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Abhishek Purohit in Mumbai
February 5, 2013
Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardene and Player of the Match Deepika Rasangika's press conference was delayed by several minutes. When President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to call, you wait. The conference began eventually with the President's call expected any minute, and Siriwardene, a calm character not easily given to hyperbole, calling Sri Lanka's qualification to the Super Six the biggest achievement of her career.
"I can't believe it actually," Siriwardene said. "It is a dream come true for us. We finished last in [the] 2009 [World Cup] under my captaincy. So I am really relaxed and relieved. I got a call from my home and they are really excited. This is a special match that they have seen live.
"Yes, it is [my biggest achievement]. I am seriously super happy. This could be my last World Cup, and I wanted to do something special for the team."
There were quite a few firsts for Sri Lanka today. Not only was it the first time they have made the Super Six stage at the World Cup, it was also the first time they beat India, four days after defeating England for the first time. It was also their first day-night ODI, according to Siriwardene.
Making the occasion memorable was Rasangika, 29, who went into the match with an ODI batting average of 12, and not much to go on apart from a reputation as one of Sri Lanka's best fielders. She was promoted to No. 3 and ended up swinging her way to a match-winning 84. Siriwardene said the side had discussed the change before the match after crashing to a 209-run defeat to West Indies two days ago.
"We did not field well against West Indies," Siriwardene said. "We wanted to move to players who are good fielders and left-arm spinners. We had to remove No. 3 batter Prasadani [Weerakkody]. The coach and management talked about it and we wanted to promote Rasangika. She had batted really well in the domestic season at No. 3."
Siriwardene hoped there would be more support for Sri Lanka from the sparse crowds that have been attending the matches at Brabourne Stadium, now that hosts India had been knocked out. "We are the only team from Asia to have qualified for the Super Six. So I think more people from India will like us winning [from] now [on]."
In the run-up to the tournament, Sri Lanka had generated probably the least excitement among the media and fans. Indeed, in the pre-tournament press conference on January 27, Siriwardene had been asked hardly any question, apart from how she felt to have been born on Valentine's Day.
There was no shortage of questions today, though. Only, the press conference had to be cut short abruptly, as Mr Aroos, the team manager, walked in. "Sorry, but it is the President calling," Aroos said. You don't keep Mr President waiting.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala