On delivering with unforgettable smiles
There was high drama at the Galle International Cricket Stadium on
Thursday, July 22, 2010. Muttiah Muralitharan was poised to make
history, to become the first bowler to reach the 800-wicket mark in test
cricket. He was the first to get to 799 too of course, but thereís
something about round numbers that turn mark into landmark, subject to
the observation that cricket enthusiasts would not have revered Donald
Brandman less had he scored the boundary in his last innings that would
have sent his average to 100.
Anyway, he was just eight short of 800 and if he so wished he could
have played in all three of the tests against India. He was determined
to end it all in Galle, according to Warnaweera, the curator of that
ground, because that had been a promise Murali had made. Who knows,
perhaps he knew that he had the legs for one more test and nothing more.
He downplayed the 800 landmark, some might say out of doubt, while
others would say Ďas he always did when it came to recordsí.
He took five in Indiaís first innings and after trapping Harbhajan
Singh LBW to reach 799, people started holding their breath. For 51.4
overs. Then, in the fourth ball of the 116th over of the innings, the
commentary entry read (for a record 77th time), Ďc DPMD Jayawardene b
Muralitharaní after the name of the batsman, P Ojha, who in being bested
became part of history. That, ladies and gentlemen, ended the test and a
career. That, ladies and gentlemen, was not the defining moment of this
remarkable test match. There were two in fact but this was not one of
Magical spinner with a magical smile. AFP
The first was after Lasith Malinga had bowled the fourth delivery of
the 102nd over of that innings. Ishant Sharma steered it past cover.
There was confusion over a second run but in the end the batsmen reached
safely. Someone threw the ball. Muralitharan.
Moment No. Two. Over No. 106. Delivery No. Two. Dilshan bows to Ojha
who pushes to mid-off. Murali picks and has a shy at the stumps. Ojha
just makes his ground. On both occasions Murali might very well have won
the game for Sri Lanka and denied himself that magic number, 800.
Bradman got out for a duck in his last innings. Murali would have been
Ďstrandedí on 799 but I think would have dabbed that little bit of grace
to his immortality to rise (marginally) over the Don in the romantic
history of the game.
There is a lesson here that I first saw demonstrated in the years
1992-1994. Pilimatalawa. Sunny Hill Hotel. Thatís a boutique, a wayside
shop at the bend just after you pass the clock tower when going to Kandy.
There were two waiters. I think they were brothers. I spent a lot of
time during this period in and around Pilimatalawa, holed up with
friends somewhere near the Giragama guru vidyalaya. Sunny Hill was a
plain-tea stop. We were served by one of these two waiters. Cheerful.
Any time of the day. Any day of the year. Totally committed to giving
I donít think they made more by way of tips than other waiters and I
donít know whether they were happier than others when they went to bed
on account of having done justice to task assigned despite paltry wages.
Murali made bucks. When he retired he was gifted a souvenir thatís
worth over Rs 2.5 million. He bowls his heart out and gets a lot of
money for his efforts. The waiters I mentioned, if they still wait at
tables, would get close to nothing in comparison. Murali is a household
name in the cricketing world. The waiters? I write about them, but even
I donít know their names. Or if they are still alive.
Same lesson, though. Commitment to task at hand. Professionalism.
Service with a smile. At the end of the game, Muttiah Muralitharan is
carried around the grounds on his captainís shoulders. Murali carried us
all and in doing so doffs his cap to a man who carried him and all of us
almost 15 years before, Arjuna Ranatunga. The waiters at Sunny Hill will
get carried someday by their near and dear. Not when they are alive.
They too carry us. All the Sunny Hill waiters all over the land who
deliver with a smile, who stand ramrod straight in the face of
adversity, who get up and serve even when felled to the ground, all of
them without exception define for all of us something of the citizen and
human being we can be and perhaps ought to try and be.
Just after the tea break on the final day of the first test between
India and Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on July 22, 2010,
a man rode the shoulders of colleagues, cheered by adoring thousands. I
donít know his name.
He used to be a waiter in a small boutique called Sunny Hill Hotel in
Pilimatalawa. He has an amazing smile. I donít think he has a bank
account. Thatís something to think about.