A strange sound resonated out across the Indian Ocean last week. That sound was the collective sigh of relief from 20 million Sri Lankans as their national T-20 cricket team finally broke an 18-year wait to win a major international cricket competition. The perennial bridesmaids had lost 4 major tournament finals since their 1996 world cup win. The country had begun to wonder if they had been cursed by the cricket gods for letting Murali get away with chucking for so long.
Half the country packed Galle Face Green, the largest public space in Colombo to watch the match on specially mounted big screen TVs. The other half watched it out the front of electrical goods stores or over their neighbours fence. After Indian batsmen Yuvraj Singh spent 21 balls batting with a feather duster and laying the kindling for his house to be burnt down by incensed Indian fans, one hand was already on the trophy for Sri Lanka. As fate would have it the man who would ultimately lead his team to victory was the much-loved talisman of Sri Lanka cricket, Kumar Sangakkara. If Sangakkara was not already the most photographed man in the country, he surely will be now. The victory was a fitting farewell for two of the country’s most prolific batsmen of all time Sangkkara, and Jayawardene. The two of them hold nearly every batting record for Sri Lanka.
The victorious team’s flight from Bangladesh arrived back in Colombo at 4:30pm and the 30km journey from the airport in the special open top bus took 6 hours to complete. The whole country descended on Colombo to catch a glimpse of these modern day centurions as they marched on the capital to celebrate their glory on battlefields afar. Roads were blocked, cars were used as stands, work was forgotten, and people generally lost their minds.
As the heroes stepped out onto Galle Face Green, they were greeted by 100,000s of fans and an epic fireworks display which must have pleased the cricket gods as they turned on their own thunderstorm and lightning show to signal the end of Sri Lanka’s curse.