Sri Lanka win the World Cup

They weren't destined for the trophy in 1996, but they ended up winning it

Andrew Fidel Fernando

Play 05:41

Nothing in Sri Lankan cricket is so full of wonder as the story of that World Cup campaign. Perhaps no time else has our sport delivered so delicious an underdog tale.

In the years since, it has become fashionable to have seen it coming - to retrofit the ingredients that made this a champion team. Sri Lanka's openers were revolutionary aggressors, it is said, but unmentioned is the fact that only in the second game of the tournament did the Sanath Jayasuriya-Romesh Kaluwitharana pairing finally ignite, though they had opened together for some months and produced no big stands of note. Sri Lanka had the slow bowlers to win an Asian World Cup, it is thought, but Muttiah Muralitharan was a mere fledgling at the time, and Kumar Dharmasena's numbers would have barely flattered a part-timer.

It was written in the stars... or was it? © Getty Images

Much, likewise, is made of Sri Lanka's batting experience and their acumen in a pursuit. In fact, they had not successfully chased a score of over 250 more than a handful of times.

Take stock of all the details - of the board that had no more than US$5000 in its bank account; of the trauma the team had just suffered in Australia when a spinner was called for throwing and others were accused of ball-tampering; of players who were often embarrassed by their hardship in comparison to other international cricketers; of the state of their nation, which was roiled in war - and it seems ludicrous for Sri Lanka to have won a World Cup in 1996.

But they did.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando