Are we personae non gratae in India?

Reuters

The national cricket team has returned home after the tour of India where they were beaten heavily in Indore and Pune. The other cricketing center that they were at was Guwahati. Yet again, they weren’t given a chance to play at Madras as there is a ban on Sri Lankan teams in Tamil Nadu. This of course was a short tour but the 2017 series was spread across the country as Sri Lanka played in the north – Mohali, in the east – Bombay, in the west – Calcutta and in the south – Vishakhapatnam and many other places. Even then, they didn’t play a game in Madras!

In fact, none of the current Sri Lankan players have played in Madras. Sri Lanka have not played there since 2005 and the state of Tamil Nadu seems to consider us as personae non gratae!

The ban came to effect during the tenure of Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram and still, years after her shocking death, the Sri Lankans are unwelcome in Tamil Nadu. Sri Lankan players are not even allowed to play in IPL matches in Madras although there aren’t many of them left playing the sport’s richest competition. 

Incidentally, Madras was chosen to host Sri Lanka’s first ever Test match in India in September 1982. The game is known for Duleep Mendis’ twin hundreds. Batting at number four, Mendis compiled identical scores of 105 in each innings. But his efforts were overshadowed by the charming effects of Roy Dias, who scored 60 and 97 in that game. 

Mendis reckons that to be his most memorable Test match although he had other highlights such as the hundred at Lord’s and many more remarkable knocks at home.  

Sri Lanka nearly won that game. Having set India a target of 175, Ashantha De Mel’s five wicket haul reduced India to 134 for seven. Unfortunately, the team is yet to win a Test match in India and 1982 is the closest they have come to do so. 

In the good old days, there was an annual First Class match that was played between Madras and Sri Lanka. The encounter was started in 1952 and was played for the M.J. Gopalan Trophy but was stopped in 2007 during the height of the civil war. More than ten years after the war, no efforts have been made to resume the contest or to allow the Sri Lankan teams to play in Madras. 

Not allowing a team to play in one particular state doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t serve any good. Those politicians who think that by imposing the ban that they are showing solidarity with Tamils in Sri Lanka are badly mistaken.  It doesn’t serve any purpose and only widens the gap and creates hatred among communities.

Politicians rather than being petty minded need to look at the larger picture and keep politics out of sports. 

Imagine a politician in Colombo saying that if Tamil Nadu doesn’t allow Sri Lankan players to play in that state, Tamil cricketers like Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay, Dinesh Karthik or Vijay Shankar aren’t allowed to play in Sri Lanka? It will not only be a diplomatic disaster but Sri Lanka Cricket will be bankrupt as the Board of Control for Cricket in India will not take a call like that lying down. 

As for Karthik, he is an absolute hero in this part of the world following his last ball six in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh. The politicians, especially those in Tamil Nadu, need to take a closer look how all Sri Lankans – Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils celebrated Karthik’s feat that night. 

Politicians in Tamil Nadu must be not aware that at present the movie that is being shown in all premier cinemas in Colombo whether it be Liberty, Savoy or Concord is Rajanikanth’s Darbar. All shows have been house full and not only Tamils but people from other communities too would love to watch Super Star’s movies. 

Imagine Tamil Nadu’s stance on our cricket team ending in a boycott of Tamil movies in Colombo. Well, Tamil movie industry will not suffer but certainly the Tamils living in Sri Lanka will suffer not being able  to watch their favourite artists.  

The three decade long civil war was bitter and slowed down the nation’s progress significantly. But after the end of the war, the country and all communities are making tremendous progress and the politicians in the state of Tamil Nadu have failed to see this progress. We are sure that the people of Tamil Nadu want to see our players perform. But that opportunity has been denied by lawmakers of the state. Sports should never get political. 

Sri Lanka should start playing in Tamil Nadu again and efforts need to be taken to revive Gopalan Trophy. 

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ThePapare.com