Sri Lanka v India, World T20 2014
When Sri Lanka started their world cup campaign, to me it was all about bidding farewell to Mahela and Sanga in the T20 format. Having a minimum of four games to play in the space of ten days, a semi final and a final would only be a bonus for me to see the two greats bat together in the format that they stand as evidence for purists who can play the game that is desired by the team. It was also possibly the last World T20 for Sri Lanka's T20 fortune maker; TM Dilshan, and their spin wizard since Murali; Rangana Herath. But a farewell did not seem to be on the cards for any of these Sri Lankan legends. TM Dilshan looked like an old worn out deer in head lights, with not enough reflexes to see the vehicle coming. Herath didn't even get a game. And when Sanga couldn't get the ball of the square for the first four games he batted, scoring a telephone number for runs; 14,0,4,1, and when Mahela had to be dropped by the English over and over again for him to score which was perhaps the ugliest half century of his career, for me the swan song had started to end with an off key.
Then Sri Lanka lost to England. Chandimal was banned for a game for low over-rates. Thirimanne came in as replacement. Mendis got dropped for Herath. With Malinga being appointed as captain, his baby sitting duties were set on Mahela's, Sanga's and Dilshan's hands. The swan song had begun, and the whole country were singing in chorus, with their hearts on their sleeve, and tears in their eyes. In a heart-stopping game, Sri Lanka came back after a dismal batting collapse against New Zealand to bowl them out for 60 runs and make it to the Semi Finals. Rangana Herath heralded the charge, with Murali-esque figures of 5 for 3. Has there ever been a better left-arm spinner from the sub-continent, or even in the world, one would wonder. Dilshan was ferociously vocal and ever passionate in the field; he had found his aggression that Sri Lanka much depend on for crucial games. Dilshan's passion and aggression is the tonic to Mahela's emotion and Sanga's calm. And with the three combined, they provided the perfect advisory board for Captain Malinga to lead the troops to one last Semi Final for the three greats.
|Transition of the captaincy from Chandi to Malinga;|
a sub-plot that would be spoken about for decades.
It was only fitting that Sri Lanka would face India in the Finals; the team that they consistently struggled to beat in the recent past, specially in Finals. As Sri Lankan fans dreaded another blistering gut-wrenching Kohli innings, or a tsunami sized Helicopter shot from Dhoni, the team prepared for final battle. Thisara Perera came in for the impressive Seekkuge Prasanna, which was one crucial decision as it hindered India's options of using Mishra and Jadeja against the left handed hitter in the latter overs. Chandimal, once again, proving his courage and character, left him self out of his first ever world cup final as captain. Malinga headed out for the toss, and won one against Dhoni, and elected to field, knowing that India hadn't set a target to a formidable side in the whole tournament. In the back of his mind would have been the fact that Sri Lanka hadn't chased more than 39 in the whole tournament either, but it was a gamble he would have been willing to take, given India's chasing record. With a count down that pit Sri Lanka at 2 and India at 1, the game began.
|If Sri Lanka wanted to prove a point about their mental strength in Finals,|
India were the best team to do it against.
Kusal got a boundary and got out. Stone silence. But then the final words of the farewell began. Dilshan pulled and Mahela cut. Dilshan used his club with brute force, Mahela waved his wand with charm and grace. With four boundaries a piece, they knocked off a third of the target between them. They had both added their own little piece to the swan song. Sri Lanka's voice picked up. Hearts grew bigger, if they ever could get any bigger. And again, for the fifth time in seven years, Sri Lanka hoped. They prayed that their hour had finally arrived.
|Since 1996, no Sri Lankan has ever deserved to win a World Cup|
more than Sanga and Mahela
With the perfect farewell for their two greats, and a world title against their name, Sri Lanka erupted. Sri Lanka erupted in Colombo, in Galle, in Kandy, in Kalmunai and in Jaffna. Sri Lanka erupted in Toronto, Brampton, Sydney, Melbourne, London, New York and in Dubai. Sri Lanka had finally won. The chokers tag, the jinx, the superstitions and the hoodoos, all were buried away with a silver trophy that Malinga lifted in to the air, as a silent tear trickled down one's face. Sri Lanka had not just won the cup, Sri Lanka had won the world.
|At a time when Sri Lanka's ethnic stability is being questioned,|
a unifying victory of such massive proportion could not have been better timed.
