No-Boll Handiya

Capt Elmo Jayawardena, from Island, 8 February 2011
Let me open the innings by saying this article is about Sri Lankan humour and how creative it is. I have no knowledge of cricket except for what I see on TV and I know to count six balls to an over and I know that the ones who run slow and bowl are spinners and the ones who run long and fast are fast bowlers. Over the ropes is six and along the ground is four and I will stop at that and leave the cricket journalism to people in the calibre of Calistus Davy, Pathirawithana and the South African gentleman (who I read often) and the rest of the writers who know what they are talking about in this cricket business. My story is “No Boll” and in no way even a trace of a slander to a bowler I like very much and I think in my little cricket mind that he undoubtedly is a great bowler.But “No Boll Handiya” I simply could not let it pass without sharing with my fellow Sri Lankans who would see the laughter in it and not even remotely think less of the man in whose honour the junction was so named by some clever conjuror.

Of course it is to do with current cricket and the 2011 team selected by Aravinda and company. Yes, we are all set to fight the world and enter the finals and win it so that we could dance on the streets from Point Pedro to Devundara. But ‘No Boll Handiya” is no ball Handiya. The so-honoured “No Boll junction man” cannot be a spinner and certainly not the wicket-keeper. Mr Sangakkara you are off the hook, and so are Murali, Mendis and Herath. That leaves a bit of an easy Sudoku to find the missing number.

He must be someone who bowls “no-balls,” a little more than the expected and a little less from the doomed mark at which he would have been rejected.

It was a driver who told me “Sirrrr – no-boll handiyen haremu” (“Sir we will turn at the No Ball Junction.”) Please note it is not ‘no ball’ but ‘no boll’ – who cares, I knew exactly what he meant, same as ‘fan cakes’ and ‘fol toppi’ and the Keell’s security man who told me to park my car under the “hud.” Never mind, language is to express and make the listener understand the communication. After all English to us is a foreign language, yes we may have been “yes sir, yes sir” minions like Ba Ba Black sheep thanks to colonialism, but English is still alien. “Just say it” that’s what it should be, like the Mighty Nike “just do it,” a little different maybe, but the same concept.

Let me get back to ‘No Boll Handiya.” Well! That was a real new one on me. Yes I have heard a lot of this Handiya business in the Sri Lankan parlance. Don’t we still drive with the age old way of finding places not by street names but by well-defined local land marks? Turn at the red gate and look for the mango tree! Cannot miss. Stop at the post box and ask someone! That is a common one. There is a bokkuwa, (culvert) and past that is a bus stand and a koththu kade you will know by the taka taka noise, it is the guru paara there.

Local walking yellow pages giving directions, a lot better than the fancy expensive computers my children have in their cars to find a Carrefour super market in the first worlds they live.

That is exactly how we find places; the street walker is always present to give us directions. And the junctions, yes they do have fancy names with some reference to the locality or some remembrance of a person or event. Piththala Handiya where you buy brass in Kollupitiya, Bella Kapapu Handiya (pity the so honoured with severed neck, but remembered, somewhere in Kelaniya) Modayage Handiya, Mas kade Handiya, Pansala Handiya, we’ve heard them all but to me there was nothing even remotely fanciful as the new found gem “No Boll Handiya.”

The entire country is cricket mad and the frenzy reaches its zenith with the World Cup coming to our shores. And the junction is already named and who cares whether the so-honoured luminary bowls no balls or not? The name will remain, un-erasable, like a well coloured “Amma Deviyo” tattoo on some Handiye Chandiya’s chest that will last till ’kingdom come’.

Let’s bat along and see some more. Yes, the cricket fever is hitting high pitch and everybody is relieved that the selections have been “fair and lovely” and the old guard has changed for the new faces to walk to the green. Will we win? I do not know but people who understand willow matters tell me that we have a very good chance.

As the curtains rise we will all hold our breath and count the days to the grand finale and the country as a whole would want Sanga and his boys to be there. I just want to be in front of a TV like the entire population and cheer them on with all hopes firmly focussed on a Sri Lankan victory. We could even try a bit of a pseudo ‘fast unto death” too, “I die unless we win,” not a bad idea and the entire CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC Worlds would know that we would even give our dear lives for our cricket. So much for patriotism?

The countdown for the first match is on and there is a lot happening and everything as usual will be forgotten or postponed to usher in the World Cup. The three wheeler Ferrari Hamiltons, the sweep and vegetable selling stentors, the teacher, the banker, the housewife, the board-room elite and the street walking ordinary, everyone of everything will be entwined with cricket and will keenly follow the ‘ball by ball’ play that will decide the champion. Umpires will have their mothers cursed with the famous ammata….” and the selectors will be showered with petals or shot with pellets depending on how their nominees bowled and batted. All in all, it will be a time to wait for and a time to enjoy and remember, win or otherwise.

And we will have our No Boll Handiya.

One thing is sure, there is no Lara intersection in the Caribbean nor a Ponting Junction in Melbourne. Tendulkar, the magnificent master he maybe has no street named after him and the great Imran Khan is now just Imran Khan, faded politician, the dazzle is over and now comes to light only in old repeats of TV matches or in miniature mentions when people talk about yesterday’s cricket.

Who is Ponting, they will ask? Who is Tendulkar and who is Lara or Imran? Yes fifty years from now that would be a possible reference.

Sirrrr, no boll handiyen haremu?’ That would always be there, wonderfully coined, totally original to last a lifetime and after. Whether we win the World Cup or not, that name is for keeps, we are Sri Lankans and we in our own entirely innovative ways have our unique codes and ethics of remembrances and appreciations.

Mr. No Ball I wish you my sincere best, please forgive me and hit me with a bouncer if you may, but spare me for sharing this wonderful and incomparable metaphor with my fellow cricket-loving Sri Lankans.

I had to.

You bowl your thunderbolts Sir, give or take a few no-balls, who cares, it’s all part of the game and if we win, I bet they will have a shrine in your honour at the No Boll Handiya.

1 Comment

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One response to “No-Boll Handiya

  1. Asanga Welikala

    This story, in much attenuated form, was related by Lucien Wijeysinghe as Dilhara Fernando was bowling in the 3rd ODI against West Indies on 6th February 2011 at the SSC. His fellow Eye Channel commentator (Haritha Perera? Roshan Abeysinghe? but not Ranil Abeynaike) went apoplectic, describing it as a canard put about by Sunil Gavaskar, and proclaiming himself to have been offended and insulted. Lucien’s posh accent and the more proletarian tones of the other commentator only added to this delicious moment of Sri Lankan cricket commentary.

    Rambling though it is, I think Captain Elmo Jayawardena’s take on it is by far the more appealing one.

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