Two Abstracts summarizing two essays on Sri Lanka’s cricket history, 2007 & 2009

Michael Roberts

 Squad that beat India in Ahmedabad early 1965

 These abstracts will give readers some sense of the content so that those wishing to pursue the topic can seek out the original print source. Not that (1) the articles were finalized about 18-24 months before appearing in print, that being the normal time for review processes and printing and (2) there is some overlap between the two articles.

They mesh with the Item on Sangakkara’s interview with Al-Jazeera one week after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket entourage at Lahore on 3 March 2009 in [where there are anumber of interesting photographs]. They are presented here in part because they anticipate the publication of the following article in toto within “Cricketing Fervour and Islamic Fervour: Marginalisation in the Diaspora”, The International Journal of the History of Sport, June-Sept. 2004, 3 & 4: 550-63.

Michael Roberts, Landmarks and threads in the cricketing universe of Sri Lanka,Sport in Society, 2007, 10: 120-42.

ABSTRACT:  This article analyses the political contexts impinging upon cricket as well as the politics within the cricketing universe. Organized along temporal as well as thematic lines, it beginswith the story of cricket as a pastime for the ruling British elements and marks the importance of total institutions such as military regiments and schools in its emergence in the nineteenth century. The principal engine of expansion, however, was the institutioncalled the ‘club’. For over 100 years cricket was also an urban phenomenon, though the planting clubs were a site for its expressions of mannered masculinity. A paradox emerges: cricket was both an agency of Westernization and a site for challenges to white, British notions of superiority.As a largely elitist sport confined to the Ceylonese ‘middle class’, it was one of the earliest vehicles of Ceylonese nationalism. This sentiment marked indigenous sentiment without nullifying the ethnic distinctions of clubs centred on Sinhalese, Burghers,Tamil and so on. Thus in the post-independence era the Sri Lankan Tamils were among those who supported the Ceylonese team when they faced the Tamils of southern India in the regular encounter for the Gopalan Trophy (1953–76). Many forces promoted thepopularity of the game among the urban middle classes, not least the popularity of the Ashes and tours by visiting foreign teams in the twentieth century. But until the 1960s/1970s cricket at the highest level was not only elitist, but also dominated by (a) specific elite schools with cultural capital and a powerful cricketing heritage and (b) by the metropolis of Colombo. However, the flow-on from a populist political revolution via the ballot in 1956, which saw the emergence of linguistic nationalism associated with the Sinhala language, eventually penetrated the fields of cricket. Good cricketers from ‘Buddhist schools’ and/or outstation schools began to secure places in the top eleven and eventually, by the 1980s,commanded the scene. This development was one thread in the democratization and popularization of the game, a process assisted by commentaries in the vernacular from thelate 1960s as well as the impact of colour television from 1981 onwards.


 Sanath and Roshan hug after record stand at Premadasa Stadium



Michael Roberts, Wunderkidz in a Blunderland: tensions and tales from Sri Lankan cricket,” Sport in Society, May–June 2009, 12: 566–578.

ABSTRACT: The story of Sri Lankan cricket is a tale of great cricketing success within the context of a polity struggling with civil war and great levels of internal violence. Cricket is the one arena in Sri Lankan public culture where Tamils and Sinhalese, locked in a bloody civil war for decades, come together on a national public platform. From being reviled as a Western import in the early years of independence to its gradual embrace and penetration of new catchment areas in less affluent and more rural areas, the story of Sri Lankan cricket in many ways mirrors the development of the post-colonial Sri Lankan nation. This essay fleshes out prominent themes in the history of Sri Lankan cricket within the context of the major socio-political developments in twentieth century Sri Lanka.


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Filed under cricket and life, performance, player selections, politics and cricket, Tamil demonstrations, violent intrusions

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  1. Pingback: Remembering Neil Chanmugam. Two More Appreciations | Critiquing Cricket

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