India v Sri Lanka, World T20, final, Mirpur

Can Sri Lanka lay to rest ghosts of finals past?

India are in top form going into the World T20 final, but the on-field challenges they pose are not the only ones Sri Lanka will have to contend with; they must also shed the mental baggage of many global finals lost

Andrew Fidel Fernando

April 5, 2014

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

Disappointed Sri Lanka players watch their opponents life the trophy, India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai, April 2, 2011
As Sri Lanka prepare for the World T20 final, they'll know that their meltdowns come so specifically at this stage of the tournament © Getty Images
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As Sri Lanka fans watched Virat Kohli gun down an imposing South Africa total on Friday evening, a familiar shadow of dread crept upon many. A final against an unrelenting India, whose belief and demeanour suggest they are champions already. This has all happened before.

After four major finals in seven years, a clot of public superstitions has developed around big games. Among the more amusing is the notion that the country's president's attendance brings bad luck. This thought had been cemented in the 2012 World T20 final, when the president's arrival at the Premadasa coincided roughly with the moment the match turned, swiftly and dramatically, for the opposition.

There are other appeals to the supernatural to make sense of Sri Lanka's spectacularly heartbreaking run. A middle-order batsman, no longer in the side, was believed to be the Jonah on Sri Lanka's ship for some time. Batting first is an ill-omen, but depending on whom you speak to, chasing can be as well. Some say the curse will not be cast off until Arjuna Ranatunga is welcomed back into the administrative fold.

Fortunately for fans, Sri Lanka's players have not drunk from this irrational whirl of swill. But as they approach another grand occasion, they would be almost inhuman if the garbage compactor of previous failures had not begun to close in, in their minds.

It is an odd thing to contend with, because the team's meltdowns have come so specifically at this stage of the tournament. Sri Lanka's campaigns have often been forged on mental strength; on valiant innings, desperation in the field and soaring, irresistible spells. Twice already in this tournament, against South Africa and New Zealand, Sri Lanka have reaped victory on fallow ground. In the semi-final, even against the opponent that had set a fire on their hopes in a home final 18 months ago, Sri Lanka were nerveless and professional.

"I guess it could be the fact that you're so afraid of losing the final that it can actually contribute to you doing badly," Kumar Sangakkara had said, as he reflected on Sri Lanka's finals downfalls. "When you're playing in a final it's not really hope, it's almost a delivered certainty at times, where you think, 'This is our game and we are going to win it.' When you've done all of that and you lose, it's a much worse feeling than going out earlier in the tournament. There's no comparison between the stages of the tournament. There's a huge difference between the semi-final and the final. It's a very tough place to be, not just for players but even for spectators. The fact that you've come this far... You've won every game so far, so why couldn't you win the most important game?"

In a Sri Lanka cricket utopia, where the board does not contemplate sending a second XI to the tournament 24 hours before they depart due to monetary reasons and the best captain retains the reins until he retires, the team might have had some preparation for this eventuality: a formal exercise, led by a psychology professional, which allowed players to confront and shed their fears, and perhaps break free of the inhibition that has visibly damaged their title-hopes before.

But instead, the team is left largely to its own devices - to hope the Asia Cup triumph was enough to snap the noose, to put hearts and minds at peace and in focus. In the past, the team has sought to view each final as "just another match", but after Thursday night's victory, the senior players will have given serious thought to making drastic adjustments to that approach. They may now feel frank discussion and collective acceptance of the gravity of the next match, for themselves, their families, their fans and their country, is the surest way to ward off inhibition.

"It's also not something that we like to talk about because I think sometimes we have that fear that if you talk about it, you might jinx it, or if you talk about it being a final you might change your attitude or the way you think," Sangakkara had said.

"At the back of your head you know it's a final. You know what winning it means. You know what it means for yourself and the team and the people supporting you. One of the most important things that we've got to do is work on better, clearer communication, especially before big games - about exactly how we feel, because how we feel has an impact on what we do on the field and how we approach a game.

"The one thing we haven't done is express our fears, or whatever our feelings are, fully, before a final - especially the day before and the two or three days leading up to the final."

Whether those feelings have been laid out in the open before this game is unknown. Sri Lanka players rarely give much away in public, and in any case, it is not ideal to bring the public in on a heartfelt, load-shedding exercise. Perhaps Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene's departure from the T20 team may spur the flow of raw emotion that might make this discussion effective. Whatever the case, Sri Lanka have far more to overcome than Kohli's broad blade and Amit Mishra's drift and spin on Sunday evening.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 11:21 GMT)

Wish both the team all the best): Indians salute to two great players of Sri Lanka. The world of cricket will definitely miss them.

Posted by Prabhash1985 on (April 6, 2014, 11:01 GMT)

I think Sri Lanka will win tonight. Now, the team has realized many problems they have, and they are under a very positive captain, Maali. Anyway, it's between two Asian teams, so whichever happens, that's ok. I just feel a good victory tonight. Not saying I fake it, I really feel it... Of course India is superb, their batting is extreme ever since they played, their spin attack is also superb, and the fast bowling unit is also good at times. Sri Lanka flies under the radar, of course, except a few names. But, they can do the job for you. This is how Sri Lanka succeeded in many matches. And I have a strong feeling that today, we are going to win. I think it's all about winning moments by holding your nerves without giving up, and continuously playing intelligent cricket. Inner peace in a fire zone; that's what it all about.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 9:07 GMT)

I fear the pressure on other players because of twin towers last game and may lose them their cup winning.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 7:21 GMT)

Guys check stats and records in Asia ( Bangladesh) because this game is played in Asia. Stats in Australia, SA, NZ and England are not important here. I have also seen India was whitewashed by Australia few years ago with Dhoni and Kholi intact. They did not do very well in NZ recently. I do not think India is a bad unit so are Pakistan and SL. There are other factors apart from stats. I am a SL fan living in Australia. I was fortunate enough to watch both series involving Australia and NZ against India.

Posted by cricket_slcsupport on (April 6, 2014, 6:16 GMT)

India is definitely the favourites to win today, they are the form team they know the Sri-Lankan players in & out. SL did win against Ind in their recent last two outings, one has to see that Dhoni did not play/bat on those two innings. Also, warm up games don't matter.

I feel Dhoni is a bigger threat to SL than kholi, Ashwin or Raina. Hope kusal can give us a good start. As a fan I can feel the pressure from Friday. All the very best team SL. I hope SL team wins. We wish you all the best :-) we will miss Sanga Mahela & Dilshan.

Posted by Kotuwegogoda on (April 6, 2014, 4:18 GMT)

Looking at the way teams reached thus far India had a clean slate whilst Sri Lanka had a minor jolt. This won't mean anything. What really matters is who wins the toss, what they elect to bat or bowl first and how they execute their plans on paper at the ground. Thereafter it would be up to two teams to showcase their energy more than 100 pct to their team.

Good luck to both teams while this be a great send off two stalwarts who called quits come Sunday the sixth April 2014.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 4:13 GMT)

@Aruna Jayawardene,

No doubt Lankan bowling attack is better than Indian in any conditions but check your teams records against India in neutral conditions. If you compare India vs Sri Lanka in Australia, England and in South Africa you will India has defeated Lanka more than the other way round.. If our batters relish slower lower pitches so do yours.. What is Mahela Jayawardene's overseas record ??? In any set of conditions Indian batting is technically as well stroke making quality wise superior to that of Lankans.. Your bowling is undoubtedly better than ours but cricket is not just about bowling !!

Having said that tommorow is just a one off game and anything can happen.. Best of luck to both the teams.Otherwise check India vs SriLanka in all conditions and I am sure Indian record will be better in most non-Asian locations !!

Posted by wapuser on (April 6, 2014, 3:43 GMT)

Sri Lanka have developed the ability to pull through tight situations and that helps them win tight games. However, as Manjrekar has said here on Cricinfo, they lack the X-factor and that really puts them at a disadvantage against a side like India, who have not only, the X-factor (Kohli who performs regularly) but also Y, Z, A, B, C........ factors. If 2 or 3 out of Kusal, Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan and Angelo fire in batting and SL put up close to 200 batting first or if one or two out of Lasith Malinga, Herath, Senanayake and Seeku fire to cause a batting collapse if India bats first, Sri Lanka would stand a chance. A few too many ifs though, given the way Abhishek Purohit's Icemen have been performing lately. Of course the Lankans did thaw them in the Asia Cup recently and could they repeat it today?

Posted by C0l0mb0 on (April 6, 2014, 3:42 GMT)

As Manjekar said, SL lacks X factor. but no one can deny, they were here without that x- factor. n they beat teams that had several x-factor. I just hope this is a another one of those matches.. SL should win without x-factor, just for the sake of Sanga n Mahela may be also for Dilshan.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 3:13 GMT)

If anyone deserves a world cup its Sri Lanka !! Gonna be a great game!

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 2:34 GMT)

It is so wonderful to read such positive comments from all these supporters of the different cricketing nations. Whatever happens today, the spirit of the game is present and evolving. I always felt that, like music, sports brings about global unity. The crass underhand mud-slinging that I see on these sites is not part of the spirit of the game, but, people express their opinions differently, right? All the best to both these great nations. A Sri Lankan fan with true love for the game. :)

Posted by wapuser on (April 6, 2014, 0:40 GMT)

By God Almighty's Mighty GRACE Srilanka will win the T20 World Cup for 2014. Grace & grace alone will bring Srilanka through . GOD Bless SriLanka .

Posted by   on (April 6, 2014, 0:30 GMT)

Although I am a die hard Indian fan , this time I wont mind if SL wins the cup. Tough decision( heart still goes for India) But being such a consistent team in the world events that matters the most , I guess SL kind of deserve this one.

Posted by wapuser on (April 6, 2014, 0:16 GMT)

SL to win I believe chandi should lead the team....

Posted by Kays789 on (April 5, 2014, 22:19 GMT)

Hardy1: the 2007 OZ team was certainly better than the SL team even though the rain and the farcical ending to that match robbed them of an opportunity to mount much of a challenge. however it would be ridiculous to say that the 2011 indian team was any better than the SL team. only thing they had going for them was that they were playing at home. several dropped catches by the SL fielders also didnt help.

Posted by Vikum72 on (April 5, 2014, 22:11 GMT)

I agree the odds are stacked up against us. But Sri Lanka play their best cricket when their backs are pressed up against the wall. This being Mahela and Sanga's last international game too adds to the motivation. A united and motivated Sri Lankan team is a bloody hard unit to beat! They won't give up no matter what. I have a good feeling about this. This is a T20 and a couple of mistakes or s flash of brilliance could turn the game. Also the law of averages must catch up with India soon...

Posted by luckyyyy on (April 5, 2014, 21:30 GMT)

The team that plays it in the right spirit will be the one that will win, irrespective of who actually wins, the 2011 finals toss episode did not go well with many, its sad teams go to great extents to win matches.... well its quite clear who deserves to win...hope they do get to win.. :) Cheers!!

Posted by young_ind on (April 5, 2014, 21:05 GMT)

@Aruna Jayawardane, you need a reality check...remember its your greats sanga and jaya who have spotty record outside the subcontinent...while sachin and laxman average better than 40 even in our worst place, SA....our struggles are purely due to the fact that we are a new rebuilding team on our first round outside asia...by the time of their second trips, they will be much more prepared...don't delude yourself SL can match india's array of talent..the likes of rahane and rayudu may not be proven at the moment but they have the talent and will come good eventually...not to mention there are plenty of exciting young talent from the u19 levels coming through...there is no comaprison with our u19 teams of 2002....that's how good they are...and what makes your youngsters a master of non subcontinent conditions lol..I am confident we will defeat SL anywhere in the world in any series..

Posted by   on (April 5, 2014, 21:02 GMT)

As much as I like Dhoni I want Sri Lanka to win this T20 world they are deserving they played really well in Asia Cup so it is their tournament go for it Sri Lanka

Posted by   on (April 5, 2014, 20:36 GMT)

Love those comments specially NimuNimu and KingOwl. Yes, We LOVE our country's Cricketers coz they play for Mother Lanka and not for Money.. Good Luck for tomorrow Boys...

Posted by rk_ks on (April 5, 2014, 20:22 GMT)

SL lost the 2007 world cup and they had excuse on D/L method and criticized D/L method. But the same SL team has won the semi final against West Indies and all of a sudden D/L has become the standard for them. SL fans are gems in changing any situation argument according to their favor.

Posted by ABHISHEK_Dravid on (April 5, 2014, 20:03 GMT)

While I appreciate the few Indian cricket team fans wishing SL to win the world cup for Mahela and Sangakkara, I have a question .. Didn't Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble also deserve one? But they didn't right?? Does that mean they are not legends? Don't you want Virat Kohli to win a T20 world cup who has given us so many proud moments.

Eventually the best team will win tomorrow but being an Indian I'll support India even if Sir Don Bradman was to retire tomorrow without a world cup to his name. And yes, best wishes to SL team; undoubtedly they are no less champions in limited overs format.

Posted by ABHISHEK_Dravid on (April 5, 2014, 20:03 GMT)

While I appreciate the few Indian cricket team fans wishing SL to win the world cup for Mahela and Sangakkara, I have a question .. Didn't Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble also deserve one? But they didn't right?? Does that mean they are not legends? Don't you want Virat Kohli to win a T20 world cup who has given us so many proud moments.

Eventually the best team will win tomorrow but being an Indian I'll support India even if Sir Don Bradman was to retire tomorrow without a world cup to his name. And yes, best wishes to SL team; undoubtedly they are no less champions in limited overs format.

Posted by rizwan1981 on (April 5, 2014, 19:34 GMT)

I am a Sri Lankan and my heart says my country will win the final but my head believes India will end up as the champions

On the subject of Mahela, he will NEVER be considered a great like Sanga, Tendulkar, Ponting or Lara. But for purely aesthetic reasons Mahela trumps everyone except Lara (David Gower and VVS Laxman are others who I will pay money to watch)

Mahela was NOT strategically the best Captain but tactically he has few peers (Nasser Hussein comes close). I recall a one day match in Australia where the official captain was Vaas but Mahela took over during the game when things went awry.

Posted by   on (April 5, 2014, 19:16 GMT)

i dont understand what mr aruna jayawardena is saying.does he really think mahela is a good batsmen overseas,the thing is SL doesnt win enough tournaments in asia,so there is no point in talking about their abysmal overseas record

Posted by TNAmarkFromIndia on (April 5, 2014, 19:13 GMT)

To be honest, I just hope India win. It would be pretty hilarious if Sangakkara and Jayawardene don't get a World Cup in their career. Also, it'll keep the Sri Lankan fans quiet for a long time to come. Their best chance at revenge at they end up on the losing side again.

Posted by mzm149 on (April 5, 2014, 18:40 GMT)

If Sri Lanka has to win, Kausal Parera should not throw away his wicket again. He always provides good solid start but doesn't carry it for long time. He shouldn't leave much for Mahela and Kumar. That way they will play with ease.

Posted by walidabbas on (April 5, 2014, 18:14 GMT)

i really wanted south Africa to win this cup. but i must say India and Sri Lanka deserve to be playing finals. specially India. who ever will play better tomorrow will win. i don't think any team holds an edge. both teams play spinners with ease. although India has Yuvrag Singh and Dhoni. Sri Lanka only have Mathews at the end. well regardless i can watch the match without any stress because both Pakistan and South Africa are knocked out lol

Posted by Master_Mihil on (April 5, 2014, 17:50 GMT)

No, we need to be more assertave we should be confident about our ability. We should just say we will win, just like gayle did back in 2012. And mind you we will win. Indian batsmen will struggle to play SL bowlers. We are going to win it. No kohli or Dhoni can stop it..

Posted by android_user on (April 5, 2014, 17:50 GMT)

@cricraz .India has traditionally been a poor bowling side if you see sl have drawn series in England where India was thrashed. All India backs is batting which let's them down outside sub continent more often than not

Posted by Samuel-Rathnasiri on (April 5, 2014, 17:45 GMT)

My prediction is, it's going to be a flat track with no or limited assistance to the bowlers. Since the lords call the needs, SL boys should be prepared to face any mumbo-jumbo, right from the initial toss as it happened in 2011 WC Final! They should be prepared to win all the mini-battles thrown at them, apart from cricket! They have already faced plenty of them in this tournament as well. If they are on the right side of the coin & the conditions ok, SL should bat first & post a score that is difficult to Topple, even with Doubles! When dealing with such odds in this shorter format, hold your nerve & stick to the business, without any letups. That's the only key to success, no matter what! Hope Malinga would be able to deliver something special, with the help of such a capable/deserving bunch, who were holding the Runners-up Tag in the World Cricket scene for so long! Wish you Good Luck SL, Bless you India, to Win the game fairly and squarely.!!

Posted by NimuNimu on (April 5, 2014, 16:20 GMT)

I recall what Sammy (the WI captain) mentioned and I agree even god wants to see SL win the cup and give the best for Mahela and Sanga. My heart wants SL to win. However, my brain says India will lift the cup. Whatever happens, it wont affect passion and commitment of SL people and love for the game of cricket. It is apparent among some Indian fans that they are wishing a SL win from bottom of their hearts. I do not think it is an easier thing for a fan to wish opponents victory when it is against their own. This is a good example for all Asia fans slinging mud against each other just for a cricket game, which I have seen in many forums. SL might fail this time as well. But we love SL team purely because of the level of consistency ever since SL won full member status, given that a fraction of resources available for them compared to other super nations. We proud of you all and wish good luck! Best of luck for both teams!!!

Posted by cricraz on (April 5, 2014, 15:49 GMT)

@ Aruna Jayawardene, your arguments lack substance. Everybody agrees that India struggles on fast pacy conditions, but they did win the Champions trophy in England! They were on par with South Africa during the test series. It is not just Virat Kohli, but Pujara and Rahane have solid technique. The Srilankans are reliant on Sanga and Mahela and none of their younger players have shown promise of standing up in fast pacy conditions. I would give edge to Srilanka in bowling only in shorter formats because of Malinga but otherwise they do not have ability to bowl teams out in test conditions. Srilanka has a very good T20 side and it can be anybody's game in the final. I doubt if Srilanka will be able to continue their successful run without their stalwarts like Mahela and Sanga because they bring their astute thinking and leadership along with their elegant batting styles.

Posted by KingOwl on (April 5, 2014, 14:46 GMT)

We don't talk too much about stuff like this. That is our character, good or bad. May be the English coach will change that, may be not. But, we know that India are favorites on these slow, low wickets. So, that might ease the pressure a little bit. But then, it might not. SL will need to put a good fight. Mind you, they did in the WC final in Mumbai. If they win, fantastic. If not, we move on. We are a resilient nation.

Posted by soumik on (April 5, 2014, 14:41 GMT)

As I Indian fan I would definitely want India to win the cup but in terms of true cricketing spirit and justice to the game I would like SL winning it. It would just be so fitting farewell for two of the greats of world cricket - Mahela and Sanga.Though they don't have to win a WC to be amongst the all time greats, they truly are,but winning a WC will make it more complete.I have very high regard for both of them and especially for Sanga after that ICC keynote speech.He is a cricketer for me who has contributed for the well-being of the game and hats off to him for that.At the end of the day it's not only the statistics that should define a cricketer.I hope SL wins it at the end of the day. Though I would be sad at heart but cricket will win at the end of the day.It's the game that is bigger than anyone us supporters.

Posted by Hardy1 on (April 5, 2014, 14:29 GMT)

In a way I want Sri Lanka to win after losing 4 finals & also because it would mean a fifth different T20I champion in 5 tournaments, but I can't not want India to win! I want to add that whilst they have lost four finals, the 07 & 11 50 over defeats were quite simply to better teams, although they probably should've won the 2 T20 tournaments that they lost. Ultimately though T20 matches just boil down to the day itself & so I don't think too much should be read into them.

Posted by   on (April 5, 2014, 14:00 GMT)

India is a good cricketing unit and has the reputation as having the best batting unit among elite cricket playing nations but to me except Virat Koli, not too many all condition players out there. They struggled during most of their ODIs played outside the subcontinent. In general Indian batters hate spongy tracks with lateral movement. But they are very effective at spin bowling and their spinners have already proved that they could be a threat to any batting side as long as condition favours. On the other hand Sri Lanka has bunch of promising young batters and stalwarts like Mahela and Sanga who have excelled in all three formats of the game. More importantly, I recon Sri Lanka has the best bowling attack with variety given what Dhaka wicket has to offer. If they could play to their potential, I do not think India could stop Sri Lanka winning the title this time around. All the best my boys go play Sri Lanka brand of cricket you can win the world T20 title this time.

Posted by   on (April 5, 2014, 13:20 GMT)

Andrew the logic is simple.You have to play it like another game. Better not talking TOO MUCH and let them handle it in the middle. Sometimes these articles increase the anxiety more (Hope they don't read them). You know what you are up against in a final.Another team poured sweat and blood to come up to that stage. It can be any body's day. Let us enjoy another game of spirited performance. After all cup comes to sub continent. Win or loss ,let us take it in that spirit.

Posted by lovesanga on (April 5, 2014, 12:59 GMT)

I SL can win only if they can play their level best...Sl 40% and 60 % IND ...bt best of luck SL ..mahela and sanga need this badly..

Posted by Anubhav-the-Experience on (April 5, 2014, 12:55 GMT)

I think Sri-Lanka has more to gain than India and if Sri-Lanka defeats India they will be super-ecstatic. I almost want to wish them win but 'almost'.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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Tournament Results
India v Sri Lanka at Dhaka - Apr 6, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 6 wickets (with 13 balls remaining)
India v South Africa at Dhaka - Apr 4, 2014
India won by 6 wickets (with 5 balls remaining)
Sri Lanka v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 3, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 27 runs (D/L method)
Pakistan v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
West Indies won by 84 runs
Bangladesh v Australia at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
Australia won by 7 wickets (with 15 balls remaining)
More results »
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