How Lankans Down Under celebrated WC final
It is déjà vu! After 11 years, arch rivals in world cricket played against each
other for the first time at a World Cup final. For those of us in Sri Lanka and
all those in Australia, it was a nail biting night, with each of us saying a
silent prayer to calm our racing hearts.
Only hours before the grand finale of 2007 Cricket World Cup, The Nation spoke
to several Sri Lankans residing in Australia to see how they geared up to enjoy
the cricket fiesta.
Asanka Gurusinha is not a stranger to Sri Lanka. Especially those who glued
themselves to the TV sets, back in 1996, know the role he played in winning the
cup of glory for this island nation. Now residing in Melbourne Australia,
Gurusinha was planning to enjoy his old team mates, together with several new
faces, battling the mighty Australian team.
“It is definitely déjà vu. The current team is much better charged than the team
that played in the 1996 match. There was a stronger batting line-up back then,
but the bowling side is pretty strong this time. Our bowling attack had been
instrumental in winning the game for us during the whole tournament,” Gurusinha
said with conviction.
Describing his plans for the night, he said that everyone was excited about the
match, and were organised in crowds to enjoy, regardless of the outcome.
“People have organised rallies and are planning to get together at clubs where
there are wide-screens set up for all to enjoy the match,” he described the
From his wide experience as a renowned cricketer Gurusinha added that the secret
to winning a game of cricket was the team spirit. He said the current team was
extremely talented and their continued display of team work, would definitely
win them the coveted cup this time.
David Cruze, a well known personality among cricketing community in Sri Lanka
ventured to say, although all hopes were for Sri Lanka to win, there was no
shame in losing either. “Everybody predicted that it was going to be Sri Lanka
and Australia at the finals this year. I sincerely believe we could win this
time,” he said.
Cruze, who is familiar with the Sri Lankan cricketers, said that the team is
brimming with excellent players including Captain Mahela Jayawardena.
Comparing the winning team in the 1996 World Cup to the current team, he said
the Sri Lanka team has an unparalleled bowling line-up. Reiterating Gurusinha’s
view, he added that the previous win was due to batting power, but the
conditions have changed this time around.
Commenting on the importance of winning the Cup, Cruze said, “The 1996 win paved
the way for several new talent. The new faces we see in the team are able to
reap the rewards of that victory.”
He also said that he was proud to be a Sri Lankan especially because unlike
other South Asian countries, Sri Lanka did not mistreat its cricketers after a
loss. “I’m proud of my heritage, because we give a fair reception to out
players, even if they lose. We welcome them, regardless of the outcome,” he
Shehan Wijethilake in Sydney Australia was of the view that although Australians
were clear favourites, Sri Lanka was the next best. “There is a lot of respect
for the Sri Lanka team among Australian players and the people. They are not
underestimating our team,” he said.
He also said there was a backlash in Australia against their team. “The
behaviour displayed by the team- mates is not endorsed by the public. There are
a lot of negative sentiments towards the team,” he added.
He commented that although there was a lot of criticism levelled at the Sri
Lanka team for not playing their best talent at their last encounter with the
Aussies, this seemed to be a strategic move to get the opposing batsmen to get
caught-up in the bowling fire-power of the Lankans.
Sharing his plans for the night of cricket with The Nation, Duleep Livera, a
resident of Sydney Australia said, although this was definitely a tough match,
Sri Lanka was going to win and win convincingly.
“About 25-30 of us Sri Lankans, living in Sydney are planning to get together at
a friend’s house and stay with our team until the last ball is bowled,” Livera
Describing the atmosphere in Sydney, he added that everybody was waiting for the
moment of glory with enthusiasm.
“Australians think their team is going to win, but we know better. Our team is
very strong this year and we are definitely going to win,” he said.
For Nimalsiri De Silva, the impending night was not going to be an ordinary
night. He was planning a special prayer session to give more strength to the
young Sri Lanka cricket team playing on the other side of the globe. “The match
starts at 11.30 in the night and goes on till the next day morning. We plan to
stay up and support our players all the way,” he said. De Silva and a large
group of Sri Lankans were planning to cook kiribath, moments after the final
result, as they were not allowed to light firecrackers in Melbourne, in the
manner the good old Lankans used to celebrate. “However, if we lose, we plan to
sleep the whole day,” he added implying that this would not be a possibility.
It was a moment, when everybody in Sri Lanka and those expatriates living in far
away countries, united for several hours, wishing our glory boys victory. The
blessings, thoughts of good will, camaraderie and the strength of unity of this
nation, was sure to have added an extra bit of courage and strength to the Sri
Lankan cricket team.
My heart says Sri Lanka, but my head says
By Sunil Gavaskar
The classic cop-out reply to the question ‘Who do you think will win the World
Cup 2007?’ is, ‘My heart says Sri Lanka, but my head says Australia!’ This is an
easier answer to give if one is from the sub-continent. There is always an
affinity towards your neighbours than some far off place down under. Yes, the
heart says Sri Lanka, and there’s no doubt that if Sri Lanka play with all their
hearts then they could stop the Australian juggernaut.
