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DateLine Sunday, 8 April 2007

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Umpire Hora

Light Refractions by Lucien Rajakarunanayake With Sri Lanka moving up in the World Cup tournament the interest in cricket here has heightened, but thankfully not to the passionate levels, leading to mob violence of increased passion as in India or Pakistan. The media criticism of umpiring in the UK after England's defeat to Sri Lanka in that thrilling, nail-biting finish last Wednesday, shows that even in the colder climes of the stiff upper lip, passions can run high about cricket, to levels not usually expected in such places.

But the interest in cricket and umpiring during this World Cup comes from a source far removed from the usual commentators on the game.

Amnesty International, labelled a Human Rights Watchdog, has suddenly discovered the importance of being a self-appointed umpire trying to teach the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE about the importance of playing by the rules, and has found the World Cup venues in the West Indies as the place to practice their new found skill in umpiring.

'Howzaat' asked Shane Dangapandu sipping his favourite blend of pot and still at the regular watering hole. "When did Amnesty International begin its school for training umpires?"

"They have no need for training, because they think they are born to umpire in any game, and having missed the chance to show their skills in the Soccer World Cup last year, they have come to make their display at the Cricket World Cup at the Windies," said Sachin Pithiharamba, filling up a stein with his favourite ale.

"But what their Asia Pacific pundit Tim Parritt says is that the two sides in the Sri Lankan crisis are not playing by the game, and just like in cricket there is the need for an independent umpire, to teach them how to play by rules," said Shane Dangapandu.

"Parritt or Parrot, and Amnesty may think they are God's own gift to the world of umpiring, but they don't seem to know the basics about it," said Wasim Veygapandu, whose knowledge of cricket was several decades deep.

"What are these basics?" asked Sobers Pithiprahaara.

"Let me explain," intervened Romesh Rakinakadulu, before Wasim could respond. "It's very simple. The umpires in cricket or referees in soccer or rugby can be independent only when they come in with the consent of both teams. If Amnesty does not know that, how can they claim to be independent umpires"

"That's interesting," said Donald Kriketkeerthi. "If Amnesty or this Parritt guy talks of teaching both sides to play by the rules, how the hell are they trying to teach those bloody players from the Vanni about the rules of the game? For all we know the only rules they know are those laid down by their Sooriyadeivan or Sun God. We don't see any team from that side playing in the Windies; they were not seen in the warm up games either."

"All the while the Vanni Bloods have been playing by their own rules. In fact just when Amnesty launched its ball game in the Windies, there was the claymore bomb blast at Ampara. I wonder if that was playing by the rules taught by Amnesty," said Sunil Pithipatabendi.

"Is it possible that Amnesty is conducting secret classes in 'Playing by the Rules' to the Suicide Teams in the Vanni, on the decorum to be followed in carrying out suicide killer missions," asked Shane Dangapandu.

"With all this talk of independent umpiring and teaching others how to play by the rules, I'm somewhat puzzled to know what the hell Amnesty was doing about teaching the Bush-Cheney Team in the USA about playing by the rule in Iraq, or that hell-hole they continue to maintain at Guantanamo," said Sobers Pithiprahaara.

"Yeah, that's very interesting. Obviously Amnesty is in the 'See No Evil' 'Hear No Evil' mode about those departures from the rules of play, and bending the rules to breaking point at Abu Ghraib in Iraq" said Sachin Pithiharamba.

"Yeah, we have not read or heard of them getting tennis balls signed in protest about Bush and Co's double standards in democracy when Serena Williams plays tennis at Wimbledon, or throwing any protest golf balls on to the putting greens when Tiger Woods or any other Americans play at All American or international tournaments," said Wasim Veygapandu.

"Hey, read this story" said Mustaq Hayepahara reading from an Internet printout. This was just reported by Al Jazeera. "It says the Vanni Tigers have sent a whole package of live claymore bombs to Amnesty International to be distributed freely at the World Cup in the Windies, to show their appreciation of what Amnesty is doing for them over there."

"I'm sure Amnesty will agree that the Vanni Bloods always plays by the rules; their own Bloody Rules," said Romesh Rakinakadulu.

"Don't you think it is time to shout 'Umpire Hora'" asked Shane Dangarapandu. The response to this was full-throated shouts of 'Umpire Hora, Umpire Hora" by all present at the watering hole.

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