Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 final, Lord's June 20, 2009

No losers in a match that's bigger than the game

What can a mere sporting win do? A lot
26

That the favourites and the glamour boys have all vacated the stage has provided the World Twenty20 the most poignant finale possible. By their presence in the final, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have offered cricket the opportunity to be bigger than itself: from being a mere spectacle, there is now the prospect of cricket serving a greater purpose.

That the two best, most varied, and most individualistic bowling sides have made it to the final of the premier tournament in Twenty20, a format that gives batsmen obscene liberty, is itself a cause for celebration. But if you allow yourself to see the broader picture, the matters of bat and ball become insignificant before the human possibilities the final offers. Among all those participating in this tournament, no two nations need the lift sporting success can bring more than Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Sri Lanka has just emerged from the bloodiest of civil wars that has claimed thousands of lives and left many more painful memories. The victory over the Tamil Tigers has been costly and, while there is a measure of self-congratulation, the fractures in society remain.

In Pakistan, the war might have just begun. The state of cricket in Pakistan is a fairly accurate illustration of its position in the real world. Younis Khan, a man of many admirable qualities, pointed out - perhaps unwittingly but poignantly - that the strife of the cricket team merely mirrors the state of the nation. More than the chaos, though, the country, like its cricket, is in danger of being pushed to the margins - and, worse, a point of no return.

What can a mere sporting win do? A lot. There is no overstating the healing power of sport. Sports fans live their dreams through the lives of their sporting heroes and win radiates joy. And it's a joy that spreads easily and it helps forge bonds and ease pain, however momentarily. Most sportsmen are aware of this power and that this makes them worthy.

It is unlikely that when they go out in their country's colours tomorrow the Sri Lankans and the Pakistanis will be oblivious to the wider significance of the match. Rather than weighing them down, such knowledge should be empowering. It can invest their game with a little more meaning and passion. Twenty20 is not a game of grand ideas and epic performances. It's a game of moments; inspiration matters.

Sri Lanka are among the most-loved teams in world cricket. What's not to love? They play an interesting, engaging and endearing brand of cricket. Their style is a triumph of natural flair and individual spirit over the rigours of process. They carry no bloated egos and most of them play with a smile. Their desire to win hasn't overpowered their necessity to lead a normal life and they haven't allowed success to spoil their manners.

There is no overstating the healing power of sport. Sports fans live their dreams through the lives of their sporting heroes and win radiates joy. And it's joy that spreads easily and it helps forge bonds and ease pain, however momentarily

I asked Mahela Jayawerdene last year, when he was still the captain, if it was a challenge for him and senior players to manage the sudden stardom of Ajantha Mendis, who had just landed an IPL contract. Jayawardene answered with breathtaking simplicity and clarity. The culture played a big part, he said; at the end of the day there are certain values that everyone had to fall in line with. Whoever didn't fit into those sets of rules and goals wouldn't be part of the team, irrespective of how good they were.

Even if you were neutral, Sri Lanka are a team whose success makes you feel good.

And Pakistan - has there ever been a more confounding and enthralling team? Always in tumult, always in strife, always on the edge, and often in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, yet always potential winners.

No one, least of all the players themselves, has ever known what they will, or can, do next. Bereft of match practice, plagued by controversies, and running low on resources, what business did they have to reach the final? However, though it seems ages ago, weren't they in the final of this very tournament a couple of years ago?

The last time they won a world tournament was in 1992. Then too they began their campaign in disarray and lived from match to match. That team had more quality and a leader who could rouse them. This time they made it to semi-finals almost stealthily and then knocked out the favourites with a bravura performance.

The mere thought that they could win the tournament would have been staggering a couple of weeks ago, but now, standing on the edge of possibility, they can do anything.

Going by how they have played so far, Sri Lanka deserve to win, but Pakistan need it more. It's a cliché, but there will no losers tomorrow.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • deemis on June 21, 2009, 12:07 GMT

    Today is a game of two winners.....but no loser..!! Its more the game of nerves than know how...who will keep the nerves better in gripp is da winner....but i do belive the two teams facing in final are the winners, so i dont think anyone shd be disoppointed in the last and as a sportsmen spirit accept the final result .....I WISH BOTH TEAMS GOOD LUCK AND GUD GAME

  • asi.ali on June 21, 2009, 12:05 GMT

    I think this an excellent article, its great read.

