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The messenger who couldn't deliver a message

Ravindra Pushpakumara, the 12th man in the 1996 final, was asked to pass on tons of advice to the batters in the middle. But he didn't

Ravindra Pushpakumara
Ravindra Pushpakumara: under pressure  •  AFP

Ravindra Pushpakumara: under pressure  •  AFP

If ever there was a time in my life when I was under extreme stress, it was during the 1996 World Cup final as 12th man. Sanath [Jayasuriya] and Kalu [Romesh Kaluwitharana] got out early in that match. We had Aravinda de Silva and Asanka Gurusinha batting for us. Just before the drinks break, when I went out, I got bombarded with messages. People in the dressing room came up to tell me, "Give this message to Aravinda", and "Make sure you tell Gura to hit out against spin only, and not pace."
Basically everyone in the dressing room had given me a different message that I absolutely had to pass on. As I went down the steps, I found [coach] Dav Whatmore there. He spoke to me for about a minute, with a message he wanted me to deliver. But I didn't understand a thing because back then my English wasn't good, and in the end I just said, "Okay, Davvy" and ran out onto the field.
When I got to Aravinda and Gura, I completely choked. My mind was under so much stress, I didn't remember a thing, so I just said something like, "Well played aiyya, keep going" and ran back. I got back to the dressing room and someone came and ask me, "Pushy, did you tell them?" I said, "Yes I did." Then someone else came and asked me, "Did you tell him what I said?" and I said yes to that as well. Then Dav came to me and asked me something. I didn't understand, but I could tell by the way he was asking that it was about the message. I said, "Yes, I told" in English. The others all believed I had relayed their messages, but Dav looked at me like he wasn't so sure.
That whole thing was the most high-pressure moment I'd ever experienced. I will always remember us winning the World Cup, but I will never forget being the messenger who couldn't deliver a single message.

Ravindra Pushpakumara played 23 Tests and 31 ODIs for Sri Lanka between 1994 and 2001. He was speaking to Andrew Fidel Fernando, ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent