Sri Lanka v West Indies, Final, World Twenty20, Colombo

Once again, a nation expects

Having felt let down by their side in losing the 2011 World Cup final, Sri Lankan fans are back behind their team hoping for their party to climax

Andrew Fernando in Colombo

October 6, 2012

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Lahiru Thirimanne nearly won the game for Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Pallekele, September 27, 2012
Young players like Lahiru Thirimanne have flourished under Mahela Jayawardene's captaincy © ICC/Getty
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There is an unnatural hush in the Khettarama locale of the Premadasa Stadium. The area is often a crush of commotion; tuk tuks spluttering around a labyrinth of roadside stalls, produce vendors squawking out prices to a tangle of passersby, and in the evening, the Muslim mosque and Buddhist temple on opposite ends of the ground go toe-to-toe on loudspeakers. On the eve of the first major final the stadium has hosted, only the yelps of children playing with a taped up tennis ball and homemade bat pierce the quiet. Here at cricket's coalface, the suspense is unmistakable. Over the past few days, it has spread swiftly from the tournament's nerve centre to every corner of the island. Sri Lanka are in another final, and this time, they're playing at home.

For many fans, the pain from the 2011 World Cup final loss was still raw when this tournament began. They had expected Sri Lanka to win that trophy, imagined the team arriving triumphantly and parading along Galle road as it had done in 1996. Many had stockpiled fireworks to set loose at the clinching moment. Others sprung for new televisions and antennas to behold the spectacle in the highest number of pixels their money could buy. What stung them most was not that Sri Lanka lost, but that the team had seemed so limp in the field - hapless against a more determined India. Many swore off cricket that day. Unfairly, there was even a hint of betrayal because they felt the team had not really tried.

That is not a criticism anyone will level at Sri Lanka in this tournament. There have been all the hallmarks that make the hosts such a watchable side - a mystery spinner bagging the format's best ever haul, a captain who seems to fashion savagery from silk and a gifted teenager who has taken the pressure of international cricket on the chin. But this time, Sri Lanka have backed their flamboyance with an iron will. When tested, they have shoved back harder, and like lovers who spurned-then-returned after realising they couldn't do any better, Sri Lanka's fans have flocked to support the side once more.

Mahela Jayawardene has been on the forefront of the team's new resolve, and for all his instinct and brilliance on the field, it is his understanding and focus that has snapped Sri Lanka out of a post-World Cup funk, and brought the joy back into their cricket. He has his own reasons for wanting to rid himself of the reins, but while he has been at the helm, Jayawardene has coaxed the best out of the individuals under him, and cultivated a resilience the team had missed. Youngsters like Thisara Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne have flourished on Jayawardene's watch. At the older end of the scale, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Rangana Herath have revelled in the freedom to be themselves.

Part of the attraction of Sri Lanka's campaign has also been the breadth of contributions they have benefited from. Unlike West Indies who have fired or failed largely on the strength of Chris Gayle's blows, there is no obvious talisman for Sri Lanka. Kumar Sangakkara and Ajantha Mendis prospered in the tournament opener, Dilshan and Lasith Malinga shone in the first Super Eights match, the middle order proved their mettle against England and Herath and Angelo Mathews bowled the hosts into the final against Pakistan. Along the way, fringe players like Jeevan Mendis and Akila Dananjaya have also made their presence known.

They have all added to the texture of Sri Lanka's campaign and the fans have taken notice. After Sri Lanka's victory in the semi final, the party in the stands spilled raucously into the streets. Tickets are selling for four or five times their retail value on the black market. Suddenly, thousands of people are wearing Sri Lanka team shirts and the anxious excitement preceding a final has taken hold.

"Playing in Sri Lanka is not an added burden for us at all," Jayawardene said. "We are very lucky to be able to do that. Playing in a final with our home fans gives the team strength and confidence. It's unfortunate the capacity is only 35,000. The enthusiasm is so much people who come in will have a great time, and the rest of the fans will find a way of supporting us as well. Their thoughts and prayers will be with the team and I really appreciate that. We enjoy having that kind of atmosphere playing at home."

Jayawardene's men will not read into three failures in recent finals, and perhaps rightly so. On each previous occasion, they were defeated by a team much better than themselves. This time, things are different. They are the form team of the tournament, and have proven themselves against a variety of opposition at three distinct venues. On Sunday night, Sri Lanka will watch once more. Perhaps this time, their fireworks will have lit up the night.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Nawab67 on (October 7, 2012, 16:47 GMT)

Its done...As usual SL Meows choked on milk!! SL are 1st losers and always chokers!!

Posted by   on (October 7, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

our thoughts and prayers are with the sri lankan team,deffa this time we will WIN and send windies flying home to do the gangnam dance in one of their islands,not here,not now :)

Posted by   on (October 7, 2012, 6:17 GMT)

"Gayle Tsunami" coming in Srilanka. Please take adequate precautions as damage is inevitable. Man, the IPL has really turned Gayle into a multi-millionaire proposition.

Posted by Roshini on (October 7, 2012, 6:00 GMT)

Sri Lanka can pull off a yet another world title by winning the toss and bat first - 35% of the victory plus net Gayle and Samuel within the power play - 50% of the victory and then making sure Jeevan Mendis bats after Mathews and Thisara - 15% of the victory.....if these things happen then Gangam and Calypso style can only watch in horror to the tunes of Raigam and Baila style taht will dominate the pitch and the streets of Colombo and beyond....Good Luck Sri Lanka....A friend in India

Posted by gtzshotta on (October 7, 2012, 5:23 GMT)

If Windies play to their quality, sorry Sri Lanka but you will finish second place again.

Posted by   on (October 7, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

we cant afford to loose this final, we wanna win this lions..

Posted by challagalla on (October 7, 2012, 3:52 GMT)

Good luck to Sri Lanka from an Indian fan. Keep calm and focused and the cup is yours. You were up against a determined India last year, marauding Aussies in the West Indies and a Pakistan that was fantastic [ Afridi and Gul were simply unplayable ] in England. Lets hope Malinga fields better and you win the toss. Win the toss, pack your team with spinners, bat first is a strategy both teams will opt for. One thing. Never underestimate West Indies. Nodoubt Chris Gayle is their best batsmanbut forget the others. Aussies kept Gayle quiet for about 8 or so overs and yet the team was going at full clip. Once again good luck and looking forward to another closely faught final.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 23:35 GMT)

This is indeed Sri Lanka's game to lose and I can't bear to see another finals slip through our hands again. Jeevan should bat (if he get's an opportunity) after Angelo and Thisara. Good Luck boys.. Win the T20 WC for us!!

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 23:34 GMT)

lol..its not four or five times..The lowest tickets the Rs200 one was close to 10,000 yesterday..it ll be even higher by tomorrow..everyone wants to be there !

Posted by SanSL5 on (October 6, 2012, 22:36 GMT)

"Tickets are selling for four or five times their retail value on the black market." are you kidding me?! the 220 rupee C lower ticket is being sold for 7,000 in the black market at the moment!!

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Tournament Results
Sri Lanka v West Indies at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 7, 2012
West Indies won by 36 runs
Australia v West Indies at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 5, 2012
West Indies won by 74 runs
Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 4, 2012
Sri Lanka won by 16 runs
India v South Africa at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 2, 2012
India won by 1 run
Australia v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 2, 2012
Pakistan won by 32 runs
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