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More than just a game of cricket

In theory, eleven Pakistan cricketers will be up against eleven Sri Lankans in the final of the World T20, but both sets of players know this game is more than the 40 overs - it offers the two nations and its people a chance to keep hope alive.

cricket Updated: Jun 21, 2009 01:32 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times
cricket

If ever there was a final that had more than just cricket riding on it, it has to be this one. In theory, eleven Pakistan cricketers will be up against eleven Sri Lankans in the final of the World T20, but both sets of players know this game is more than the 40 overs - it offers the two nations and its people a chance to keep hope alive.

It was March 3, 2009, when the Sri Lankan team bus was riddled with bullets in Lahore. That was the final nail, for a foreseeable future, for cricket in Pakistan. That Pakistan still find themselves in the final of a World Cup after those dark days of despair is in a victory in itself. Then there’s Sri Lanka. The all-out assault on terror left an already divided country in disarray, with the cracks between the two ethnic groups deeper than ever. A win on Sunday could unite the country in joy.

However, only one team will lift the second World T20 trophy on Sunday and, quite like the flux in the countries, the cricket the two play is similar to each other’s. Not for them the excessive use of technology and science. Sub-continental cricketers have always backed their instincts, and it has been no different with this set, either.

Pakistan hardly had a game before the World Cup, and that rustiness showed in their opening games. They lost both their warm-ups - to South Africa and India - and continued the sorry streak against England. It was the match against South Africa at Nottingham where they truly showed what they could do, comprehensively outplaying the favourites.

Sri Lanka had tougher obstacles on their way to the final, but passed the stern tests rather convincingly. Yet to lose a match, Kumar Sangakkara’s side have steadily moved from strong contenders to hot favourites.

Tillakaratne Dilshan has steadily moved up the chart of the best T20 batsmen in the world, his innovations providing the Lankan innings with flying starts.

Shahid Afridi’s blitzkrieg in the semifinal may have elevated him to the No. 1 threat for Sri Lanka, but it is Umar Gul and his fast reverse swing that will test Sangakkara and Co. Arguably the best death bowler, Gul was held back till as late as the 13th over in the semifinal. It wasn’t hard to see why Younis Khan did that when Gul consistently bowled at 90 miles to stifle the South Africans. He will have to produce an encore to stop the Lankans.

It was June 20, 1999 when Pakistan last played a World Cup final - against Australia at Lord’s. Nine years and one day on, they are back, hoping for a better result. Sri Lanka look the stronger, all-round team, but Pakistan have that old weapon up their sleeves - unpredictability. The world is watching.