Dilshan Tillekeratne. Photo by Hashir Milhan
Everybody supports him, but Kumar Sangakarra really did mess up by switching almost half of the team at the last minute. There were four substitutions in the World Cup Final, almost all of them for the worse. The exclusion of Ajantha Mendis was especially telling as India hammered off the newbies with plenty of wickets in hand. Still, Kumar and the team have got a heroes welcome back home, as they deserve. Sri Lankans are passionate about cricket, but not violently so.
Sri Lankan people, by the grace and warmth they displayed in the face of a defeat, unlike all over the sub-continent, proved that they can rise above: cricket, after all is a game. All that matters is that the game is played well and in its true spirit. In doing so, the people have set an example to the rest of south Asia.
Watching the game I was actually infuriated as the four replacements basically messed everything up, dropping catches, misfielding and getting hammered by the more experienced bowlers. I still think it was a bad decision by the captain and that Kumar should emulate Mahela’s decision after the last World Cup and resign.
The next day, however, I didn’t feel that bad. Sri Lanka is still a great team, albeit not as deeply professional as India, but they generally make everybody happy without having to bring home a cup. This limits their development to a degree, but it’s also the attitude of the island.
India has around 100 million fans for every 11 players on the field. Sri Lanka has about a million. There is a lot less pressure. When the Indians messed up the last cup, people burnt their houses. While I don’t think this reflects on India or the average general fan, it does show the degree of intensity there. Cricket in India is big business, tied to big politics, tied also to corruption and all kinds of rot.
In Sri Lanka, however, things are a bit more chilled. There is random, unbelievable talent like Murali and Malinga but it seems to come up almost organically. India seems to be turning into more of a machine, there are amazing cricketers but none that change very style of the game.
I do think that Sri Lankan cricket could become more professional (and less political) but it’s still pretty good that this small island nation can take on huge India and, IMHO, possibly win. I won’t say that it was a good game. I found it basically tense and painful to watch. It was a good try.