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There’s life and cricket after the ‘Old Guard’ exits

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Of course we are all disappointed. We backed our boys to the hilt. We forced ourselves to hope that they would win it all. We all wanted a perfect farewell to our ‘grand old men’ (relatively speaking of course). We wanted Sanga, Mahela, Dilly and Malinga to have a ‘Tendulkar Moment’ on March 29, 2015. Correspondents to sports pages wanted to write about the win and suggest tweaks that would get us into the Final. Didn’t happen the way we liked it to happen.

On the plus side, no one’s had a heart attack. No houses have been stoned or torched. When our boys return no one will say ‘hoo hoo’. On the contrary, the vast majority of fans will cheer them, pat them on the back and thank them for doing their best. This is Sri Lanka. It is not Pakistan or India. In fact we are more like Bangladesh in this respect, except for the fact that had Sri Lanka progressed there would be less surprise than if Bangladesh had bested India.

So we lost. So what? Should we weep? For those who shed a tear or think we should as a nation mourn, let me recount a conversation with Hindustan Times correspondent in Sri Lanka PK Balachandran which took place eight years ago when it was clear that Sri Lanka was going to lose to Australian in the World Cup final.

Sri Lanka had to bat out the last overs virtually in darkness. It was a darker night back in Colombo and that’s not because of the time of day only. On that very day Velupillai Prabhakaran sent a couple of toy planes to target who knows what in Colombo. There was a blackout so that searchlights could locate these rogue planes. I was listening to the commentary over a car radio. I could see the searchlights crisscrossing the night sky. Then I got a call from ‘Bala’.

After the usual exchange of greetings, he put a question to me: ‘What does this mean to Sri Lanka?’ And he provided context: ‘There’s an LTTE air attack and you are about to lose the World Cup Final’.

‘Bala, we don’t mix things up. The LTTE is one thing, the World Cup is another. Australia is a very good team. Now had we lost to New Zealand in the semi-final, it would have been pretty hard to take it. Australia, we have to admit, is the better team. They are not unbeatable though. If we played them 10 times, we probably would win two games. We hoped it would be one of those two games, but it wasn’t.’

Then we went on to talk about Buddhism and the notion of equanimity.
This year is not too different except of course there’s no imminent LTTE threat. We made it to the quarter-final stage. We lost to the two teams ahead of us in our group and defeated the four teams that ended below us. South Africa was placed second in their group. The odds were on them winning. They did. We might have made a match out of it, gone down fighting etc., but we didn’t. Either way, it is not an unexpected result. This is how good or bad we are and this is the distance that ability could take us.

Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan and Malinga did not lose stature. Not in the eyes of Sri Lankans. Their place in history is secure. They will be missed no doubt but that’s not something we need to dwell on. World Cup 2015 is not yet done. Some Sri Lankans might switch to another channel. Cricket fans will watch some if not all of the remaining games.

It is not the end of the world. There was cricket before Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan and Malinga. There will be cricket after them. Better cricket perhaps, who can tell? It’s time to say ‘goodbye’. Time to say ‘Thanks’. Time for a lump to make its presence felt in our collective throats. The moment will pass, however.
Let’s turn eyes, hearts and minds to the future. (MS)

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