Ian Chappell picks the best performances on cricket's biggest stage

'Ranatunga willingly took on the Australians'

Ian Chappell on how Sri Lanka's triumvirate - Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya - masterminded the World Cup win in 1996 (00:00)


Great World Cup Performances

'Ranatunga willingly took on the Australians'

Sri Lanka celebrate their victory, Final, Australia v Sri Lanka, Wills World Cup, Lahore, March 17, 1996
"Everybody was hoping they didn't run into Australia. Not Arjuna. He said, 'Bring them on'" © Getty Images

The 1996 World Cup was memorable for the ascent of Sri Lankan cricket. They played in the first World Cup as minnows in 1975. Here they were, 21 years later, as one of the feared teams in the competition. And they let everybody know that they needed to be feared, in a match against India, played at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.

In the first five overs Sri Lanka had reached 50, which was unheard of in those days. Now it's probably an everyday event in Twenty20 cricket, but in those days it was unheard of. It was Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, the two openers, who really blitzed the Indian attack. This sent the message out to the rest of the world that we are here and we mean business.

They went on to get into the final, and the man who played a great part in Sri Lanka getting to the final was their skipper, Arjuna Ranatunga. Because he said very early on in the tournament, when Australia refused to go and play their match in Sri Lanka, "We want the Australians in the final." There weren't too many teams in those days that were saying to Australia, "Bring it on, bring it on." Everybody was hoping they didn't run into Australia. Not Arjuna. He said, "Bring them on, we want them in the final."

He then played another great hand. I remember Ravi Shastri had to interview Ranatunga and I had to interview Shane Warne a day before the final. Ravi had done his interview already, and the message must have got through to the Australian camp. Shane Warne had definitely heard it. Because he came over to me, and before we even did the interview, he said, "What's the fat bastard said about me now?" And what Arjuna had said was that Shane Warne was a bit of a media myth, and was not as good a bowler as everyone made him out to be. So here was this Sri Lankan captain really antagonising the Australians, and saying, "Come on, come on, we want you."

So that really set the scene and it was completed by Aravinda de Silva. He played magnificently. At that point, till the 1996 World Cup final, there had only been two centuries in the final - by Clive Lloyd in 1975 and Viv Richards in 1979 - and he put his name up with two very fine players. Aravinda, to me, made his name that day. I always thought that Aravinda was a terrific player and he proved to me that he was better than a terrific player. It was a tremendous knock in the final. He just played so sensibly, controlled the innings, and made sure that Sri Lanka chased - which they loved doing in those days - and won that final.

It was a memorable win for Sri Lanka, engineered by this opening batting pair who took on the bowlers in the first 15 overs. It changed the way one-day cricket was played, and Ranatunga and de Silva played their part in Sri Lanka winning the 1996 World Cup.

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