How Lankans Down Under celebrated WC final

By Vindya Amaranayake.
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 atmosphere.
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 concluded.
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 said.
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 Australia!

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 opposition score.
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.









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