Religion in sports has a checkered history as many sportspeople attribute their success or current team form to an all-knowing deity. Cricket is no different and is one sport with a high number of religious professionals, especially those from non-Western countries.
You’ll likely see a batsman or bowler say a silent prayer before, during, or after a cricket game. If there’s one thing certain about religion in sports, it’s that players tend to convert to other faiths due to various factors.
Many professional cricketers have changed from the religion they were born into for many decades. Let’s check out some top cricketers who converted their religion and why they now believe in a different faith.
Cricketers Who Converted Their Religion
Suraj Randiv is a Sri Lankan cricketer fondly remembered for his no-ball play to Virender Sehwag, who required a single run to win the India vs Sri Lanka game for the Men in Blue.
Randiv’s former name was Mohammad Marsuk Suraj and he came from a devout Muslim family. He will later abandon his religion of birth to become a Buddhist several years into his professional career. There is no clear reason why Suraj changed religions from Islam to Buddhism, but we might have a hint.
Sri Lanka has a massive Buddhist population and is one of the most religiously-diverse countries on earth. Randiv’s admiration for Sri Lankan Buddhists might have hugely contributed to his eventual conversion from Islam.
Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage (formerly Tuwan Mohammad Dilshan)
Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage (or Tillakaratne Dilshan) is one of Sri Lanka’s most respected batsmen ever. His on-field experience and ability to perform in multiple formats endeared him to fans worldwide.
Tillakaratne was born into a Muslim family and was called Tuwan Mohammad Dilshan at birth. The separation of Tuwan’s parents as a teenager will influence his decision to switch religions. He joined his mother’s religion – Buddhism – and became Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage Dilshan.
Several reports of Dilshan getting cajoled by teammates to accept other religions are rife. However, the experienced batter has remained a Buddhist since his conversion as a teenager.
Wayne Waleed Parnell (formerly Wayne Parnell)
Wayne Parnell was born into a pious Christian home in South Africa. The experienced fast-bowler became a subject of discussion on the lips of many cricket fans after his sudden conversion to Islam.
Many commentators believed Parnell’s closeness to teammates I. Tahir and H. Amla as a major reason for his conversion. However, Parnell’s team manager M. Moosajee will come out to debunk this rumor.
Parnell converted from Christianity to Islam on July 2011. He added the middle name ‘Waleed’ to his current first and last names after converting. Waleed’s conversion is still one of the most-talked about when you consider cricketers who converted their religion in recent years.
He is one of the most talented bowlers to come out of South Africa and his conversion is sure to be a hot topic for years to come.
Vikash Ranjan Das (formerly Mahmudul Hasan)
Experienced cricketer Vikash Ranjan Hasan was born into a devout Muslim family. His pious Muslim upbringing still reflects in how he conducts himself on and off the cricket field. However, the senior-level Bangladeshi cricketer suddenly converted from Islam to Hinduism recently.
His conversion from Islam to Hinduism sent shockwaves throughout the Bangladeshi senior team. Mahmudul went further to change his name to reflect his new Hindu identity. He has not featured for Bangladesh’s senior national team since that name change. No official explanation is available as to why that is, but many people suspect Vikash’s religion change as the reason.
Why do cricketers convert their religion?
Cricketers usually convert their religion to align with a spouse’s belief, seek better spiritual understanding, or gain insight about other people’s faiths.
Which cricketer changed his religion and retired from the national team?
Many cricketers have retired from the national team after switching religions, and a recent case is Vikash Ranjan Das. The former Bangladeshi cricketer adopted Hinduism after living most of his youth as a Muslim.
He changed his Islam-inspired name to a Hindu name and never played cricket for Bangladesh again. Many unreported cases of such retirements are rife in religiously charged countries.
Switching religions halfway is almost as old as time itself. Professional cricketers will continue adopting other religions out of curiosity, for learning and spiritual guidance, or to get closer to a loved one. There is nothing wrong about switching to another religion, as it is a guaranteed human right to identify with any religious group without fear