Cricket April 13, 2007

The reasons we root for Sri Lanka

Watching Chaminda Vaas open the bowling yesterday (three overs, no runs, two wickets) was scary, it was like being allowed to watch a master hit man at work

Watching Chaminda Vaas open the bowling yesterday (three overs, no runs, two wickets) was scary, it was like being allowed to watch a master hit man at work. First his bunny, Stephen Fleming, trapped in front, business as usual. Then the right-handed Taylor done by the ball that didn't come back at him, caught Kumar Sangakkara, diving to his right. Not a run conceded in eighteen balls. Match over in three overs. And all this at under 120 kmph. No sound, no fury: just lethal seam bowling with the silencer on.

Why does watching Sri Lanka win give non-Sri Lankans so much pleasure? It's not because they're the little guys. They're not. The Sri Lankans won the World Cup eleven years ago: they've been big boys in the one-day game for over a decade now. No, we love watching the Sri Lankans win not out of chivalry, but because they're the new West Indians. Their crowds make more musical noise than Caribbean spectators ever did and their players do the gay cavalier business to the manner born.

Three of these guys are so old they should be playing veterans' charity matches. Vaas, Murali Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya helped Sri Lanka win the Big One in the last millennium for god's sake! Sanath's even retired once. But instead of sitting on their rocking chairs waiting for their pension cheques, they're in the West Indies, terrorizing a new generation of cricketing infants.

Who can forget Vaas's return catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa? Young Uthappa decided to go after the slow-bowling ancient, whacked him for a couple of fours and then swatted another ball (that flat-batted straight hit that modern batting brutes so favour) only to have Vaas catch it with both hands on his follow through. Exit, bewildered youth, sent on his way with a few instructions.

If Vaas favours the cold steely look, Muralitharan is the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of modern cricket: like the giggling guru, he just never stops grinning. Watching him frolic with delight after taking catches in the outfield as the Sri Lankans picked off long-faced Indian batsmen, I wondered why Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar and the rest didn't smile more. Why did they always look like oppressed Atlases holding up a billion people?

And then there's Jayasuriya: he has held Sri Lanka's batting together for a decade now and he has bowled more balls in one-day cricket than most specialist bowlers. But does he go around looking as if he's in the trough end of a manic-depressive cycle? No. He gets hit by Shane Bond (consensually the most fearsome fast bowler on view in this tournament) and then takes the Kiwi attack apart in trademark fashion. I look at him and think, if he can carry on batting exactly the way he has always done at the top of the order, why is Tendulkar batting like a barnacle at number four?

Nor do the young ones show any sign of being mass-produced mediocrities: as an Indian fan I've seen a lot of those in the last two years. Lasith Malinga's so wonderfully strange they should freeze him in his delivery stride and suspend him in formaldehyde for posterity. Chamara Silva is the kind of young batsman Team India would die for. Even the middling Sri Lankans, neither young nor old, are remarkable. Sangakkara is on the brink of batting greatness, he's a fine wicket keeper and he talks such a good game that most countries would have fast-tracked him into captaincy by now. Dilhara Fernando, after years of waywardness is bowling fast and straight again.

They won this one without Malinga, but they'll need him against the Australians. I'll be rooting for the Sri Lankans to win for many reasons and one of them is that Sri Lanka is the only team on show that brings the variety of Test match bowling to limited overs cricket: medium, fast-medium, fast, plus left-arm orthodox and right arm off spin, absurdly unorthodox! Blond highlights, round-arm thunderbolts, leg-spinning off-spinners, deadly old men: weird and wonderful is what they are—it's why we love them.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on August 25, 2007, 10:54 GMT

    I need help. I want to know the full form of the name of this cricketer "Chaminda vaas". Its a short form itself of a big name. plz help me out.

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 19:02 GMT

    sorry about the last one, other was an answer to sameer

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 18:19 GMT

    Nicely written piece! Completely share your sentiment. As a dutchman I strongly root for Sri Lanka, because of the joy they bring to their game. I have more than enough of the clinical and brutal way in which the Aussies have hammered themselves towards the finals

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 16:59 GMT

    tendulkar's time has ended.maybe his head is too large to put into his helmet.and when england toured sl in 2003/04,thanks to your brlillant umpire venkat they survived about 5 lbs for the last wicket and survived the match.tilakarathne was captain then.and talking of umpires having their fingers on their hats,why won't you learn a bit of hitory your of your brilliant umpires did the same but your side lost the match

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 3:42 GMT

    It was 1996 when I was 21 & was at university ,I could remember the date march 17th or near by all guys were in full run & occupy the TV in the canteen. All were juvenated & mummered go sri lanka go. That were thousands places in the country & millions of people all were supporting Sri Lanka . That time has come again. Only less than 36 hours away .

