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Yesterday, Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan playing his last Test Cricket match became the first ever to reach 800 Test Wickets, a record that other greats hailed as unmatchable . Murali, as he’s fondly known, is widely considered to be a true gentleman both on and off the field, and that’s almost certainly a big part of the big online support he had going yesterday. I’m guilty too – I made 15 tweets with the #murali hashtag (partly to help make it a trending topic!). He became twitter’s leading trend topic at one point, and even had both “Murali” and “Muttiah” as trending topics together at one point.

The internet response was definitely very interesting, but I think it also highlights an aspect about Sri Lanka that seems to be frequently overlooked. Recall that Sri Lanka recently defeated LTTE terrorists fighting for a separate state for the 15% Tamils of Sri Lanka. This does not, of course, mean that the majority Sinhalese were out patrolling the streets hunting down ordinary Tamil people. Yes, the underlying issues will take time to sort out (the US still has race issues, ¬†and my birth country Belgium’s Dutch vs. French issues have resulted in them not having a stable goverment since 2007 with speculation of partition) but most folks see us all as Sri Lankans and want to live and let live as Sri Lankans.

Coming back to the topic at hand, Murali is Sri Lanka’s first Tamil international cricketer. But Murali’s ethnicity as a Tamil is not something most Sri Lankans care about. Sinhalese, Tamil or otherwise, we consider each other Sri Lankan, and this was all the more apparent in the internet response yesterday. In the middle of that a hate-spewer from India finds it ironic that the man who led the military victory over the LTTE terrorists awarded a special prize to Murali. Dear Mr. Sardesai and others like you, there’s nothing ironic there – Mahinda Rajapakse and Muttiah Muralitharan are both SRI LANKAN first and foremost, and fighters and beacons of our nation. Thank you very much for trying to ruin Murali’s great achievement with your petty attempt at igniting hatred; too bad you couldn’t pull it off though.

All that we Sri Lankans care about is that Murali is a Sri Lankan and that Murali, gentleman and legend made us proud and we all got to share his joy.