Fernando: Sri Lanka's romance with the World Cup

They said the World Cup was too good for Sri Lanka, but Malinga and co. still flirted with it and then Leeds happened. Will it give Sri Lanka one more chance?

Toy bears were seen rooting for Sri Lanka, South Africa v Sri Lanka, World Cup 2019, Chester-le-Street, June 28, 2019

Toy bears were seen rooting for Sri Lanka  •  IDI via Getty Images

Dearest 2019 World Cup,
Right from the start people said this love could never be.
They said Sri Lanka were losers, because we'd lost 18 ODIs and won only six in the past year. They said, you were too good for us. But when we saw you beneath that brooding English sky, sat proud upon that trophy stand, your gold paintjob shimmering amid the drizzle like moonlight scattered through mist, and how could we not dream of having you, World Cup? How could we not want to hold you tenderly in our arms? Or kiss your metallic curves? How could we not be filled with that primal urge spray you down with detergent and mount you in a glass box at the SLC offices, bringing you out to dust you from time to time?
And oh how we flirted, World Cup. How we shared glances during that defence of 187 against Afghanistan. Prolonged looks during the early part of our chase of 335 against Australia, before our middle order went out and batted so slowly the scoreboard started to go into reverse.
But Leeds was where it all happened for us, World Cup. Glorious, sublime, magnificent Leeds. The pulse still races to think of that thrilling afternoon together in that pale, pale Yorkshire sunlight. Have you ever known such passion? Wind blowing through curly blonde-tipped locks. Bails falling softly to the earth. The sounds of England surrendering their favourites tag, music in our ears. Sweaty, breathless, heart-thumping hours. Ecstasy. It was only a moment, but have you ever had such a moment?
I suppose, if we were being rational we would have known that it wasn't enough. We needed better batsmen. Our bowling was not dynamic enough. Our fielding was patchy. Maybe it is better that we accept the obvious conclusion: it's not you, it's us.
Well, maybe it's a little bit you. We don't want to sound petty, but we can't help but think how things could have been different if you had given us that hotel pool in Bristol. Yes, you will say that it rained so much there that the whole city was basically a pool for seven days. But other teams got the rain and the pool. Other teams like Pakistan. Yes, we saw the way you stole glances at those ruffians even back then, World Cup. How could we not see it? How you shimmered and glinted and sparkled every time one of their fast bowlers scorched a trail through each damp English afternoon. India, Australia and England - even New Zealand - we could kind of understood. But if you could feel that way about Pakistan, why not us? Let's not even get started on that upstart Bangladesh.
There was also the team bus issue, of course. It's been suggested that every team had pretty much the same bus. But you have to understand, World Cup, that some of our players require extra room and wear out the suspension, so it did get a bit cramped and uncomfortable, and these things probably should have been taken into account.
Would things have worked out between us if we had abs?
You know what? Don't answer that.
Maybe another time. Maybe another place. Maybe another set of selectors, a non-useless domestic system, administrators who are not slaves to board politics, a middle order that wasn't allergic to rotating strike, spinners that actually spun the ball, some semblance of ODI form, an attack that didn't rely on one bowler, and a coach who was actually allowed to do his job. Call us romantics, but if all that had gone right, we could have been beautiful together.
Is there still a chance, do you think? Should we give it one, more try? We hear that if England lose both their games, and Pakistan and Bangladesh lose at least one, and we win both the last two matches, that there might just be… could there be? Should we dare to hope?
One more chance, World Cup. Please. We can be better. We will be better. You'll see. We're on our knees.
Whatever happens, though, we want you to know how much we will treasure every moment. No matter what, you'll always be a part of us. We'll always have… errr… Leeds.
Yours forlornly,
Sri Lanka

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf