2011 CRICKET WORLD CUP
Bowling still a worry, warns Gavaskar
Former skipper Sunil Gavaskar believes India’s bowling is still a concern and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will need to add some sting to the
attack for the World Cup semifinal clash against
How Lanka beat India
The first sights that greet a visitor at the Colombo air- port are billboards that reach out on cricket's behalf: 'Ayubowan! Welcome to where cricket is a way of
life,' 'Welcome to a cricket loving nation,' Come, share our
passion for cricket,' Get set to eat, breathe, and live cricket.'
Next up is Mahela Jayawardene, staring at you while following through on his signature flick off the pads.
Then, there is an animated Murali appealing, on his
haunches, torso sticking out, arms bent back and pointed
heavenwards, and his eyes a pair of blazing balls of fire.
Before you gather yourself, you run into Tilakaratne
Dilshan, signing off for the cameras after his trademark off-drive. Skipper Sanga the sanguine follows, and the jamboree is rounded off by the animalistic Malinga.
Only after you are acquainted with these gent-giants of
Sri Lankan cricket do you get to say hi to the mandatory
high-perched photograph of Sri Lankan President
Mahinda Rajapakse smiling down on you.
The obligatory presidential photo-op done, it is cricket all
the way. In the duty-free shops, as you exit the airport, at
traffic islands, from billboards, at the roundabouts, these
images repeat themselves till you reach the heart of the city.
Surprisingly, there are also Shahid Afridi, and Ricky
Ponting, captains of the two nemesis teams in Sri Lanka’s
group, in their signature shuffles — Ponting shaping up for
that short arm jab-pull, and Afridi completing his inside-out hoist.
How much Sri Lanka knows — and loves — its cricket is
exemplified by the presence of the Shane Watson and the
Ross Taylor cut-outs — one easily the standout ODI performer of recent times, papering over his country's batting
and bowling shortcomings singlehandedly, and the other
who thrilled the Lankan crowds with a blistering century
on his birthday — alongside these biggies.
Even in the city, there is ample excitement about the
cricket, with people — though they crib and whine about
the hardships they face in getting match tickets — lauding
and supporting Pakistan and Australia in their matches
That brings us to the question: Why does India lack the
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS /REUTERS
In Sri Lanka, cricket is king
kind of excitement witnessed in Lanka and Bangladesh?
A journalist asked the same question to Indian skipper
Mahendra Singh Dhoni when Team India returned from its
only away match, the opener against Bangladesh.
Why is there no excitement in India, the scribe asked.
Dhoni, for all his candor and nonchalance, deadpanned
with a cliche for this one: “India is a huge country," he said.
"Bangladesh is not. So the reactions are only going to be
Ignore the ICC Cricket World Cup copybook captain-speak, and you get the real answers.
Most of Bangladesh's matches saw the hosts appear. Sri
Lanka got the marquee permutations among themselves,
Australia, Pakistan and the erratic New Zealand, but made
the minnows in their group to fly to India.
India saw classics like, just to sample, Zimbabwe-Canada, Kenya-Canada, Zimbabwe-Kenya. It thus hosted
classic non-entity vs non-entity clashes complemented by
Test-playing nations playing against associates with the
same intensity as when paint dries.
No, it was not Australia versus Pakistan. Recently, Sri
Lanka went to the local body polls, which the ruling party
On the day of elections, there was a huge and colorful
procession going through Colombo.
In India, no campaigning is allowed from the day before
polling. So, slightly taken aback, I asked a shopkeeper if it
was okay to campaign on polling day. I was told it was not
a political procession, but one by the supporters of the
Royals, a famed local school.
It turns out that the Royals and St Thomas, another
equally fabled school, have a famous cricketing rivalry running back to over 130 years. That makes it a longer running
rivalry than the Ashes. These matches are called the Royal
Thomian, or simply the Big Match.
Even when some international teams are playing in Sri
Lanka, this match takes precedence with alumni from both
schools flying in from all parts of the world just for the