The Wills Cricket World Cup got underway on the 14th of February and 30 days later Sri Lanka were crowned champions.
by Rex Clementine
February 14th; what’s so special about that date? Well, it’s the feast day of St. Valentine. But for cricket buffs, their most memorable 30 days in the sport began on a day like this 25 years ago. In 1996, it was on the 14th of February the Wills Cricket World Cup got underway and 30 days later Sri Lanka were crowned champions.
Not many had predicted Sri Lanka making it to the semis leave alone winning the championship. But this was a campaign where they did little wrong.
Despite limited bowling resources, Sri Lanka’s policy of chasing any total stood in good stead with Sanath Jayasuriya firing and Aravinda de Silva coming up with crucial match winning knocks. When nothing worked, the lower middle order hung in there, stitched enough runs which were defended so brilliantly.
The charm of Sri Lankan players saw them winning many fans all over the world. Everyone supports the underdog and Arjuna Ranatunga’s side had plenty of them; the whole of Gaddafi Stadium in the final. The team was brilliantly led as well; not just on the field but off it as well.
Ranatunga admonishing an overjoyed Kumar Dharmasena after Clive Lloyd awarded the semi-final to Sri Lanka with some 100,000 fans rioting remains one of the iconic images of the sport. So does the stumping of Sachin Tendulkar by Rumesh Kaluwithara, probably the greatest stumping in the history of Sri Lankan cricket. As long as Sachin batted, India were sailing smooth but once he was expertly stumped, the wicket misbehaved and India crumbled.
Diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and Australia was stained after Australia’s refusal to honour their fixture in Colombo. West Indies followed suit. Both teams wanted the games to be shifted to Madras. The Sri Lankan government came up with an offer to airlift both teams from Madras and to be sent back to the south Indian city straight after the game. The suggestion was turned down.
Board President Ana Punchihewa had to fight tooth and nail to ensure that points from these two games weren’t split. Both West Indies and Australia wanted points shared but Punchihewa with the help of tournament chief Jagmohan Dalmiya ensured that Sri Lanka got full points
There was anger among fans. One of them put out a banner;
‘Aussie PM is Keating
Aussies are cheating.’
Arjuna got under the skin of Aussies. After being the first team to qualify for the finals, he was asked which team he preferred in the finals – Australia or West Indies. Arjuna said, ‘Bring on the Aussies.’ On the day of the final, he sent word to the Aussie camp as well calling Warne an overrated bowler.
George Steuart Travels having realized that there will be lot of Sri Lankans wanting to attend the final, arranged a chartered flight and tickets were selling fast. Sunil Wettimuny, who scored Sri Lanka’s first ever World Cup half-century in 1975 was the pilot of the aircraft.
The team was scheduled to fly back home the day after the final but on the insistence of some players they flew down the same night on the chartered flight. Some Ministers and well wishers readily gave up their seats. Some of the happenings on that flight can not be put on print.
There are few functions organized to celebrate the occasion. There’s one happening on the 17th of March in Colombo and there’s another in Jaffna on the 26th of March. The next day – on the 27th, the World Cup winners will be involved in a game in Jaffna. A lot to look forward to over the next 30 days.
Silverwood applauds problem solver Asalanka
His ability to debate makes him a cut above the rest – Arthur
By Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Chris Silverwood and his predecessor Mickey Arthur heaped high praise on middle order batsman Charith Asalanka, whose stunning 83 not out helped Sri Lanka to complete the highest successful run chase ever at home on Wednesday.Set an improbable target of 314, Asalanka played a blinder smashing five fours and four sixes during his 72-ball knock with the last six sealing Sri Lanka’s victory with two balls to spare.
Asalanka made his Sri Lanka debut in England during Arthur’s time as Head Coach last year. Although a top order batsman, Arthur made him to bat at number five, a position where you have to absorb pressure, especially during run chases. What factors in Asalanka impressed Arthur?