So, thank you Kusal, for giving us a blistering start to the tournament by making Dale Steyn look like a net bowler at a division II club side. Thank you Thiri, for the two crucial innings against New Zealand and West Indies, for without which we would not have made it to the finals. Thank you Prasanna for your cameo in the semi final, hope you keep getting more chances to show your potential. Thank you Menda, even though you went for runs, your wicket of Albie won us the game in my opinion. Thank you for helping Sri Lanka create another world record against Netherlands. Thank you, Sachi for your tight spells of bowling through out the tournament. Your cricketing brain is one to admire, and your spirit and enthusiasm was one of the reasons for Sri Lanka's success. Also, you injuring Corey James Anderson was one of those subtle turning points of the whole tournament campaign for Sri Lanka.
Thank you Kule. Thank you so much. You have done loads and loads for this country although you quietly slip under the radar. That over against South Africa, the spell against England and that come back over against India, you are one of the most deserving players of a World Cup win. Thank you Hera, for again and again coming in to the team to save us from defeat. For that magical spell. For your sheer determination and never say die attitude. Thank you Thisara. Your three sixes in the final were the three happiest moments in my life, with the last one to hit the winning runs being the most happiest I've ever been and I ever will be. For that six, I cried the happiest tears of my life. Thank you for finishing it with a six! Thank you Angie. You are the rock in this team. You are who we depend on in our every hour of need. You are the future of this team and you must be the answers to Sri Lanka's prayers from the 2000s for a genuine fast bowling all rounder. True match winner, thank you. Thank you, Chandi. You brave brave boy! It doesn't matter if you stepped down by choice or not, even to take in that emotion, to be humble enough to wear the apron and carry drinks. Chandi, you are a leader for the ages. Your decision will be written in the history books as Sri Lanka's most selfless choice ever. Thank you, TM Dilshan. Your peaking at the right time during that game against West Indies was crucial for us. The way you threw your self around in the field, knowing that you are literally putting your body on the line for the country will be admired for ages. You have been a great servant of this little island from the day you walked in to the team. It was you who transformed this team in to a World Class T20 team with your batting in 2009. You put us at #1 in the rankings, almost single handedly. You deserve this. You really do. Thank you.
|We do nothing for you, yet you do so much for us.|
Thank you, Sri Lankan Cricket Team
Thank you, Kumar Sangakkara. I hate you. I hate you because you make it so hard for me to hate you. Why are you so good? How are you so good? Thank you for being superficially amazing with the bat, in a tournament I would have named you in the flop XI, before the final, in a match where I hoped you would sit out and made both Seekkuge and Thisara played. Thank you for proving me wrong. There's only to love about being wrong about you succeeding, because when you do and when we win, I am still the happiest person in the world. Thank you for saving the best for last. Thank you for showing that you can chase. Thank you for proving that you can win tournament finals. And last but not least, thank you for having Mahela's back. Thank you for winning this, even after he got out, at which point I did not think we would win. Thank you for being amazing, and making me look stupid.
Denagamage Proboth Mahela Desilva Jayawardane, little kids don't thank their heroes for being heroic. They simply expect from them. That's why they are heroes. They are always amazing. So although you are my hero, I sadly am not a kid anymore. At least not when Sri Lanka win finals, at which point I suddenly turn 6 years old and start running around screaming and crying and laughing and crying again and jumping on everyone and telling everyone how Mahela is finally a world champion. So thank you. Thank you for leading a team that needed a leader of your calibre. Sri Lanka would not be here without you if not for your genius tactics against New Zealand and India. The fact that Sri Lanka lost the one game you left the field as you broke your thumb, epitomizes your importance to this team. Thank you for not retiring in 2012, when we all knew you wanted to, being the captain, leading the team to a final at home. I saw it in your eyes, that was your moment, the moment you waited for all your life, to lift that trophy for all of Sri Lanka, and bow down on a high. But it was all shattered. So thank you for not giving up then. Thank you for backing your self and giving your self another shot at winning this. And you did. Lastly and most of all, thank you for being a champion. Thank you for being a part of this team, and winning a world cup and being a World Champion; for I would not want to live in a world where Mahela Jayawardane was not a world champion.
I do not know when I would die. But what I do know is that "when" I do will not matter, for I know when ever that would be, I would die a happy death, knowing that I was alive when Sri Lanka won the world cup.
And that is the most alive that I have ever felt.
"WE FUCKING WON THE WORLD CUP!"