04 July 2023

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Australian wicketkeeper across all formats and the vice-captain of the ODI side Alex Tyson Carey has a lot of cricket left in him. Just 31 years old, he has scored almost 1,000 runs in 22 tests at an average of 34.51 and has a century and five half centuries to his credit. Seven 50s and a century in 64 ODIs at an 87.92 strike rate means he’s an integral part of Australia’s white and red ball cricket teams. Barring injury and a significant dip in form he should play for a few more years as well.

What would he be remembered for, though?  

Let’s take a stab at that question later. I am thinking of two individuals right now, a cricketer and a politician, Trevor Chappell and Mahinda Rajapaksa respectively. Let’s start with the latter.

In the year 2010, the day after Mahinda Rajapaksa began his second presidential term, I wrote an article titled ‘Thanks and good luck Mr President.’ It was about the kind of legacy he could leave behind. Here’s a quote:

‘He has shown he can handle pressure. He knows how to win over his enemies.  He knows how to deal with those he cannot win over.  He can be firm to the point of being seen as brutal and unforgiving but in this he is no worse than the next politician.  He has one enemy.  A formidable one.  An enemy he should be wary of and watch out for every wakeful moment.  An enemy he should never underestimate for he could do so only at his own peril. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s biggest enemy is himself.’

The legacy of his presidential terms is mixed, ‘mixed’ being a rather generous term.

People leave legacies. They are remembered not for all they’ve done or achieved but sometimes for some specific thing, typically that which is considered ignoble. In Rajapaksa’s case it’s many things. In the case of Trevor Chappell, one.

The achievements of the Australian cricketer Trevor Chappell are nothing compared to those of his illustrious brothers Ian and Greg. Three tests and 20 ODIs with batting averages of 15.80 and 17.61 respectively don’t add up to ‘legend’ even if you consider the fact that he was a brilliant cover fielder and scored an ODI century. He’s remembered though. He is remembered for something he would have wanted to forget but probably cannot and will not be allowed to.

Trevor Chappell is most remembered for his involvement in the infamous last-ball underarm delivery, which he was instructed to bowl by Greg Chappell against New Zealand's Brian McKechnie in Benson & Hedges ODI in February 1981 at the MCG to effectively ensure that it won’t be carted for a game-winning six.

Trevor rolled the ball along the pitch and McKechnie lobbed away his bat in frustration. The crowd booed. Trevor would later admit that although he thought it was a good idea at the time, he knew it wasn’t in the spirit of the game. His brother would recall that it was only when a little girl ran up to him, tugged on his sleeve and said ‘you cheated,’ that he realised [the decision and consequences] were bigger than he had expected.

Legacy you would not want to be associated with, then.

Back to Alex Carey.  A few days ago, England were fighting to keep the Ashes alive on the last day of the second test. Skipper Ben Stokes was out there in the middle with Jonny Bairstow. England were still quite a distance from the target, but with these two in the middle there was reason to be optimistic. Then it happened.

Bairstow ducked under a short ball from Cameron Green, scratched the crease with his boot and walked down the pitch towards his partner. The ball not being dead, technically, Carey, who had collected the ball on the bounce under-armed a throw at the striker’s end. The on-field umpires referred it to the TV umpire who ruled Bairstow out. The Australians were booed until and after they won the test, surviving a belligerent onslaught by a clearly livid Stokes.

Later, in his column for the Daily Mail, Stuart Broad who replaced Bairstow at the crease, expressed surprise that none of the senior Australians had reflected on what had happened. Instead they took refuge, it seems, in the technicality. The rule. The rule book. In ‘rules are rules, so there!’

Greg knew almost immediately that he had erred in terms of upholding the spirt of the game. Trevor knew even as he bowled the delivery. That single moment tainted them both. Legacy. Legacy you cannot feel proud about.

Mahinda Rajapaksa has not shown remorse and maybe he never will. Maybe it will not haunt him. It’s part of his legacy, though. Same as Trevor’s and Greg’s.

Alex Carey may notch up many batting and keeping records. He may end up as one of the greatest wicketkeeper batters, although he doesn’t have too much time to get there. He may one day express regret. He may not. Either way, this act, within the rules of the game but in violation of its spirit, will be part of his legacy.

No one is unblemished and therefore it would be harsh to pick on the warts, but it is good to know that one moment of weakness can leave a scar that cannot be erased.  

Even in an unforgiving world there would be some who would forgive if the person involved is remorseful about the particular transgression. Consolation, true, but it’s still better than sustained damnation. Trevor and Greg have moved on. Cricket has moved on. The underarm delivery is mentioned but not to the exclusion of all other achievements.  May this be true of Alex Carey too. One day.  


['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:

The Edelweiss of Mirissa

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down)

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred

Manufacturing passivity and obedience

Precept and practice

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited

In praise of courage, determination and insanity

The relative values of life and death

Feet that walk

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