Sri Lanka primed to go all the way

Posted: October 4, 2012 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, World T20 2012
Tags: , , , , ,

Goutham Chakravarthi

Cricket at the highest level is – beyond all – a game played in the mind. Something about choking lingers longer and haunts South Africans still. Their captain even admitted to it recently. Such are the mental scars.

Apparently, after the first ball of the ICC World Cup in ’07, Chaminda Vaas confided to fearing the worst as Gilchrist laced an off-drive to the cover fielder. Since the incident Sri Lankans have reached the final stages regularly only to be pipped at the crossing-line. It can seem the most difficult thing to shake off such defeats. Some resign to defeat and some overcome those challenges. Just ask Andy Murray.

The issues with not being able to cross the final hurdle might have been dusted away in slight by its captain, but, it must rankle the team and the management after being so close so often. Often they have run in to towering players at their pinnacle. Gilchrist at Kensington Oval, Afridi at Lord’s and Dhoni at Wankhede. Their champions have soared too, but just not as high. After all, it is difficult to imagine a more pristine or dominating innings than Mahela’s in a cup final. Still Murali being taken apart in ’07 and Malinga in ’11 eventually hurt their chances.

They were billed as among the favourites before this tournament began. They have waded through the silliness of a seven-over caper, the thrills of a Super Over and the disappointment of not being able to play at their preferred venues.

Their batting at times has looked top-heavy, but their slew of big-hitting all-rounders is proving to be their biggest strength yet. Mahela has handled his resources quite shrewdly. His batting form will also hold key for the hosts’ victory bid. He knows that with the tournament moving back to familiar territory at the Premadasa, this might yet be their best chance to get past the final hurdle.

Skipper Jayawardene holds the key that will open the door seperating an ICC Final from an ICC Trophy © Zimbio

Form and reputation count for little in this format. Pakistan has shown Australia that the mighty can fall, and India shows Pakistan that enough pressure can crush any opposition.

All the four teams will believe they have a chance to win the cup. Sri Lanka will believe that with their nemesis India out of its way their time might already have come.

The little island can be proud of the quality and originality of the cricketers it produces though the game is still politically shrouded with miscreants with personal interests at heart.

True to their tradition, they have unearthed a talented mystery spinner – who seems to be made of the right stuff at first look – on whose flick of the fingers might reside their chances of the world cup itself. Criticized for being more a model than a cricketer and as seen more interested in IPL than his country, Malinga would be keen to carry his form from the last game in to the knock outs to prove a point to his detractors.

Fears are that the memories of the ’96 triumph will fade with every ICC final ending unconverted © Farm4 Flickr

Inspiration to win world cups can be found from anywhere: cancer hospitals, throwing allegations; as can be greatness: from the streets of Karachi, factories in Kandy, to the beaches of Caribbean. May be it is time Jayawardene and Co. script history for themselves. The ’96 victory gave immense joy to the nation. That was 16 years ago and many teenagers will be aching to experience the joy. The first team to do it will always hold a special place, their pinnacle put above their many struggles and failures before and after. It is not beyond the pale to imagine the inspiration, for the likes of Malinga will come from the want to prove that his heart is in tournaments that count and show. He has publicly

Mahela and Co. might well believe that their time has come to set it right. Mahela might be the shrewder captain to the hegemony of Arjuna; Sangakkara the greater batsman to Aravinda’s flashes of genius, thrill, sizzle and fizzle; yet, till the mountain the scaled and peak captured, Mahela and team will remain bridesmaids to the ’96 champions.

This is a published article in Island Cricket

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