It is the third week since Sri Lanka lifted a World Cup since the famous 1996 heroics, but the celebrations and rapture have not jaded yet. For a tiny island which can only by spotted in the world map with the help of a hand glass and with a population roughly around 21 million being crowned the World Champions in a sport dominated by some of the politically and financially stronger countries is something worth proudly bragging about.
Sri Lanka made its ODI debut in the 1975 World Cup. Until the 1996 World Cup Sri Lanka played the world cups just to make up the numbers. There was no dearth of talents. The passion was as always undying. During that period Sri Lanka had produced some of the most prolific stroke makers, excellent wicket keepers and quality spin bowlers. Â Years passed on. Players came and went. Some of them caught eyes. Some oozed with talent but never did justice to their abilities. Some worked hard and proved their mettle sans much flair. Sri Lanka had all the resources to make a wonderful cricket team. But there was something missing, something that could fan ember in to a blazing flame. Something that would make the players believe that they become world beaters.
The moment came during the tour of Australia in 1995 when Murali was humiliated by being no balled and then by the Australian team which refused to play in Sri Lanka and forfeited the matches in Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup which climaxed in Lahore on the 17th of March 1996.
Sri Lanka had only won 4 matches in their previous five world cup appearances. No one backed Sri Lanka even to go beyond the Group Stages. But Sri Lanka orchestrated a well plottedÂ upset of all time in World Cricket.
This was the brightest moment in Sri Lankan Cricket history but only until the WT20 triumph in 2014. Since 1996 Sri Lanka has risen up to the level world beaters in cricket. They have entered several tournament as favorites but never managed to win even a single one of them.
After being recognized for their cricket Sri Lanka Cricket could not kick off and dominate the world even though they had everything in them to do so. They entered four World Cup finals and ended up at the wrong end. They tried, failed, tried, failed, tried,failed, but never lost hope.
In 2014 Sri Lanka once again entered the WT20 tournament as favorites. Once again they enetred the finals. But no one gave them a chance against the complacent India. Many expected a repeat of the ever usual final jinx. Most expected a repeat of what happened in Mumbai in 2011. But the Sri Lankans were bracing themselves for returning the favour.
This was the first major victory since becoming a force in world cricket. That was long due. Sri Lanka could not stamp their authority even though they deserved it much more than any other sides.
Sri Lanka entered the tournament without contracts. Sri Lanka Cricket threatened to send a second string team. The board lashed out at Sangakkara and Mahela for their retirement announcements.
There was finally peace in Sri Lanka. People all over Sri Lanka could follow the match without fears of bombs and gun shots. A win if Sri Lanka could gain would mean that the whole island could celebrate.
The lions marched out into the field on the 6th of April 2014. Strangled the over sung Indian batting and made them prostrate. The batsmen constructed a good chase. Ashwin bowled a wide full ball. Perera thrashed the ball over the bowlers head and pumped fists in the air. The tiny nation erupted. Firecrackers were heard right from Jaffna to Matara. Cars and bikes waving the lion flag thronged the streets. A celebration many more times bigger than the 1996 jubilation. This time North and East joined the celebrations.
For the first time Sri Lanka showed that they can win big tournaments, after winning the 1996 world cup. Cricket yet again proved to be a force that can unite the whole of lanka.