  • Partyman on June 21, 2009, 11:12 GMT

    "Even if you were neutral, Sri Lanka are a team whose success makes you feel good" - You could not be any further away from the truth. The so called emerald nation is anything but for the 300,000 or so refugees holed up in the camps in the north of the country in some worse conditions ever seen. Being neutral I feel nothing but contempt for the team which is representing the perpetrators of such a crime. Also, if you believe sporting victories would bring a lot to the millions in the SWAT Valley, you must be kidding. Any amount of victories would not give those millions their dignity nor the lives of the loved ones they have lost. It is plain obliviousness and naivety to believe that victories would transform lives - they just give them a feel good factor for a week or a month at most. But then those affected have a far more tougher battle to win than to follow cricket. Cricket is overrated. It is time for journalists like you to get some real perspective.

  • Shimbo on June 21, 2009, 11:06 GMT

    Well done Pakistan and Sri lanka. I am a Sri Lankan and obviously woluld like SL to win. If pakistan win I wouldnn't be less happier either as I feel like Pakistan is my adopted country as far as Cricket is concerned. I want Sanath and Afridi to do well as thay will defintely bring the finals to a diffrent level altogether. I don't like compare Sanath with any one else but Afridi. In their primes they were extraodinerly talented individuals the Cricket have never seen before. They both are are on a different league. I am so happy that I got two teams I like the most in the final. This is very good for all who likes peace and harmony who don't care how it comes. We both are humble nations who trying to keep our head above water and the looser will congratulate the winner with open arms. I can't wait to see the final celibrations where I can enjoy either way.

  • Niaz on June 21, 2009, 10:07 GMT

    I partly agree with what Sambit says......A sporting win can do a lot but does it in reality? Things (Another Tournament) happen so fast in cricket that even before they enjoy this victory, they will be playing again in a new tour. Unlike in Football, where the Nation can enjoy a sporting win it really doesn't happen in Cricket!

  • AncientAstronaut on June 21, 2009, 9:12 GMT

    The heart of the article is in the right place, but with all due respect, it's damn boring. In fact all your articles are a pain to read (barring the one on the 26/11 attacks, which was really was touching). You tend to be over-dramatic, over-romantic, and over-poetic.

  • LULLS on June 21, 2009, 9:10 GMT

    A very good article.I am a Pakistani Cricket fan and obviously like Pakistan to win, but I will be happy for Sri Lanka if they win it. Like you said Sril Lanka dserved this but Pakistan need it most.

    Congratulation to PAKISTAN AND SRI LANKA for keeping the fans entertanied and reaching the finals. May the best team win....

  • M.Deen on June 21, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Good article by Sambit. Well put! Excellent performance and team work of Sri Lankan Cricket reached to T20 final. As well parallel they overcome many unpleasant situations created by various politically motivated UK based gangs. Best wishes for both T20 finalists.

  • ZulqarnainHaider on June 21, 2009, 8:26 GMT

    The Best article I ever read in Cricinfo. very well written. I hope i will not miss sambit,s next articles

  • iBilal on June 21, 2009, 8:17 GMT

    Agree with u on the fact that there will be 'no losers tomorrow'. Both teams have shown their spirit, passion and most importantly a Strong WILL to win, far more greater than any other team... WIN or LOSE, for us they were, they are and they will remain champions of our hearts. I love Srilankan team not only for their performance but for their simplicity, compassion and humbleness. Srilankans were the only team that humbly agreed to visit Pakistan this year, despite knowing the turbulent situation over here. Unfortunately, they had to face the March 3 Atrocity and believe me We all Pakistanis felt it in our hearts as an attack on our own brothers and we profoundly apologize for what happened. Being a Pakistani, My support is for Pakistan..Thats natural, I cant help that..its not me, its the Pakistani inside me... But I have mixed feelings of modesty and excitement about Srilanka as well. Theena here pointed out justly that we are more of a Cricketing Cousins. Best of Luck to both team

  • deemis on June 21, 2009, 12:07 GMT

    Today is a game of two winners.....but no loser..!! Its more the game of nerves than know how...who will keep the nerves better in gripp is da winner....but i do belive the two teams facing in final are the winners, so i dont think anyone shd be disoppointed in the last and as a sportsmen spirit accept the final result .....I WISH BOTH TEAMS GOOD LUCK AND GUD GAME

  • asi.ali on June 21, 2009, 12:05 GMT

    I think this an excellent article, its great read.

