Matches (11)
SL v AFG (1)
AUS v WI (1)
WTC (1)
NZ v IND (1)
Hazare Trophy (2)
CWC League 2 (1)
Shield (3)
NZW-U19 in IND (1)

The Premadasa rocks as India roll

After a tournament characterised by empty seats and a distinct lack of the carnival atmosphere that makes Asian cricket so special, the Premadasa Stadium was resurrected on final Sunday

Shiny happy people at the Premadasa Stadium © AFP
After a tournament characterised by empty seats and a distinct lack of the carnival atmosphere that makes Asian cricket so special, the Premadasa Stadium was resurrected on final Sunday. The blaring trumpets, whistles and klaxons were backed by considerable vocal power as both sets of supporters soaked in the sense of occasion. The more vocal elements had soaked in some Lion Lager was well, but there were no louts here, just a lot of people happy to be present for a showpiece occasion.
The Indians were in fine voice early on, with Sanath Jayasuriya departing early, though some of us were mystified by a banner held aloft that said the Roma team were supporting India. The Roma of the skintight kit, wolf on the crest and Francesco Totti? Surely not. The one that said, "When the going get (sic) tough, the Indians get going" made much more sense, and when Avishka Gunawardene followed his opening partner back to the pavilion, the percussion and horns went very quiet indeed.
The best place to catch the action was up on the roof above the press box, buffeted by the breeze, and with only the TV cameramen for company. From the stands to the right, an Indian fan dressed in traditional Rajasthani garb was trying to attract the attention of the cameramen, even as his mates busied themselves with more important matters, like beer and ice lollies.
On the way down from the roof, you ran into an athletic figure attired in a bright yellow-and-blue shirt, shiny silver Nikes and a stylish pair of Oakleys. Ehsan Mani might not want him here, but Mohammad Azharuddin seemed right at home in the media melee. And he was in fine enough trim to embarrass a fair few players on either side were he asked to prowl the point region.
Down below, where the band waited to exhale during the mid-match break, it was far more lively, especially once Marvan Atapattu, with some sumptuous drives, and Kumar Sangakkara, with a meaty flay or two, got the Sri Lankan innings motoring. Percy Abeyasekhara, Lanka's number one fan, parked himself near the dressing room, and led the applause as Sangakkara crashed a square-cut to bring up his 50. Moments later, as he walked back after being castled by Virender Sehwag, Sangakkara was stopped by Percy, who must have offered some doggerel as solace.
There were also words - "No luck, you'll be out for a duck?" - for Mahela Jayawardene, whose nightmare against Sachin Tendulkar continued, much to the delight of a section of Indian fans who had started chanting "Sachin, Sachin" from the moment the tournament's golden arm had come on to bowl.
By then, the Sri Lankan flags were barely fluttering, hanging limply in depressed hands. One doughty soul kept going though, waving his stuffed lion - the mascot suitably attired in replica team shirt and sporting imitation Oakleys - while all around him, voices were stilled.
When I asked one jubilant Indian fan what had caused the turnaround, he beamed. "Big myth that Asians play spin well," he said, with great insight. "Only Indians do. Pakistanis and Sri Lankans are crap against spin, just look at Shane Warne's record against them. Compare it to how he's done against India."
The lower order did their best to prove him right, as the soft evening sunlight bathed a procession of lemming-like proportions. The bowlers had done what India needed them to, and much more. Surely, the much-vaunted batsmen couldn't throw it away now? Just a lone victory in 18 previous finals meant that few fans were taking out the champagne just yet.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.