Sri Lanka v India, Final, World T20 2014Fourteen days after Sri Lanka were crowned world T20 champions; only their second world title in cricketing history, I find my self staring at my laptop screen, finally having wrapped my head around the fact that we are indeed world champions. Like many Sri Lankans, I have now watched the highlights over and over again to the point where my chrome homepage has a link to the highlights video on "islandcricket.lk" listed as "Most Visited". I have listened to countless press conferences and watched all the television and radio interviews from all the players. I've surfed through the web for various celebration videos from all around Sri Lanka and all around the world. This cycle has continued for two weeks, and still the mind, body or soul hasn't seemed to have enough of it.
But if you really think about it, Sri Lanka haven't really won a "World Cup" in terms or technicalities. The ICC prefers to call the tournament "The World T20". The trophy it self isn't termed "The T20 World Cup Trophy", instead it is called the "World T20 Trophy". As much as Sri Lanka are world champions in the T20 format after winning the tournament, it may only be a mere justification of their position as the #1 T20 side in the world via the ICC world rankings, something Sri Lankans knew and were proud of even before the tournament had begun. Then what is to be made of these wild celebrations? Of the tears that were shed of joy? Of the electric hair raising feeling you get when you watch that winning moment over and over again. As contrary to the whole point about the world T20 not being a real world cup, the emotion in winning it could yet be justified. A classic example would be the photograph of Misbah Ul Haq kneeling with his head on his bat, while the Indians celebrated his dismissal in the final ball of the final over, in the world T20 finale in 2007.
But that is not the epitome of it. The emotions us Sri Lankans felt when we won that world cup are far greatly justifiable if you put the following in to perspective. Consider the scenario if Sri Lanka had lost the final. Sri Lanka would have fluffed the so called "boon" that was handed to them by god, to bid farewell to their two favourite sons since the mid 2000s. On top of it, it would have been the fifth final in the space of 7 years that they had lost. They would have stamped the name "chokers" on their foreheads the same way the swastika was carved on Col. Hans Landa by Lieutenant Aldo Raine; in more ways than one making it the "greatest masterpiece yet". They would have lost to their nemesis; India, who have tormented them across formats and finals all over the world. And fed by all these memories and contemplating a thousand disastrous permutations about its out come, in the hearts of every Sri Lankan there was fear, going in to the final. There was fear that Mahela and Sanga would have to retire, with careers of glorious numbers and unmatchable statistics, without ever being crowned world champions. Further, there was fear that if these two cannot win one, then who will? Will Sri Lanka ever win a world cup again? There was fear of heartache of this horrid nightmare coming true. Again. All over again. And it was this fear of disappointment that all Sri Lankans was liberated of, when Thisara Perera swiped that length ball over Ashwin's head. Any good team with a bit of luck can win a final. A consistent team under stable leadership can win world cups. But it is not everyday a sports team can liberate a whole nation of a fear of drowning in sorrows and heartache of losing what is Sri Lanka's only shot at being something in this world, of being champions.
|Any team that wins a world cup will be called world champions,|
but the beauty is in making people truly believe that they are indeed fans of the best team in the world.
When Sri Lanka lost the final in 2007, they lost to the best team of the tournament. They lost to a team that seemed unbeatable. They lost to an innings that would not be replicated in a world cup final for a long time to come. Amidst claims of Adam Gilchrist being a cheat for using a squash ball; which in my opinion was as fair as wicketkeepers using inner gloves, and Colombo's power being shut down due to an air-raid by the LTTE, Sri Lankan let the world cup loss pass. It wasn't something they thought they would win in the first place. In 2009, Sri Lanka ascended to their position of the most consistent T20 side in the world, with the aid of Lasith Malinga's yorkers, Dilshan's dilscoops, Mathews' all round heroics and Mendis' magic box. In a final where they should have won, against a team they had already beaten in the group stages, Sri Lanka faltered. They choked. Signs of heartache had begun and wounds that would not heal had been made. In 2011, Sri Lanka dusted off the early loss to Pakistan and steam rolled their way in to the final, yet as underdogs to the final hosts India, then with the grit of Mahela and Thisara's bats and Malinga's ball, Sri Lanka held their sword against India's throat. But before the throat could be slit, the back to the wall India handed Sri Lanka a knock out blow. Sri Lanka choked once again. This time the heartache did not spare the tears. Sri Lanka cried. But it wasn't until 2012 that Sri Lanka wept. Sri Lanka were favourites to win in 2012. It was their reward for enduring three straight final losses; a world cup win at home, in front of the home crowd, with their ever loving leaders Mahela as captain, and Sanga as deputy. But from the jaws of defeat, Marlon Samuels snatched victory for the West Indies. Sri Lanka was left speechless. That was it. That was the final nail in the coffin. Sri Lanka, along with Mahela and Sanga, their pillars of success in recent years, Malinga and Dilshan, their pioneers of T20 dominance, Herath and Kule, their most hard working and humble workhorses, would one day have to bow down without ever tasting the a world championship. Sri Lanka bled and Sri Lanka wept. Such wounds took time to heal, and left scars that only a world cup win could slightly help cover. But one thing was for sure; Sri Lanka could not afford to lose another final. They had endured hell. Not this time. Not again. And they didn't. They won. And this feeling right there, of self realization that no matter how many bad memories were made, and no matter how many tears were shed since 2007, Sri Lanka had finally managed to WIN one, was what really and genuinely justified the emotions that were sparked.
Sri Lankans famously dub themselves as a nation that only remembers anything for a space of seven days. But with the emotional trauma that they suffered since 2007, for seven years of being bride's maids to everyone else's weddings, of an 18 year old trophy drought, the despair of being called chokers and the lack of hope for dreaming to be world champions, this win in 2014 will not be forgotten for a long long time. It may have sparked united celebrations across all races, ethnicities, religions cast and creed in Sri Lanka, but it may never be the final step towards attaining true equity and peace in the island. It may have put them on the map once again after 1996 for being world champions, but it may not make them a significant figure in the world as much as we would like to think it would. In truth, Sri Lanka's win, and being crowned "World Champions" may not be much of a deal at all to anyone else in this world but to Sri Lankans, but in a sense that with this win Sri Lanka may not have won the world at all, and yet has won the world of every Sri Lankan, makes this win a far greater gift than any win a sports team could win for their country.
Which is why these words from Harsha Bhogle, "Now, has he got it? Yes he has! Sri Lanka are the new champions of the ICC World T20! Well played! They've tried so hard so many times in the final. This is their day." will ring in the ears of Sri Lankan fans for years and years to come, let alone just for two weeks.