  • Partyman on June 21, 2009, 11:12 GMT

    "Even if you were neutral, Sri Lanka are a team whose success makes you feel good" - You could not be any further away from the truth. The so called emerald nation is anything but for the 300,000 or so refugees holed up in the camps in the north of the country in some worse conditions ever seen. Being neutral I feel nothing but contempt for the team which is representing the perpetrators of such a crime. Also, if you believe sporting victories would bring a lot to the millions in the SWAT Valley, you must be kidding. Any amount of victories would not give those millions their dignity nor the lives of the loved ones they have lost. It is plain obliviousness and naivety to believe that victories would transform lives - they just give them a feel good factor for a week or a month at most. But then those affected have a far more tougher battle to win than to follow cricket. Cricket is overrated. It is time for journalists like you to get some real perspective.

  • Shimbo on June 21, 2009, 11:06 GMT

    Well done Pakistan and Sri lanka. I am a Sri Lankan and obviously woluld like SL to win. If pakistan win I wouldnn't be less happier either as I feel like Pakistan is my adopted country as far as Cricket is concerned. I want Sanath and Afridi to do well as thay will defintely bring the finals to a diffrent level altogether. I don't like compare Sanath with any one else but Afridi. In their primes they were extraodinerly talented individuals the Cricket have never seen before. They both are are on a different league. I am so happy that I got two teams I like the most in the final. This is very good for all who likes peace and harmony who don't care how it comes. We both are humble nations who trying to keep our head above water and the looser will congratulate the winner with open arms. I can't wait to see the final celibrations where I can enjoy either way.

  • Niaz on June 21, 2009, 10:07 GMT

    I partly agree with what Sambit says......A sporting win can do a lot but does it in reality? Things (Another Tournament) happen so fast in cricket that even before they enjoy this victory, they will be playing again in a new tour. Unlike in Football, where the Nation can enjoy a sporting win it really doesn't happen in Cricket!

  • AncientAstronaut on June 21, 2009, 9:12 GMT

    The heart of the article is in the right place, but with all due respect, it's damn boring. In fact all your articles are a pain to read (barring the one on the 26/11 attacks, which was really was touching). You tend to be over-dramatic, over-romantic, and over-poetic.

  • LULLS on June 21, 2009, 9:10 GMT

    A very good article.I am a Pakistani Cricket fan and obviously like Pakistan to win, but I will be happy for Sri Lanka if they win it. Like you said Sril Lanka dserved this but Pakistan need it most.

    Congratulation to PAKISTAN AND SRI LANKA for keeping the fans entertanied and reaching the finals. May the best team win....

  • M.Deen on June 21, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Good article by Sambit. Well put! Excellent performance and team work of Sri Lankan Cricket reached to T20 final. As well parallel they overcome many unpleasant situations created by various politically motivated UK based gangs. Best wishes for both T20 finalists.

  • ZulqarnainHaider on June 21, 2009, 8:26 GMT

    The Best article I ever read in Cricinfo. very well written. I hope i will not miss sambit,s next articles

  • iBilal on June 21, 2009, 8:17 GMT

    Agree with u on the fact that there will be 'no losers tomorrow'. Both teams have shown their spirit, passion and most importantly a Strong WILL to win, far more greater than any other team... WIN or LOSE, for us they were, they are and they will remain champions of our hearts. I love Srilankan team not only for their performance but for their simplicity, compassion and humbleness. Srilankans were the only team that humbly agreed to visit Pakistan this year, despite knowing the turbulent situation over here. Unfortunately, they had to face the March 3 Atrocity and believe me We all Pakistanis felt it in our hearts as an attack on our own brothers and we profoundly apologize for what happened. Being a Pakistani, My support is for Pakistan..Thats natural, I cant help that..its not me, its the Pakistani inside me... But I have mixed feelings of modesty and excitement about Srilanka as well. Theena here pointed out justly that we are more of a Cricketing Cousins. Best of Luck to both team

  • Mudaser_Iqbal on June 21, 2009, 6:39 GMT

    Great article. actually Pakistan and Srilanka already win the hearts of their public. so its does not metter which team will win today final. It's just a fun to watch. as a Pakistani supporter, my wishes are with Younis Khan. Its another Khan after imran Khan, who win world cup 1992 for us.

  • gorky_s on June 21, 2009, 6:28 GMT

    couldn't agree more with springonion. The article speaks my heart too. Kudos...

  • springonion on June 21, 2009, 4:43 GMT

    Great read. The brilliant thing about this tournament is that it has been entirely about the cricket, whether it be Dilshan's batting or Gul's bowling, the focus has been the cricket. This is a stark contrast to the IPL, which is riddled with all the glitz and glamour, celebrities and 'DLF maximums' that cricket doesn't necessarily need. It is so appropriate, then, that this final has a meaning beyond cricket, but not one that extends into the world that the IPL presents, but instead into something far more significant and meaningful to all those involved. A fitting end to a fantastic tournament, regardless who wins.

  • nashdwaj on June 21, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    It is very nice big picture article!!

    I am beginning to develop a theory regarding T20 champions. Take for example 2007 T20 worldcup winners. India won the tournament, but came to championship as underdogs. Then IPL 2008. Rajasthan Royals won the championship who came to the tournament as underdogs. Then IPL 2009, Hyderabad won and Bangalore finalists, both underdogs. Now T20 Worldcup 2009, Pakistan and Srilanka were not the favorites to win. So is it just coincidence? May be not... in twenty 20 you cannot take yourselves too seriously, it is all about the game. This perhaps offers a 20/20 vision to our life also. You cannot take yourselves seriously, it is all about the journey.

  • Pavithra on June 21, 2009, 3:48 GMT

    i belive my self that both teams are already T20 Champions..... Im a Sri Lankan Cricket Fan But won't be that much disapoint if paskistan wins....

    Gud Luck Both Teams Keep Your Sprit....

  • Theena on June 21, 2009, 3:47 GMT

    Hear hear!

    Lovely article, Mr Bal. My sentiments exactly. As a Sri Lankan, I hope the guys can lift their game to bring the trophy home but - and I think this holds true for fans from both countries - we won't begrudge a Pakistani victory nor will Pakistani fans begrudge us a victory. In many ways, the Pakistani cricket team are our cricketing cousins: our individual approaches to the game are philosophically closer than to the rest of the cricketing world.

    But like you said, the cricket itself pales in comparison to what the two countries have gone through in past few years and months. The cricket gods have given us a match that will transcend the game. I, for one, can't wait.

    Good luck to both teams.

  • kotha_sri on June 21, 2009, 3:23 GMT

    The article is too good. I support the Srilanka but do not mind if pakistan wins...as this win may help the country heal a bit.

  • Nipun on June 21, 2009, 2:50 GMT

    Lovely article Sambit,lovely article.You have put this game in a proper context.I supported SA over Pakistan in the semis because of the way SA had played in the whole tournament,but I also felt happy for Pakistan after they won,because,MY GOODNESS,THEY NEEDED IT. Already the 2 teams can be proud of themselves.Apart from good teams,they have stood out as ideal ambassadors.They have made their nation smile & celebrate. & yes,MAY THE BEST TEAM WIN THE MATCH,but in a broader context,both teams are winners. Hats Off to Pakistan & Sri Lanka.

  • Arun14 on June 21, 2009, 1:26 GMT

    Whereas Sri Lankan cricket has somehow survived the strige in their nation, there's no telling which way cricket in Pakistan will go. That Pakistan cricket could be facing a point of no return could be the biggest crisis facing the cricket world right now. It's a pity because no one can do anything about it. A win tomorrow would be a shot in the arm for them. In any case I hope it's a cracker of a final like the last T20 WC final.

    Arun

    http://punditsez.blogspot.com/2009/06/go-pak-why-i-want-pakistan-to-win-this.html

  • yakuza on June 21, 2009, 0:32 GMT

    Thanks, this is the best article i ever read on cricinfo..

