Posts Tagged ‘World Cup T20’

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


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

We’d planned on paying a visit to the stadium the previous day, and decided that it might be apt to hook up with facts concerning the stadium. Galle paid host to witnessing spin greats Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidharan grab their 500th and 800th wicket respectively, with the latter signing off his legendary Test Career at Galle.

The darker side of Galle has other stories to reveal – the devastating effects of the 2004 Tsunami bearing source to tales that we’d never have entertained even in the wildest of nightmares. We realized that it might be essential to brush on a few facts that we thought we might be oblivious to – the effort behind getting the stadium back and running by 2008.

But soon, we learnt that what we’d gathered wasn’t nearly enough: if you want to know about the stadium, it only makes sense to get there and absorb its uniqueness – ranging from the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site which overlooks it from the background and its geographic distinctiveness of being tasseled on two sides by the Indian Ocean.

The Galle Fort at the backdrop of one of the world’s most picturesque venues. © Badrinarayana Vengavasi

Galle received sufficient press coverage to win the sentiments of people from around the world, following the tsunami tragedy of 2004. A volatile cocktail of facts would spell out the laudable efforts that were put in to get the stadium reconstructed (a project that cost in excess of 500 million LKR), and the battles that had to be contested against the Archaeological Department that raised its voice to object construction of buildings that would obstruct the view of the Fort.

As outsiders, we could do little but sympathize and contemplate on how quickly things can change in life. Natural disasters are ghastly under the best of circumstances.

On this note, we arrived as innocent visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the ground which Brian Lara, among many other cricketers, had picked as among his most picturesque venues he has played in. Galle is getting ready to host the T20 Women’s World T20 starting September 26 – in fact, all the league games as part of the Women’s World T20 are being held here.

We walked in to one of the administration offices to check if we could speak to some one on recording a documentary focusing on the preparations being made for hosting the Women’s World Cup. We were directed to the main building in search of a certain Mr. Warnaweera. We met a colleague of his in the office, who informed us that Mr. Warnaweera wouldn’t be here for until another hour.

We explained our objectives and soon, we were given a go-ahead to walk around the stadium – but we were told to avoid getting close to the wickets.

An hour had passed by the time we finished interacting with staff working across different departments from within. We thought it’d be a good idea to head back to the main building and connect with Mr. Warnaweera.

We met him as he was heading to his office and introduced ourselves. He introduced himself as the Secretary of the Southern Province Cricket Association (among other titles and responsibilities he holds) and was, by his colleagues’ words, described as the sole proprietor of the Galle Cricket Stadium. He knew about the venue more than anyone else around – he undertook the responsibilities of being the curator himself.

The CouchExperts with former Sri Lankan Off-Spinner Jayananda Warnaweera at his office at the Galle International Stadium

He was very warm in welcoming us and inviting us over to his office for a discussion. The conversation that followed set the tone for a prolonged discussion on assorted topics (cricket aside – politics, culture and philosophy) in circumstances that we’d least anticipated.

As a former off-spinner for Sri Lanka (1986-94), he explained the challenges of growing up during the era of insurgency that saw very little of Sri Lanka in the international stage. This theme kept coming up in our discussions, though less vividly at later stages of our conversation.

In a free wheeling chat, he discussed a wide ranging topics from administration issues, new talent emergence, best batsmen he has seen to the best ones he had bowled to. Responses include his disappointment in the roads that T20 has paved for the younger generation of cricketers (who “cannot play Tests”) and his assessment on the match-fitness levels of players, who, he otherwise feels, are spending more time focusing on being gym-fit.

His straight-forwardness, dedication towards the sport, and his love for Galle (the stadium in particular), stand out on numerous occasions – most notably observed when his colleagues endorse the days and nights he’d put in consecutively to ensure that the reconstruction of the stadium proceeded as hassle-free as possible.

His hospitality was beyond description – incidentally, an Irish contingent had arrived at the stadium (including former Captain Peter Gillespie and former Coach, whose name I fail to recollect ) in seek of permission to have a look at their wicket (Sri Lanka has lost only 4 of the 20 Tests played at Galle) and find out the composition of the soil. He excused himself for a few minutes, and was back to continue the chat (we gather that the Irish party’s requests were not entertained).

He explained that the World Cup victory in 1996 had shaken things (for the good) considerably in Sri Lanka. There was a push from the ICC to elevate Galle to an international venue, a target that was achieved in 1998 when New Zealand toured Sri Lanka in June to play a Test at Galle. An ODI, against India, was hosted a few weeks later.

He was very open and generous with his time – we’ll never forget the long afternoon that we’d spent with him, fielding fundamental questions on the state of affairs in SLC, T20 cricket, the lack of involvement of the retired greats with the current setup, among others. We were served a sumptuous meal following which we resumed our conversation.

Goutham Chakravarthi poses with the bat donated by Brian Lara, a few days ago, on account of his first visit to Galle post 2004.

One look at the venue through the French Windows of his office is sufficient to comprehend how Mr. Warnaweera reacts to the lavish praise people shower on him with regard to his brainchild (a term used by a lot of his colleagues). The credit always belongs to the man who is day-in and day-out at the arena – the man who sweated blood during the darkest days of this venue’s history. The triumph of his phenomenal achievement has been the ability to let people watch a game of cricket at this breath-taking venue.

That his colleagues rate his work-ethic, dedication, and passion so highly is evident when one strolls around the Galle Cricket Stadium. That force is Jayananda Warnaweera’s greatest achievement, and the heart of his significant service to the people of Galle and cricket lovers from around the world.

PS: A video pod on the day’s events and various interviews with administrators, structural engineers, fans and Jayananda Warnaweera form the theme of our second video podcast that will be updated shortly.