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1996 World Cup Final: A Bold Powerful Statement Changed Sri Lankan Cricket

The story an Bold statement from Arjuna Ranatunga that changed the whole Sri Lankan Cricket by winning the 1996 WC Final against Australia.

“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.”

Tony Gaskins

Making a powerful statement being courageous against someone who is ruling the whole structure and that too when things are drastically running against you is not the easiest or sometimes the wildest job to do in this planet. The words may backfire you but on a positive note, you are playing with the nerves of your opponents.

How it all started:

On a picture-perfect finish being drawn in the Cricketing world at the highest level, it’s quite hard to look beyond the helicopter six of Mahendra Singh Dhoni to lift the 2011 World Cup; but what the Sri-Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga did on that night in Lahore with a shot to the third-man region was hardly imagined by the game’s kingdom. Before the World Cup, the last couple of months seemed to be a nightmare for the player and the fans of the Island.

Visiting Australia, they were charged for ball tempering, the young Kandy off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was crucified publicly. The International Cricket Council (ICC) however dropped the first charge made in the Perth test but all on a sudden, things started to take a big turn thereon. Umpire Darrell Hair standing quite a few yeads back from his actual place called seven No-balls in Murali’s three overs.

At the end of the already forgetful series, the rumors were raising that the Australian side wouldn’t be traveling to Sri Lanka for the opening game of the 1996 World Cup against the hosts. The messy, charming, exciting and frustrating tournament was hosted by three countries- India, Sri-Lanka and Pakistan. While the whispers received truth with the West Indies also joined the Kangaroos to deny their trip to the Island following the bomb blast in Colombo.

That time was really getting tired and tough for the Lankan Government along with the national players and the faces wanting to enjoy high voltage Cricket at home. The combined neighboring side of India-Pakistan including Sachin, Kumble, Akram, Saeed Anwar beat a Sri Lankan XI side but the words of Wasim Akram, “We have no fears of any security in Sri-Lanka.” favored the island as ICC declared them winners of those two-league game without a ball being bowled.

The Bold Moment Writes New Sri-Lankan History:

The moment ICC delivered those points, irrited Arjuna Ranatunga’s bold statement sent a hard message to all the teams. He wasn’t only bravery but he also had plans back in his minds with the resources to make it occurred. “Now, there weren’t too many teams in World Cricket going around saying bring on Australia.” Said Former Australia captain Ian Chappell to ESPNCricinfo. “but, Arjuna had the guts to say that.”

After topping the group stage, another game made Sri-Lanka’s job easy. The Eden Gardens semifinal saw the Indian fans losing their coolness the moment they realized that it was impossible for their side to snatch victory. Caps & bottles were thrown at the players with some of them set the stadiums on fire which eventually resulted in qualification of Sri-Lanka to the finals.

Chasing in the finals at the biggest stage in the life of the players against the Kangaroos was surely going to be a difficult business and the record that the last five finals had been won by the team batting first was playing in both the captain’s head. But the campaign appeared to be written for the Lankans. Ranatunga winning the toss put Oz in, a move that quite unsurprisingly backfired them with the opponents raced to 137/1.

Sri-Lanka completed the Job in style:

A part-time off-spinner Aravinda de Silva stepped into the spotlight and suddenly the panic button interestingly got turned on. Taylor trying to sweep found himself to the fine-leg whereas Ian Healy and Ricky Ponting both heard the sound of their broken furniture. Depending on the 74 by opener captain Mark Taylor, the one-time World Champions could only post 241/7.

After early blows of two openers getting out cheaply, 125-run partnership between Asan Gurusingha and de silva, this time with the stick in hand, removed all the pressure. The latter brought an outstanding hundred that observed control and responsibility. Ranatunga finished the job with a blasting innings. “Remember, they were only beginning Test cricket 12-13 years earlier and they beat Australia in a World Cup final in Lahore and they did that handsomely.” Cricket Presentator Mark Nichollas defined what Ranatunga and co. did.

This World Cup was more than Cricket. The game leaving the English villages have renowned itself from the 22-yards to the 22-inches of the television screen. Sri-Lankan victory after what they had to go through couple of months ago was surely the icing on the cake. The bold statement along with the result had written a new chapter for their Cricket for the future that gave birth to the likes of Dilshan, Sangakkara, Jayewardene and many more to come.

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