It was 1996 April. I was getting ready for my final exams at the university of Peradeniya. The world cup final was supposed to begin at 3.35 PM. I left the library where I was studying and came directly to the Jayathilaka hall canteen at 2.30. Turned the TV on and sat on the front bench. I did not stand up until Sri Lanka was crowned world champions. Sri Lankan team was heavy underdogs against the formidable Australia then. It was a mix of young and experience players. No teams was too big for them as they clinically defeated every team they faced.
Today in few hours, Sri Lanka is facing India in the world Twenty20 final. Sri Lanka has been here before. They are the incumbent runners up of this tournament. Given the history and the superiority of the Indian team, no one is giving us a chance. Sri Lanka is heavy underdogs again. Let’s forget the current situation for a moment. Sri Lanka was the heavy underdog facing New Zealand just before the semifinals. They were the heavy underdogs facing West Indies in the semifinals. Both games they were unfazed. They were clinical. The young and the experience player mix is working.
I am sure few more parallels could be drawn to 1996 such as their Semi finals was also interrupted before finishing.
There were many disturbing things behind the scene. Selectors (whose chairman was not even capable of taking Sri Lanka to a world cup semifinal) is interfering with the team too much. The appointed captain was made to sit. Luckily Sri Lanka players don’t have huge egos. Many fans were trashing the current captain Malinga before all of this. Politics is interfering with Cricket way more than ever.
Given all that the real cricketing brains of Sri Lanka actually gets activated in the middle where all that interference is minimal. Cricket is about using the talents of the players effectively in the middle. So far they have done it. India could be a monumental climb but if they can stay unfazed, this day will belong to Sri Lanka.