They will be nervous, no doubt about that. It’s alright to be so. They are after
all playing the defending champions who are looking to do a hattrick of wins.
India were in a similar situation in 1983. That time, they were playing the West
Indies, who too had won the previous two World Cups in 1975 and 1979.
Against all odds, India had got to the finals, beating teams they had barely
stretched in previous encounters. So the players knew they had got to the
finals, not necessarily because they had played good cricket, but because they
had played better cricket than their earlier round opponents.
Sri Lanka on the other hand have reached the finals because they have played
some great cricket and on the leadership scales, Jayawardene has been far
superior to the other skippers. The ploy of not exposing Chaminda Vaas and the
wiles of Muthiah Muralitharan came in for flak from just about every quarter.
That’s because Jayawardene was upfront about the need for keeping these senior
players fresh for the bigger games later on.
New Zealand did the same, with Shane Bond and Jacob Oram, their two new-ball
bowlers not playing against Australia, but gave the reason of injury which
Jayawardene too could have done but chose not to. That shows confidence in his
tactics and a belief that whatever the rest of the world may say, it’s the
team’s interest that is paramount.
His batting too in the semi-finals showed that he was aware that if Lanka had
wickets in hand then they could swing their bats around and make up for the slow
scoring rate in these overs. That’s exactly what happened. The skipper knew that
the Lankan batting has not been consistent and if the senior pro Sanath
Jayasuriya does not score, then either his vice-captain Kumara Sangakkara or he
himself has to stay and ensure that the team has a healthy score to defend. He
also displayed enough faith in Upul Tharanga, who repaid that with a run-a-ball
knock in the semi-finals that kept Sri Lanka going and actually allowed
Jayawardene to settle in at the crease. Tharanga has had an ordinary World Cup
till the semi-finals, but has a good record in one day cricket.
Much will depend on the start Sanath Jayasuriya gives the Sri Lankans. He has
not always delivered in pressure games and this is his big chance to go out on a
high. Kumara Sangakkara too has not been as prolific as he normally is, but he
is the one man in the Sri Lankan team who can match the Aussies in the verbals.
Sri Lanka’s strength has been the emergence of Chamara Silva, a classy middle
order batsman and Tillekratne Dilshan, showing tremendous thinking in the few
overs he gets to bat. Dilshan also is as competitive as they come, unafraid of
anything the opposition has to deliver.
In 1996, when they won the title beating Australia in the finals, it was the
depth in the Sri Lankan batting that clinched it for them. They had someone of
the class of Mahanama batting at number seven, which meant that even if the top
order failed to take off, there was still some batting left.
If, as expected, Sri Lanka bring in Maharaoof, it will not only strengthen the
lower order but also the fielding and he is more likely to bowl in the ‘channel’
than Dilhara Fernando does. Chaminda Vaas also has turned out to be a dangerous
lower-order hitter and the only batting bunnies are Malinga and Muralitharan.
Both Malinga and Muralitharan are Lanka’s trumpcards. They have not been
collared so far in the tournament, with none of the batsmen being able to pick
them up. Malinga’s slinging action, which hides the ball from the batsman’s view
till the actual delivery, makes it hard to play shots off him, and he uses that
advantage by firing Yorkers which disturb the furniture behind the batsman.
Muralitharan, along with Shane Warne, has brought a whole new dimension to the
game with spin bowling that was nothing short of magic.
Sri Lanka will depend on the two ‘J’s (Jayasuriya and Jayawardene) for putting
up a big score and the two ‘M’s (Muralitharan and Malinga) to curtail the
How well the others rally around these four key players will decide how the
final goes, and if it goes down to the final over of the match, then quite
frankly it does not matter who wins the 2007 World Cup.
I have really enjoyed this World Cup
By Glenn McGrath
It seems like forever since our semi-final, and we were really keen to get out
there for this last game. I know it is my last game, but what that means has not
yet hit home. I prepared for it just like I would have for any other match.
Perhaps I will realise I am well and truly out of the game, when Australia plays
next – such things do take time to register.
I have really enjoyed this World Cup, and am glad that I announced my retirement
before it started. I have played with a sense of joy rather than any pressure,
and perhaps that’s why this has been my most successful World Cup.
I know that many are complaining about how one-sided this tournament has been,
but we have had a truly amazing tournament. There were fitness concerns, the
loss of Brett Lee to injury and a five-loss streak when we came to the West
Indies. All that changed once the matches began, and it gives us immense pride
to see that we have won every one of our games with a huge margin – something I
had predicted would happen.
We are enjoying the fact that we played our fourth straight final. I personally
have never felt better, and even though it’s the World Cup we were all focused,
it would be nice to end up as top wicket-taker.
The other record I am keen on holding on to is for playing the fewest number of
balls despite playing four World Cups. I have only faced four balls in World Cup
cricket. What’s more, in this World Cup, none of the bowlers have batted at all,
such has been the dominance of our top order.
Whatever happens I am proud to say that in every successive World Cup we have
been able to raise the bar for ourselves. This team is better than 2003, and
that team was better than 1999. This quest for higher goals is what has kept our
hunger alive for the last decade. It’s been a great unit to be part of.