    @ raskalmindit, totally agree with you. This match is more than cricket. As a Sri Lankan fan, I really don't mind who will win as long its a tight contest. Both these countries struggled a lot from on going war's for decades. This is a win-win situation, not only for the teams, for the spectators also

  • Kazzamers on June 21, 2009, 0:24 GMT

    I am Indian fan, but unexpectedly and refreshingly, I have lump in my throat and am happy for Sri Lankan and Pakistani fans; this despite that cricket-wise I have obvious and known grudges on them; even non-cricket wise, India is not comfortable with both her neighbors; And yet, it would be a lovely match. Jayasuriyas presence makes it even better. By the way does any one remember the way a combined Indo-Pak team visited Lanka many years ago, when Australia refused; Presence of these two teams, makes me feel much better after the bitter exit of Indian team; I have been in US for a couple of years and only cricinfo has been my source of following cricket, as i do not have T.V, so all the best for a cracking commentary for a special match , I hope there is going to be energy and fervor in the commentary, worthy of the occasion...

  • cricinformer on June 20, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    Bravo Mr. Bal! very well said. Your writings speak our hearts. Good luck to Pakistani team as well as our Sri Lankan brothers. As a Paki I have my respect for the Sri Lankan brothers as they were the ones who were brave enough to visit Pakistan when most of the cricket world shunned us. After the cowardly acts that occured in Lahore it took both the teams a few months to prove to the world that they are infact stronger than before. In my opinion both these teams are the true champions of 20/20. Pakistan & Sri Lanka Zindabad!

  • spreddy1 on June 20, 2009, 23:47 GMT

    I personally know how T20 world win in 2007 has lifted the spirits of indian public. A victory in a world cup will definitely lift a nation and boost the morale of the people. I personally would like Pakistan to win the match as they need it for what they have been going through over the last one year. It is going to be an exciting match. As you aptly said, there are no losers in this match, but i would really enjoy if the match goes till the end of last over with fortunes swinging on both sides.

  • Nigel-P on June 20, 2009, 21:39 GMT

    I'd like to commend you on a Fantastic and Informative article. As mentioned this is a fairytale finish to a premier tournament.

    There are no better ambassadors in cricket than Sri Lanka & Pakistan. They have defied the odds of political & civil problems to reach the pinnacle. There are no Publicity seeking vultures in these teams and are very respectful to each other and their opponents. They deserve all the accolades as they have excelled simply due to their gifted prowess.

    After all the Lankan's possess one of the most Lethal bowling combinations in cricket M&M. The irony is that Mendis is in the Army & Murali is a Tamil. It is imperative to note that this is what the gentlemn's game is all about. There is no discrimination here irrespective of ethnic, cultural, religious or political views.

    The atmosphere is such that even though I am a fanatical Sri Lankan supporter, I would not be dissappointed if Pakistan is the Victor.

    May the best team win!!

  • raskalamindit on June 20, 2009, 21:04 GMT

    I totally agree with you Sambit. Both of these teams have been through a lot. I'm a Pakistani fan, but if Sri Lanka do win, I believe Pakistani's, including myself, will enjoy Sri Lanka's success. I think same goes with the Sri Lankan supporters on a Pakistani win. There are really no losers here. To come this far in the tournament is a massive accomplishment itself.

    Good luck to both teams.

  • Crick-3t on June 20, 2009, 20:40 GMT

    Very well said. Lovely article

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  • Crick-3t on June 20, 2009, 20:40 GMT

    Very well said. Lovely article

  • raskalamindit on June 20, 2009, 21:04 GMT

    I totally agree with you Sambit. Both of these teams have been through a lot. I'm a Pakistani fan, but if Sri Lanka do win, I believe Pakistani's, including myself, will enjoy Sri Lanka's success. I think same goes with the Sri Lankan supporters on a Pakistani win. There are really no losers here. To come this far in the tournament is a massive accomplishment itself.

    Good luck to both teams.

  • Nigel-P on June 20, 2009, 21:39 GMT

    I'd like to commend you on a Fantastic and Informative article. As mentioned this is a fairytale finish to a premier tournament.