    Why we say they should win. More promptly as I am a Sri Lankan. no that is only the truth of 20 5. Whole the story says they should win as they are the most comprehensive team in championship.

    Can any one leave the leading wicket taker of the tournament............ Can any one leave world best ever spinner Can any one leave best initiative bowler .. & play against Auisis with considering triumph & disaster are the same..... That is only Sri Lanka who has done first time in 1996.. the damage & now they are getting ready. They r on their way without taking into account what Ian chappel or ponting says.

    There is a target set by them. this the best flow one can see which may be the best in the world. their moral is high. Their Morality is the best as well. Did gilchrist left the creese when umpire Billy Bowden said he was LBW .Din't macclum frown at umpire doctrove when given LBW. Both were plumbed. But remember againsr ausies when Doctrive went against sangakkara when bowl flow very top of wkt . my guy leaned to umpire & went. Remember Mahela went off line decison for stumping when felt he had gone . How many examples we can set on Sanga, Santh, Mahela ..& all Sri Lankan son these. We are proud on u guys.

    On top of all those world most experienced white umpires are playing jokers. Don’t you think against Chamara & Dilshan in newzeland match they had given outs purposely. Ruddy was too rude on Dilhara & after that he went for many more runs. But all in all what we know about Sri Lnakans is they are pretty much like to walk on fire rather than walk on water. Don’t call for Sanath & kumar mor their fires as well. But ICC it is your duty to place right umpires for the final .

    we saw them as a team.not only at first time enters to ground grouping. Once a bowler fails mahela went to him & had a chat,if next bowl if he hit Sanga came to him all the way & had a chat., from the our side of boundry Malinga encourages him. What a effort .This is the true team ship. Remember in the first 2 matches how Sanath has pushed Mahela to bat like a Father. after that. How calmly jiant Sanath batted.How guided out of form Upul Tharanga.

    I am suar they will win for sri lankans. Ausises are the best. but sri lankans are the very best.

    Go guys go...

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 2:47 GMT

    You boys have already taught a good lesson to third world bullies Amnesty International by coming to the finals. We play according to the rules Amnesty, take it from Sri Lanka. All the best for a 2nd World Cup.

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 0:18 GMT

    How they share in this big event 2007 world cup final. Asantha VS Trevor Moody vs Buchanan Mahela vs ponting Sanga vs Gilchrist Sanath vs Hayden Vas vs Magrath Malinga vs Tait Chamara vs Clarke Dilshan vs Symonds Murali vs Hogg

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 18:20 GMT

    SL won most of matches in their home between 1988 - 2000 with the help of umpires. they cannot deny this truth. now they are sledging others:)). very funny. i hope no any lankan fan missed the 2003 wc match between SL and NZ, sanath was caught behind and rudi koetzen didnt rule him out :). ok, next Sl vs Wi in 2003 WC, hinds was given a faulty lbw by indian umpire venkat and a boot catch for ridley jacobs, umpiring is not so easy, if they give on favor of sl, its umpire decision, against sl, its biased umpiring, shame on u

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 17:40 GMT

    Aussies did bad in lanka ? That is a post worth 2 hoots. 2004 --> SL loses 0-3 to Aussies in home series....ODI series -- 2-3 loss to Aussies...Poor Hashan Tilakrathne resigns and retires....King of Chucks took 28 wkts in 3 games to Warney s 27 in 3, but was unable to win even a single game for SL.....Same year later in Aus the test series was lost 0-1...And one was drawn!!!!!!

    By the way Manjula i admire your spirits. Unfortunately SL is not the best thing to have happened to the world cricket, they dont even have a rich and old cricketing tradition as Indians and Pakistanis have....All they have an array of comical umpires like BC Cooray and Ashoka DeSilva who had taken their finger up to give the decision and then later they realized it ws not out and then took the finger to land on their own hat......And firstly learn how to post on blogs, public forums.....Get this knowledge and a bit of cricket history too and then post and try to sound as granny....

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 16:04 GMT

    For people who think the Aussies the world best team go to stat and see how good they were in sri lanka against sri lanka. they look like minnows:-> aussies are going to get the match of there life in saturday. Only thing that can save them is bias umpiring nothing else. More often than not ponting was LBW to vass but never a decision was in his favor

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