ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

The Kiribath POWER

Every incident that takes place on earth has its own side stories. It is because different people describe the same incident in several different ways and when it comes to behind the curtains stories the whole episode becomes that much more ‘juicy’.

This being the year of the Cricket World Cup and the hype built around it, only the baby born a few hours ago would not have learned that Sri Lanka won the 1996 edition of it. But, still we are not tired of reminiscing it and savour the euphoric feeling that engulfed us on that night ten years ago. Yes, I had a chat with him before, but that was about the entire happenings of the 96 World Cup. But, this time I met Kumara Dharmasena just to ask him a few things about the feelings and the atmosphere that prevailed during those last few days prior to winning the World Cup at Lahore. Simply, I just wanted him to dig in deeper and get a few interesting anecdotes which took place amid the hustle and bustle.

Kumar took a deep breadth and took a walk down the memory lane “Our first priority that year was to win a game and get into the quarter-finals. But, with every win we felt the difference, we were growing stronger prior to every game we had several game plans, but always stuck to one and executed it to perfection. So much so that every bowler had specialist fielders placed in their strong points. At the same time every opposing batsman was studied and covered so that the field setting would come out with maximum results. For instance at the final Sanath Jayasuriya was placed in a place when Rickey Ponting was batting because he picks and throws with the left hand. Our plans were covered up to the minute detail.

“At the same time the team sprit and the interaction that we had in the side was fabulous. We moved like one unit. While practicing at the nets we used to discuss our strengths and weaknesses. If I was bowling badly at the nets the batsman who was at the crease would come out and tell me where I was going wrong and how I should overcome it. At the same time even the seniors while batting did not hesitate to ask us for our opinion as to how they batted on a particular day and if had made any mistakes. That was the camaraderie that we had amongst us.

“I still remember during the final our vice captain Aravinda de Silva walked up to me and told me not to drop the ball short at Steve Waugh and always keep it up to the batsman. And in the very next over, Waugh gets out to my bowling caught by Aravinda de Silva”.

Then the former off-spinner who is now an umpire went back to the semi-finals. He said “The semi-final against India was the most difficult match mostly because of the deafening noise that prevailed at that venue. So much so I could not hear what ‘Kalu’ was shouting out from behind the stumps, just twenty two yards away. Then prior to that I had never taken the wicket of Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin. He was just like Arjuna Ranatunge, he was a match finisher. In the semi-final when he offered me the return catch I could not believe it, I did not catch it, it just stuck between my fingers. When we got that prize wicket we almost knew that we were through to the final”.

“I still remember during the final our vice captain Aravinda de Silva walked up to me and told me not to drop the ball short at Steve Waugh and always keep it up to the batsman. And in the very next over, Waugh gets out to my bowling caught by Aravinda de Silva”.

At that moment he remembered another interesting one. .He said “During the quarter-final match against England one of Sanath’s sixes sailed over the pavilion roof and hit an antenna on it. After the match we were teasing him and asking him from where he got that power to shoot the ball so far. Without batting eye lid his answer was ‘That is what you call Kiribath power”.
The chat came back to the final. “We had about four to five days before the final when we arrived in Lahore. However it was very funny none of us were overawed by the fact that we had entered the final of the Cricket World Cup. But, at the hotel the situation was different. Always there were tons of people waiting to meet us and talk to us at the lobby. However except for a few individuals they did not know the faces of the entire team. But, at the hotel we could not even go to the dining hall for our meals and we had to order the food into our rooms. On the day of the second semi-final between West-Indies and Australia Sanath and a few of us were in a room when they announced Sanath as the player of the tournament. I still can remember how at once all of us pounced on Sanath and pinned him on to the bed and started tickling him.

“We had our team meeting on the night before the match. There Arjuna on his own had gone to the stadium and had a look at the conditions that prevailed in the evening and announced that we should field first if we happen to win the toss. He explained that owing to the dew that prevailed in the evening, it would be difficult for the side that fields second. However we only understood the wisdom of his words when the Australians started missing catches when we were on the chase. At the same time the management also said not to get awed by the situation for the simple reason that we had nothing to lose unlike the Australians who had the audacity of foregoing their first match against us.

“Another incident that I will never forget is that on the morning of the match there was a huge crowd gathered at the ground to wish us well, and among them there was this disabled person who was also held back by the security. But our captain Arjuna saw him being held back and made a request to the security to let him come and meet us. Added to this, we all shook hands with him before going on to the field. Some who saw this told us that we should not do such a thing as that could be a bad omen, but finally proved that those who said were wrong.

“Then once we came back after getting the Australians for 241 runs on the board, we noticed Aravinda in a different mood. He did not have any food, but asked Pushpa (Ravindra Pushpakumara) to get him an ice cream. He had that and even before Sanath and Kalu could pad up he was all ready and was sitting in a corner in a very serious mood. Then someone commented ‘Ari is not going to get out today’.

“Then we got our act together and were cruising along with Arjuna and Aravinda going great guns. Aravinda at one end was batting without a semblance of even ever offering a chance. But, at the other end Arjuna was taking a few risks. Adding to our anxiety Arjuna after an exchange of words with Shane Warne was trying to hit him out of the attack. As far as we were concerned Arjuna knew the art of taking it to the wire. We were scared that he would get out. I remember I could not stand the atmosphere I kept on walking up and down pinching into the food laid out at the table. Then Roshan was pacing to and fro from the management urging them to douse the Arjuna fire saying there was no hurry and the messages kept on going in at the end of every over. Then finally we made it and all hell broke loose.

“Then I remember we walked up to the Australians and wanted to exchange jerseys. But, they were so astonished after the defeat they refused to do so and locked themselves in the dressing room. However after about half an hour they did come into our dressing room with a few beers. Finally they had accepted that it was Sri Lanka who had won the Cricket World Cup.”

Finally travelling ten years hence to the present, Dharmasena described the present squad who is in the West Indies as a squad who have had more opportunities than the squad that won the World Cup then. He described the team as a more balanced outfit where collective talent was concerned. But he gave a note of advice “It is not the talent or the exposure that matters, but, it all depends on how you work out your plans and execute it to perfection. It finally depends on who you take into the middle on that vital day, and how you manage it”.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.