    There are no better ambassadors in cricket than Sri Lanka & Pakistan. They have defied the odds of political & civil problems to reach the pinnacle. There are no Publicity seeking vultures in these teams and are very respectful to each other and their opponents. They deserve all the accolades as they have excelled simply due to their gifted prowess.

    After all the Lankan's possess one of the most Lethal bowling combinations in cricket M&M. The irony is that Mendis is in the Army & Murali is a Tamil. It is imperative to note that this is what the gentlemn's game is all about. There is no discrimination here irrespective of ethnic, cultural, religious or political views.

    The atmosphere is such that even though I am a fanatical Sri Lankan supporter, I would not be dissappointed if Pakistan is the Victor.

    May the best team win!!

  • spreddy1 on June 20, 2009, 23:47 GMT

    I personally know how T20 world win in 2007 has lifted the spirits of indian public. A victory in a world cup will definitely lift a nation and boost the morale of the people. I personally would like Pakistan to win the match as they need it for what they have been going through over the last one year. It is going to be an exciting match. As you aptly said, there are no losers in this match, but i would really enjoy if the match goes till the end of last over with fortunes swinging on both sides.

  • cricinformer on June 20, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    Bravo Mr. Bal! very well said. Your writings speak our hearts. Good luck to Pakistani team as well as our Sri Lankan brothers. As a Paki I have my respect for the Sri Lankan brothers as they were the ones who were brave enough to visit Pakistan when most of the cricket world shunned us. After the cowardly acts that occured in Lahore it took both the teams a few months to prove to the world that they are infact stronger than before. In my opinion both these teams are the true champions of 20/20. Pakistan & Sri Lanka Zindabad!

  • Kazzamers on June 21, 2009, 0:24 GMT

    I am Indian fan, but unexpectedly and refreshingly, I have lump in my throat and am happy for Sri Lankan and Pakistani fans; this despite that cricket-wise I have obvious and known grudges on them; even non-cricket wise, India is not comfortable with both her neighbors; And yet, it would be a lovely match. Jayasuriyas presence makes it even better. By the way does any one remember the way a combined Indo-Pak team visited Lanka many years ago, when Australia refused; Presence of these two teams, makes me feel much better after the bitter exit of Indian team; I have been in US for a couple of years and only cricinfo has been my source of following cricket, as i do not have T.V, so all the best for a cracking commentary for a special match , I hope there is going to be energy and fervor in the commentary, worthy of the occasion...

  • yakuza on June 21, 2009, 0:32 GMT

    Thanks, this is the best article i ever read on cricinfo..

    @ raskalmindit, totally agree with you. This match is more than cricket. As a Sri Lankan fan, I really don't mind who will win as long its a tight contest. Both these countries struggled a lot from on going war's for decades. This is a win-win situation, not only for the teams, for the spectators also

  • Arun14 on June 21, 2009, 1:26 GMT

    Whereas Sri Lankan cricket has somehow survived the strige in their nation, there's no telling which way cricket in Pakistan will go. That Pakistan cricket could be facing a point of no return could be the biggest crisis facing the cricket world right now. It's a pity because no one can do anything about it. A win tomorrow would be a shot in the arm for them. In any case I hope it's a cracker of a final like the last T20 WC final.

    Arun

    http://punditsez.blogspot.com/2009/06/go-pak-why-i-want-pakistan-to-win-this.html

  • Nipun on June 21, 2009, 2:50 GMT

    Lovely article Sambit,lovely article.You have put this game in a proper context.I supported SA over Pakistan in the semis because of the way SA had played in the whole tournament,but I also felt happy for Pakistan after they won,because,MY GOODNESS,THEY NEEDED IT. Already the 2 teams can be proud of themselves.Apart from good teams,they have stood out as ideal ambassadors.They have made their nation smile & celebrate. & yes,MAY THE BEST TEAM WIN THE MATCH,but in a broader context,both teams are winners. Hats Off to Pakistan & Sri Lanka.

  • kotha_sri on June 21, 2009, 3:23 GMT

    The article is too good. I support the Srilanka but do not mind if pakistan wins...as this win may help the country heal a bit.