers’ would be applauded by some and vilified by others. All very subjective.

There are two instances that come to mind. Feel free to judge, to applaud or condemn.

During the 97th Battle of the Blues, in 1976, the entire Royal team appealed for a caught-behind down the leg side and the umpire ruled Lalith Ratnyake out. The batsman had been shocked and it showed on his face. He just shook his head and walked back. The umpire’s decision was final and respected. That was the sportsman’s creed back then.

The reaction was not lost on the Royal skipper, T M S Saldin. He conferred with his teammates and requested the umpire to call Ratnayake back. Many claim that Saldin knew enough of Ratnayake to understand that he would not feign disbelief at the dismissal. Many claim that had it been any other Thomian, Saldin would not have bothered to ‘review’ with his teammates.

A few years later, in 1982, the Royal veggie Malik Samarasinghe had enticed Stefan Anthonisz offer the faintest of an edge, so faint that only the keeper, Sarinda Unamboowe had appealed. The umpire declined the appeal.

Anthonisz stood firm for a few seconds looking at the ground. Then he turned, looked Sarinda in the eye, and as Sarinda later recalled, ‘muttered an audible obscenity and to the shock of all, on and off the field, tucked his bat under his arm and trudged off the field.’

All the Royalists on the field, once they realized what had happened, had applauded Anthonisz all the way to the pavilion. There may have been some Cyrenaics, Stoics, Aristotlians and Utilitarians in the Thomian camp who would have been scornful.

Sarinda, it is reported, had made a beeline for the Thomian dressing room at the tea break to shake Stefan’s hand and to confess, ‘I would never have done that.’

Two examples, then, of a different kind of aevidda paya, feet that walked. Feet that walked the talk, in fact; the talk of the done thing being done. The one where perceptions of an individual’s integrity persuaded a decision-review and a decision-reversal; a walk back associated with certain moral convictions; and the other a walk praised and perhaps scorned.  Feel free to judge, to applaud or condemn.

Both matches ended in draws. Had there been decisions in either match, the significance of these small acts may have been assessed differently and different values attached to each.

Suffice to say that Anthonisz, Ratnayake and Saldin are remembered more often than whoever excelled with bat or ball. All things considered, these walks were pure gold forged in the alchemy of moral consideration. Intangible and yet highly valued. 

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

Sarinda's eyes

Poetry and poets will not be buried

Sunny Dayananda

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990)

What makes Oxygen breathable? 

Sorrowing and delighting the world

The greatest fallacy 

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi

Beyond praise and blame

Letters that cut and heal the heart

Vanished and vanishing trails


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya

The soft rain of neighbourliness 

The Gold Medals of being

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri

All those we've loved before

Reflections on waves and markings

A chorus of National Anthems

Saying what and how

'Say when'

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra

The loves of our lives

The right time, the right person

The silent equivalent of a thousand words

Crazy cousins are besties for life

Unities, free and endearing

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!"

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis

The revolution is the song

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins

The day I won a Pulitzer


Ella Deloria's silences

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable 


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan

Enlightening geometries

Let's meet at 'The Commons'

It all begins with a dot

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone

On sweeping close to one's feet

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts...

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm

Who really wrote 'Mother'?

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember

On loving, always

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal

When you turn 80...

It is good to be conscious of nudities 

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday 

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart