World T20 2014 April 6, 2014

A night to remember in Colombo

To have been at the Shere Bangla for the final would have been great, but to see Colombo come together and roar in wild, unbridled, joy was something else

There were no crowd catches from the thousands at Galle Face green on Sunday night. No wild cheers for a well-struck ball until it was absolutely clear it would cross the rope. As Kumar Sangakkara and Thisara Perera hit the boundaries that lurched Sri Lanka towards an 18-year dream, there was some jubilation, but the masses held something back. They had been burnt too many times. Sri Lanka had played too well in too many tournaments, looked like winners in too many finals, and had still failed to bag the prize.

There was half a second as Thisara advanced to that wide R Ashwin ball when the Indian Ocean breaking on the adjacent beach was heard in perfect silence. Then, on the green and on the street, Colombo's euphoric mayhem broke out.

For many, Sunday was the fifth time they had gathered in front of a big screen with their friends, so when glory finally came, they made it five times the party. Not that Sri Lankans need a special occasion to enjoy themselves. Even a friend leaving on a two-week vacation or a cousin landing a part-time job is enough reason to break out the Mendis Special and the baila.

As fans began to move to the papare grooves the band pealed out after the winning runs were hit, all the vital ingredients of the quintessential Sri Lankan party came together, on a massive scale. The old uncles who had drunk too much too early in the day began to strut their stuff. In their own minds they are Michael Jackson on a low-gravity planet, but onlookers feel as if they are watching a wooden plank in an advanced state of rigor mortis having a standing-up seizure.

Scores of savvy young men, only a little tipsy, gathered around the older ones, laughing, mimicking them, taking the piss. The aunties looked on disapprovingly, while the younger ladies who could be pressured to dance did so with their knees locked, in a state of fixed embarrassment. Just before the presentation began, even the ocean joined in, growing suddenly stronger to cast a mist of sea spray upon the scene.

Before the boogieing, the tension of the chase had been eased by humour - another Sri Lankan hallmark. When Thisara Perera came out to bat at No. 6 and scratched around early in his innings, a wise guy cracked a jibe at Sri Lanka's fluid captaincy situation: "Which idiot sent this idiot out to bat? He hasn't done a thing all tournament." He was soon loudly apologising to "all the idiots". Then, the biggest cheers at the presentation ceremony were reserved for Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Yuvraj Singh.

Soon the party spilled out onto the main road, as thousands more fans who had watched the match at home drove out, wielding flags, hanging out of cars, screaming their lungs out. Colombo residents routinely complain about how much time they spend stuck in traffic on Galle Road, but on Sunday night, bumper to bumper, pounding the horn, was exactly where everyone wanted to be.

The traffic police, poor misguided souls, initially attempted to maintain some sense of decorum, even pulling over the first motorist to infringe the law with the intention of ticketing him. Seeing this, though, a horde of fans surrounded the car and hooted as loudly as they could. The cop could not hear the driver, who was trying to keep a straight face and failing, anyway. Eventually the official gave up, and let the man drive away scot-free.

While the city was going bonkers around them, the policemen wore the only looks of defeat, as double lines were crossed, roundabout rules abandoned and safety standards cast into the sea. There were at least a dozen motorbikes with no fewer than four grown men astride them, at least two of whom waved Sri Lankan flags with enough vigour to power the vehicle via momentum. Pedestrian crossings were beset by large groups of boys, who would ooze on to the street when a car approached and form a dancing road block. Often, the vehicle's driver and passengers would step out themselves and join the revelry for several minutes, clapping, jerking and high-fiving complete strangers. If there was ever a diametric opposite to road rage, this was it.

Lasith Malinga now joins Arjuna Ranatunga as a world-champion captain. As fans on Twitter quickly noted, there are perhaps no two men in Sri Lankan cricket who disagree so passionately. There is no real comparison between the two victories, of course. This one came against the cricket world's financial giants perhaps, but there was no precedent to the 1996 triumph, when an unfancied team with a fraction of the resources the others had, ran amok and changed the game while they were at it.

But this was a victory for a new Sri Lanka; for a young breed of men and women in a land more united than it had been for most of their lives. As people of all creeds celebrated together, Tamil victory cries were almost as abundant as Sinhala ones. To have been at the Shere Bangla for the final moments would have been great, but to see Colombo come together and roar to life in wild, unbridled, joy was something else.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on April 10, 2014, 7:55 GMT

    great article Mr Andrew Fernando.this is exactly what sri Lanka looks like that day. not only in colombo. every single city and village like this.we were at anuradhapura exactly done everything mentioned in this article. what a day. what a night. I will remember this in my whole life.

  • Android on April 8, 2014, 23:08 GMT

    @rsgarcia.. Well said Man. I will always cheer for Windies except when they are playing with Sri Lanka.

  • ESPN on April 8, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    we are 2015 Champs........common SRI LANKA

  • Rhonda on April 7, 2014, 22:24 GMT

    I am a West Indian, and Sri Lanka is my second favourite team. Since we couldn't win the tournament, I backed Sri Lanka all the way. Your team is humble, hard-working and full of gentlemen. I was sad the hail had the last say--I would have preferred the match end with a firm victory, either way--but in the end, I agree with Sammy. Sri Lanka deserved this after so many years of great cricketers and great heartache, but mostly because they worked hard for it. Congratulations to all the wonderful fans from Sri Lanka! Enjoy your trophy and celebrate your team to the fullest! We'll check back with you in 18 months or so to settle that curtailed match ;-)

  • M on April 7, 2014, 21:46 GMT

    Congrats SL. Mahela and Sanga will continue to wow us all in the other formats, which are more worthy of their skills anyway.

  • Ajay on April 7, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    Sri Lankanks have always been gracious in both victory and defeat. Even as an Indian fan, I'm very happy for the SL team and their people. It is encouraging to see that the celebrations were largely in good humour and fun instead of the shameful chest thumping witnessed in Mumbai when India won the WC in '11

  • Shiv on April 7, 2014, 19:53 GMT

    As Sammy said, the gods are smiling on SL. Won the SF with DL method, won an imp toss in the final make sure Indians dont chase (as they can chase down anything), then an awfully out of form Yuvraj playing the worst innings of his life. The gods were indeed smiling on SL and the almighty wanted to see Sanga and Mahela leave with a smile on their face.

  • Dummy4 on April 7, 2014, 19:38 GMT

    now the next step 2015 world cup!!!!.....go sri lanka!!!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on April 7, 2014, 19:22 GMT

    well played Sri Lanka ,really well deserved . As for India ,this is a really tough pill to swallow .Losing finals is a heartbreak like no other .But ,reaching the final is a big achievement , and I am extremly proud as a fan and made us extremely happy . They surpassed initial expectations by a mile . The day of the finals was just not our day .Many things went against us and blaming a single player is just being fickle .

  • Dummy4 on April 7, 2014, 19:19 GMT

    Awesome piece mate. We will always remember 6th of April 2014. This will bring us all together more and more. Still would love to get that cup in 2015, because we know that we have what it takes to lift it to heavens....;)