Asia Cup 2014 March 9, 2014

Sri Lanka return to heroes' welcome


"Four World Cup finals, four heartbreaks, but this is what it feels like to finally win something," one Sri Lanka fan was overheard saying, as the open-top bus carrying Sri Lanka's cricketers came into view near SLC headquarters. She was one of thousands who lined the streets, waving flags, decked in blue, tooting horns, and occasionally breaking out in a baila-flavoured jig as they awaited the Asia Cup-winners.

Cricket lovers in Sri Lanka are an apathetic bunch by South Asian standards, and on Sunday even the beaming players appeared surprised by the masses that had turned out for them, on 18 hours' notice. The joy in the whoops, the whistles and the waves could not be mistaken, but equally palpable was the relief. Sri Lanka's public had waited a long time to shower adulation on their players like this. The players, many of them accustomed to a relatively throng-free existence, lapped up the attention.

Angelo Mathews and Kumar Sangakkara were in predictably high demand from the masses, with many calling out their names in desperate hope for a wave or smile they could boast was directed at them alone. 'Sanga' and 'Anji' are not just the team's captain and best batsman, they are also the nation's biggest heartthrobs. Both men know it too.

But this time, the public was unusually sweet on another young player. Lahiru Thirimanne's stock rose exponentially during the tournament, in which he had hit two hundreds. Some in the crowd screaming his name were big enough to admit they had not thought much of him before the Asia Cup. He had been staring down Umar Gul about 20 hours ago, wearing that determined scowl evoking Gregory Peck's driving face in 'To Kill A Mockingbird', but he exchanged kinder pleasantries with his new legion of followers on Sunday.

Thirimanne was a favourite for photographs when the team disembarked at Maitland Place. At first he would oblige with a grin, but after about three dozen snaps, the slightest hint of that scowl returned. That was not to say he did not enjoy the adulation, because he would engage willingly in conversation and happily acquiesce to every request, but perhaps he is not as comfortable in the limelight as his role-model Sangakkara had been, even at that age. Not everyone has to be a public darling. Thirimanne will know, however, that if he continues to be this good at his job, he will have tens of thousands more photographs to pose for before his career is out.

Paul Farbrace was generous with his time too, keen to please the public, just as he has been with the team. Sri Lanka have played 12 matches under his watch and are yet to lose a game. His pronunciation of the players' last names leaves something to be desired, but given even his Sri Lankan-born predecessor Dav Whatmore had never really got his tongue around them, it is an easily forgiven foible.

There was relief at winning a final for now, but there was another vibe bubbling up from the multitude. "Here's a little something to show we appreciate you," they seemed to say, "but really, you ain't seen nothing yet."

"If you bring back another winners' trophy on April 7, we'll make it a day you'll never forget."

It's a steep demand, but that's the nature of Sri Lanka's cricket public. If the team didn't want to ratchet expectations so high, they shouldn't have been so damn good in this tournament.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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  • Android on March 15, 2014, 21:17 GMT

    SL is the best and most consisitant team ever and india cant even think of competing over it.

  • Supun on March 13, 2014, 7:35 GMT

    @mgr125128, Dear, stop dreaming. Now it is proved that without Dhoni and Kohli India is not competeive. IPL is killing India's cricket making fans feel that cricket means hitting the ball hard. But it is about handling match situations and winning them under pressure. Now Indian players only can hit the ball hard because the base for them is nothing other than IPL. India had good players but now they have only MSD and Kohli. It is hard but still you gotta believe it. It is really pathotic even to talk about their bowling. Non of their bowlers will get a chance in Sri Lankan team if they were in Sri Lanka.

  • Chamara on March 12, 2014, 6:16 GMT

    @mgr125128: its the past mate..... the future for ur team seems to be dark....... very poor bowling, fielding, even batting........ without Kholi, india team cannot score a competitive score in a match..... u can speak about past those glorious days today...... but in future there will be no such days for u 2 speak.... truth is that man....... so before criticize another team try to adjust ur team well for upcoming games......unless u will lose every match...... being over confidence would lead indian fans to a disappointment.......

    ur Ques will be Answered in WT20 mate....... will see what will happen....

  • Android on March 12, 2014, 4:31 GMT

    Dear mgr121whatever.understand that it's always better to qualify for a final rather than getting knocked out of super six(2007) I am amazed by the over confidence that you believe India has the best chance in wc2015, do you even have a bowling attack. People give 80runs in 8 overs. So stop dreaming wc won't be played on rajkot or some flat track. Poor you.

  • Manoj on March 12, 2014, 0:12 GMT

    @mgr125128: You are wrong on this mate. We have been telling ranking system is flawed and in favor of BIG 3 especially India. NZ and Eng are definitely ahead of India on any day. Any team who get to the final can crown the title just because of pure luck as well.I am not telling India won all the titles due to luck. But it is a possibility. But, it is equally important how many times teams have come to the final as well. You might know how difficult it is to come to finals competing with top 8 teams.

  • Milind on March 11, 2014, 13:49 GMT

    It is pretty strange how people will twist the facts and figures and draw their own conclusion to feel happy....but if same logic is applied to other teams and it does not suit them then its illogical. Hordes of SL/Pak fan pointing out that we reached "N" number of times to semifinals thats why we are better etc etc matter if we did not win the cup. Well by that logic NZ has reached the SF of world cup 6 times...but have never won the CUP. So is NZ a better team than SL/Pak/Eng or others who have won the cup ???? For that matter even England has made it to same number of finals but never won??? Does that make NZ/Eng better teams or worse teams....IN LIFE and in HISTORY, THEY ONLY REMEMBER THE WINNERS" not the also rans

  • Milind on March 11, 2014, 13:33 GMT

    So SL wins the Asia cup and now you guys start to believe SL is better team than the current Worldcup and Champions trophy holders. Whats else do you guys try to believe in? I bet you guys also believe Superman is really a person and not a fictional character ;)

  • Dummy4 on March 11, 2014, 13:10 GMT

    It was never Ind vs SL affair, I dont know why some SL and some Indian fans are fighting on this forum, India vs Pak excitement and euphoria cannot be created by Ind vs boring, its always been Ind vs Pak, no need for SL fans to try and compete with India, SL was always just another team for India....

  • sri on March 11, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    @schathuranga I brought this medals into debate since one of your countrymen talked about population and some trash things. But anyhow if you want to compare how many medals have you won at olympics? so better stick to the topic. @Arcangel if population is the criteria for judging sports. then US or China must be winning the WC football every time. not Brazil or Germany. FYI I dint start comparing population until one of your countrymen started this.just look all the comments . @Sinhababu when compared to previous editions India did reasonably well at last Olympics. So, they are improving and they will only get better from next Olympics.BTW how about SL in olympics instead of talking about India is improving or not?

  • Dinesh on March 11, 2014, 9:49 GMT

    Well Done Boys ! Extremely happy for this win, after a very long time. I don't know why the Lankan fans & Indian Fan fight. I personally like the Indian team, wonderful players. Of course our Pakistan players too. Well done all !

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