Sri Lanka is in the grips of
an energy crisis, an economic crisis, a human rights crisis and cricket fever! The T20 World Cup is in full swing and right now everyone is glued to their TV's every evening to watch the fireworks on display. However, amidst all the zealous cheering, venomous anti-India slurs and numerous hypothetical scenarios that get Sri Lanka into the finals, there have been steady complaints regarding the tournament. Now this is generally the norm with most any international event, especially those held in the cash-strapped sub-continent. However this time, despite several questionable decisions (such as the utter stupidity in holding any form of sporting event in the ghost town that is Mahinda Rajapakse's backyard aka Hambantota), the bulk of the complaints have been regarding the cheerleaders.
What cheerleaders, you ask? These cheerleaders:
Similar memes are doing the rounds on Facebook and other social network sites, and even some friends who went for the matches shared their pictures of the girls in action, often followed by some over-the-top statement about them being the "disgrace of our country" and how they should be (and I quote) "shot with a sniper rifle".
There are many things I don't like about the T20 World Cup, chief of them being the fact that there is T20 cricket involved. I also can't stand how every time we host an event like this, the government uses the distraction of the masses to raise fuel prices or take some other more disturbing course of action. But cheerleaders?
Let's be clear about a few things. First of all, according to 'reports', the contractor for the cheerleaders couldn't land any better looking women because the payment was "not that great". Which is silly, really, because it's not so much the girls that people are complaining about, it's the hideous outfits. I guarantee that none of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders (which seem to be the standard everyone compares cheerleaders to) would have looked any better in those dreadful orange, pink and blue leotards. This so-called contractor should be the one on the receiving end of all the heat, not the girls! A 5 year-old could come up with a better outfit by eating crayons and pooping on a colouring book.
Secondly, why do we need cheerleaders at all? Cheerleading is an activity that has its roots in the USA, where no sport is allowed to be boring (even their golf has Tiger Woods). It's been around since the late 19th century, and it's come so far as to be classified as a sport itself by ESPN, complete with a governing body, inter-school and national competitions. While most school and college programmes involve some percentage of males as well, most professional sports teams have focused on good looking scantily clad female dancers, with the male "cheerleaders" being relegated to mascot duty.
So naturally, the concept of female dancers at sport events has migrated internationally, and yet very few European sports use them. Tennis, football, handball etc are conspicuously without cheerleaders. Yet for some reason, cricket (of all sports) had to have them. The Indian Premiere League, that orgy of wealthy, bored billionaires and overpaid cricketers, were more than happy to import some cheerleaders to add to the flash and bang of the tournaments, and perhaps India (despite being the worst G20 country for women) could be justified in using them, given their rich history of provocatively clad movie stars traipsing amongst bushes in the rain for men's attentions.
But Sri Lankan sports have no idea what to do with these cheerleaders. Our sports begin and end with cricket, and cricket has always involved sneaking alcohol in to Premadasa Stadium, getting drunk to the sounds of the multiple bands in the stands, and dancing and taking our shirts off. This is how we 'cheer', and a group of dancing bedazzled girls is only going to act as a distraction, not an incentive. Someone should have thought that through before trying to slap on a borrowed sideshow from India and running with it. Last year's ODI World Cup didn't need them; in fact, I thought the drummers that played for every boundary and wicket were a great idea, and they blended well with the crowd. At least, a lot better than these fluorescent fairies.
Bottom line: the real crime here is not that the cheerleaders fail to be a cross between Miss Universe and Missy Elliot, but that there are cheerleaders at all! Objectifying women under the guise of sports is another topic all together, but while being a cheerleader may be a glamorous and recognised vocation in some countries, it doesn't translate at all well to cricket in Sri Lanka. This isn't a crime, nor is it a reflection of our 'backward culture' as some would like to hint at.
We just don't need them.