Lasith Malinga, the perennial black sheep of Sri Lankan Cricket; rags-to-riches who never played schoolboy cricket; T20 freelancer who gave up playing for his country; robbed the captaincy midway a world cup, and robbed the trophy too. Although I disagree, many believe he did: Antagonize the media at your own risk.
Arjuna Ranathunga was the villain of our enemy; captain cool to us, and to Tony. Each of his men of the undefeated class of 96 had a role. Sana and Kalu “were given the green light to go hell for leather”. Gura, the aggressive-schoolboy-cricketer-turned-patient-number-three, to bat around them. Ara the-main-man. Arjuna, Roshan, Hashan the most experienced middle order of the world cup to bat around Aravinda. Vaasy to smash it and Kumar to steal singles, as they pleased. The rest never to bat: They only had to once (- guess when?)
Angelo Mathews, the lone ranger of the lost generation – a handful of unfulfilled promises. Dili and Chandi were to get a blast off (boy didn’t they miss Kusal). Thiri to play the-Aravinda with Angi, Kapu and Milinda to play around. Dasun and Thisara to send them to the stands. It almost came off – once. When Sri Lanka was 2 down in the second over Arjuna went with the original plan, Angie sent in Milinda.
Windies lifted the world cup. A line-up of hard hitting batsmen, one after the other. Malinga being the most experienced T20 bowler around, new that much. Alas, the inexperienced youth (the next batch of unfulfilled promises) was no match for international bowling – even if its Asian bowlers in Asian pitches.
Arjuna had four U19 Sri Lanka captains in his team: Numbers 3 - 7 with more than 100 ODI caps each. Sana didn’t make a single century, Kalu didn’t survive the fielding restrictions, Aravinda was our leading run scorer, Gura was the sixth highest overall. Four members of the squad went onto become national team test captains.
In fairy-tale victories leaders are celebrated (yes, they are stoned in appalling failures too); luck never talked of (SL had the fortune of two forfeitures in group stage); the team -the faithful followers- who stuck to the plan are rarely talked about.
Only eleven men represent Sri Lanka in cricket matches, but 20 million does in the meantime. What is your role?