S H Moulana (Island Opinion Page)
It was the year 1996, 22 years to be exact, we defeated Australia by 7 wickets to win the Cricket World Cup in Lahore. Sri Lankans working in Riyadh celebrated the occasion by distributing T-Shirts with the team’s logo to all expatriates, irrespective of their nationality, in the hospitality trade. This news was featured prominently with the pictures in all the newspapers back home in all languages.
Arjuna Receiving world cup in 1996
I vividly remember how we all braved to have a motorcade to celebrate the occasion in the capital city. We walked proudly with our heads up through crowds of other cricket playing nations. then. All cricket playing nations are well represented in the Gulf. When a group sits around a TV to watch a tournament you are sure to find a gathering of mixed nationalities, and if your team happens to be on the losing side you will fall into the focus of other nationals. Even if no remarks are cast, those looks will carry plenty of nasty messages.
So watching a match back home is easier than watching one here, especially, where we were ‘white washed’ like in those two matches Sri Lanka played in Dubai against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, in the Asia Cup. We not only lost both matches very badly, we could not even play the full allotted 50 overs. We saw our coach Hathurusinghe’s face soon after we lost to Bangladesh. a team he brought up to this level. He looked extremely sad. We are virtually out of the tournament now after being defeated by the totally unexpected teams. This is the time we start to think about our old heroes and worry whether we will have any real replacement for them, with at least half the talent they possessed. Could we ever hope to find replacements for Mahela, Sanga, Sanath, Murali, Vas, Dilshan, Aravinda, Arjuna and others, in the near future? After seeing the performances of our new, and the not so new, in the two matches we played in the current Asia Cup, we doubt we can achieve that goal any time in the near future.