Tag Archive | "Sri Lankans"

[VIDEO] Sri Lankans on Immigration and the 2012 Election

Dhiya Kuriakose, Sri Lankan Beat Reporter~

Immigrants are an important part of the United States economy. Yet no political party has discussed immigrant issues this election. The Sri Lankan community told Dhiya Kuriakose what they thought should be done about immigration and why it should be an election issue.

Edited & Produced by Jay Devineni

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Cricketing across Countries

Dhiya Kuriakose, Sri Lankan beat reporter~

When Roshen Wallwattia left Sri Lanka for New York three years ago, he was carrying the typical anxieties that come with uprooting one’s life. How would he find a job? Would he make friends? Was moving to New York the right decision? Wallwattia found the answers to his questions in an unlikely place: a well-worn cricket field on Staten Island.

“I’ve played cricket with these guys since I got here. They were my first friends in New York,” said Wallwattia, a finance student at Columbia University. “They gave me my first job and they even supported me through my application to school.”

Cricket binds the Sri Lankan community in New York. Big matches regularly draw dozens of Sri Lankan cricket fans to local restaurants, giving them a taste of home. Many said that local leagues also act as a unifying force for the community.

“It’s just one time of the week we can come together to play a game we grew up with,” said Nalinda Persis, 33, who plays cricket every weekend over the summer in a park on Staten Island. “Less and less people play it but we still try to make it when we can. It takes us back to our childhood when we used to play on the streets at home. Nobody is bothered what they do as long as we can play together.”

Cricket’s popularity was on full display recently at a Sri Lankan restaurant in Manhattan. Inside Sigri on First Avenue, diners at three separate tables were passionately discussing the sport, debating their favorite players and predicting Sri Lanka’s chances at the T20 World Cup, the most prestigious tournament in the shorter version of the game.

Cricket is still a relatively unknown sport in the U.S., where it is greatly overshadowed by baseball. The two sports bear similarities but also feature striking differences. Cricket involves two teams that have batsmen, bowlers and fielders. Each team has 11 players. But unlike baseball, instead of four bases there are only two, in the center of a large round or elliptical field. The batsmen can decide when to run, and the fielding team has two bowlers, or pitchers, who operate from either end of the pitch, or infield. A run is scored when a batsmen strikes the ball and reaches the opposite end of the pitch, while his non-hitting teammate runs to his end. There are three formats that the game is played in, the shortest being around four hours and the longest running five days.

Despite its popularity back home, cricket is struggling to catch on with younger generations of Sri Lankans living in New York, who find it hard to resist getting swept up in more traditional American sports.

“My American friends don’t understand a game where the shortest time is half a day and the longest takes five days and sometimes without result,” said Chelaka Gunamuni, 29, who works at Sigri. “Even I don’t play cricket. I find it time consuming and frankly boring.”

“Did you know volleyball is our national sport? Nobody follows volleyball like this,” said Fernando, a frequent visitor to the restaurant. “When Lanka plays cricket we all play with them, we feel like we are there. Just imagine all the Sri Lankans across the world are cheering for one thing. You should know how rarely that happens.”

Still, Gunamuni, who arrived in the U.S. 12 years ago, conceded that whenever he meets Sri Lankans, their first conversation typically centers on cricket. “I know that if I meet a Sri Lankan anywhere in the world, we can discuss cricket and become friends.”

For V. Selvanathan, a 54-year old man who left Sri Lanka in 1992, cricket will always carry special meaning. He said the sport helped unite the island nation, which for 40 years endured a violent uprising by separatist rebels known as the Tamil, during its most tumultuous times.

“Every day when I opened the newspaper, the first page would talk about how Tamil terrorists were killing or being killed,” said Selvanathan. “Then I would turn to the sports sections and read about Muttiah Muralitharan who is the world’s most successful bowler. He was a Tamil and our favorite Sri Lankan player.”

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