“Charith worked so hard when he came into the team. He is always willing to take on information, listen and ready to debate if he wasn’t convinced on something. That’s a very good feature in a young player. I like that kind of attitude. He has this aura about him. Dasun Shanaka is doing a fine job right now but one day when he is finished Charith is the guy who is going to take on the reins of leadership,” Arthur told Sunday Island.
The former Head Coach currently lives in UK where he coaches English county Derbyshire. He is in Colombo for the Lanka Premier League that gets underway next week.
“What prompted us to fit him in the middle order is that a left-hander gives you so many positives. Charith has this ability to switch gears. Increase and decrease the tempo. He is a wristy player and can manipulate things when he is out in the middle. He can hit boundaries at any given time with his ability to find gaps and he is good at rotating the strike. He has worked very hard on sweeping and he is now able to score all-around the wicket.”
While Arthur is in Colombo, Silverwood is back in the UK spending time with family for Christmas. Although he is from Yorkshire, he lives now in Essex, half hour drive from London. Silverwood won the County Championship with Essex, a title that they won after 25 years.
“I am looking for people who want to put their hands up and get the team over the line. The way Charith went about his business was superb. The influence he had on Dunith was a strong one as well during the run chase. He took calculated risks and showed what a fine player he is,” Silverwood added.
“Charith is a problem solver. He can find answers for any tough situation. He is a strong character and a good thinker.”
World Cup 2022: Did it cross the line? Germany out as Japan and Spain progress
Did the ball cross the line?
That is the age-old World Cup question for Germany, who crashed out as Japan beat Spain thanks to an opinion-dividing winner that left many scratching their heads.Kaoru Mitoma’s cutback for Ao Tanaka’s tap-in happened just after the ball looked to have crossed the byeline.
Even after cropping and zooming it looked incredibly close. Eventually it was ruled that the ball had not fully crossed the line.
In other words, if you drew an imaginary line upwards at 90 degrees from the far edge of the whitewash, it would have still passed through the curve of the ball – albeit only just – even though the part of the ball that touched the ground had fully crossed the line.The goal was initially ruled out by the assistant referee after a long pause, then the video assistant referee (VAR) intervened and ultimately Japan’s lead would stand – and they would go on to win.
“I have seen a photo that must have been tampered with, it cannot be that this photo is real. It has to be manipulated,” said Spain boss Luis Enrique.
“I felt that something fishy was going on when the VAR took as much time as it did to decide… I have nothing to say.
“Luckily, the team only goes into collapse mode once every four years, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to cope.”
The controversy evoked memories of Frank Lampard’s “ghost goal” against Germany in 2010, when England went out in the last 16, and – no doubt for German fans of a certain vintage – of 1966 and Geoff Hurst’s extra-time effort when England won the World Cup.
In Qatar, those three points for Japan meant Germany were out, the four-time winners falling at the group stage for a second consecutive tournament.It was just one moment on a World Cup night full of spine tingling drama.
Vishen Halambage could be next big thing in cricket
St. Peter’s take on Thurstan College in the under-19 finals today at Colts Cricket Ground and all eyes will be on young Vishen Halambage, who has been making headlines as a prolific run scorer in schools’ cricket.
The right-handed opening batsman is the leading run scorer in the competition having scored 456 runs with two hundreds and one fifty. He is also a handy leg-spinner and has taken 18 wickets in the tournament.
Vishen hails from Ambalangoda, a town that has produced many fine cricketers. He had his initial education at Stafford International before shifting to St. Peter’s to pursue his cricketing ambitions. He has done well in all age groups at St. Peter’s and has got one more year in the under-19 set up.
Vishen is in the national selection panel’s radar and has been shortlisted in the initial pool of 30 to take on West Indies in the bilateral series. He is also expected to feature in the next ICC Under-19 World Cup and could go onto skipper the Sri Lankan team having already captained the national under-15 side.
Cricket is in Vishen’s blood. His father Kumara Halambage played cricket for Dharmashoka, Ambalangoda and First-Class cricket for Singha SC. His uncle, Premasiri Halambage, was the President of Galle District Cricket Association.
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