|Saturday, 19 June 2004|
Murali's achievements a boost to nation's morale, says PM
By Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse thanked champion off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for providing a massive boost to the nation's morale when it was going through a dark period.
Speaking at the banquet hosted by Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club at Colombo Plaza on Thursday evening to felicitate Muralitharan, Rajapakse said: "We, as a country are at a point of time in our history when things are not going as well as we would have liked.
When we were going through a relatively dark period in our history Murali's achievements in particular provided a massive boost to the morale of our nation."
"Murali's courage in the face of the many obstacles that have been placed in his way has been a lesson to many others who have shone only in sunny circumstances. On the contrary Murali seems to have done his best when the odds were clearly against him," he said.
Prime Minister Rajapakse urged Muralitharan to go on the tour to Australia so that he can given the Australians a chance of proving to the world whether the norms of justice, fair play, non discrimination, dignity, honesty, transparency, honour and respect which they so often preach to the world are or are not living values of Australian society.
"I am sorry to find that Murali has opted out of the Australian tour. With the team and the vast majority of the cricket loving public of the world solidly behind him, Murali should think seriously of going on the tour," he said.
The Prime Minister said the behaviour of the national cricket team in relation to Muralitharan was an object lesson to all other sports, institutional and political teams.
"At least some of Muralitharan's success has been due to his teammates loyalty and encouragement especially at times when attempts were made to rob him and his country of his achievement. In that respect I should not fail to mention the role played by Arjuna Ranatunga," he said.
The Prime Minister praised the role played by Tamil Union in the history of Sri Lanka cricket and hoped that with its recent rehabilitation the club will get its rightful share of hosting international matches. He concluded his address by quoting Indian High Commissioner Nirupam Sen who said: 'Murali is the pride of Asia'.
Ranatunga, the deputy Minister of Industries, Tourism and Industrial Promotion said that he was honoured to be the Sri Lanka cricket captain for 10 years during which period he had seen the best of Muralitharan. Ranatunga said that one good thing about Muralitharan was that he never lost his head.
"I personally think it is a good eye opener for all the cricketers the way he has conducted himself as a cricketer then and now," said Ranatunga. He said his dream was to see Muralitharan take 1000 Test wickets and almost pleaded with him: 'Please achieve that for me.'
Janashakthi Insurance managing director Chandra Schaffter said that his company was honoured to be associated with the greatest bowler in the world and took pride in being his first manager on a cricket tour to England in 1991. He said that there was a lot of conjuring going on by those who were not good enough at taking Muralitharan on the field, by trying to discredit him off it.
Along with the Prime Minister and Muralitharan, Schaffter launched the official Murali website (http://www.muralimagic.com / www.muralimagic.com) where the entire history of the bowler's career from his schooldays is given.
A former president of the Tamil Union and former Cricket Board secretary S. Skandakumar in proposing the toast referred to former Indian spinner Bishen Singh Bedi's suggestion that Muralitharan should be credited with 527 Test run outs as 'unadulterated rubbish that would only dignify trash'. Bedi has been a stern critic of Muralitharan's bowling action.
Tamil Union president M. Ganesan welcomed the distinguished gathering and presented Muralitharan with a memento on behalf of the club and a bounded book signed by members of the public who expressed their sentiments to Muralitharan. The secretary Bala Asirwathan proposed the vote of thanks.
Produced by Lake House