Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
1996 January. A bomb goes off in a crowded Colombo street killing many and injuring many more. The suspects are the LTTE, the Tamil militant organisation based in Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka fighting for a separate state.
The cricket World Cup being played on the sub-continent was due to start in a few days time. Security concerns were voiced. The LTTE did not issue any threat to disrupt the matches with any further bombings. In fact, they made it clear through unofficial channels that they were not going to harm sportsmen.
However, this was not enough as far as the Aussies were concerned. They refused to play their match in Colombo thus forfeiting two points, despite assurances from the Sri Lankan board to provide extra security. The reasons given were that the players feared for their lives and hence were unwilling to play in Colombo. Can't a bomb go off in a market place while Shane Warne shopped for some jewellery, they asked?
1999 April. Bombs explode in the heart of London. Co-incidentally, the next cricket World Cup begins in a few days in England. There is a very good possibility that more bombs may be set off. Can the danger to life and limb be any less than that in 1996 in Colombo?
In, fact the danger is greater since the groups carrying out such bombings have not even been identified as yet, and they have made no promises to stop. Can the Aussies be sure that soon after they arrive in England for the World cup, the bombers will lay low... and wait for them to depart before restarting their bombing campaign?
How will they react to the spate of bombings this time? Will the Aussies ask the question -can't a bomb go off while the same Mr Warne is having a beer at the nearest pub after a hard day in the field? Although the nailbombs appear to be aimed at minority communities, what guarantee is there that Mr Warne won't get hurt? Your guess is as good as mine. And going by Australia's logic, especially given that the nail bombs seem to have targeted the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities, wouldn't the West Indies, India, Sri Lanka Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Bangladesh all be justified in pulling out of the world cup? Imagine the fuss this would create!
I am certain we will not hear a whimper from the Australians, and they will arrive in all their glory and try to win the World cup. Why? Because England still rules them. The Aussies are still a colonial nation and cannot go against the English board. They will prove once again that when it comes to dealing with anything on the sub-continent, they have separate rules.
Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the IRA carried out waves of bombings in the UK, killing and seriously injuring many people in the process. Did it stop Australia from playing an Ashes series? No. But a bomb going off in Colombo was enough to stop the Aussies from playing there with all sorts of excuses being given.
Given the above facts, I will stick my neck out and call it anti-Asian prejudice.
All said and done, for the sake of the noble game of cricket let us hope there is no boycott by any of the teams and the World Cup is played to full houses and is a resounding success. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.