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One flight the Lankans can’t forget

Sri Lanka's game against Australia on Saturday may have been a washout but their World Cup encounter 15 years ago was the talk of the town.

cricket Updated: Mar 05, 2011 23:54 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Sri Lanka's game against Australia on Saturday may have been a washout but their World Cup encounter 15 years ago was the talk of the town.

Ravindra Pushpakumara remembers the 1996 final in Lahore like it happened yesterday. After all, it was a “fitting end to the tournament that changed not just the lives of the squad members but also the country's fortunes”.

It was also the night after the final that Pushpakumara just cannot forget.

“Around 300 supporters, including various ministers, board officials and other VIPs, had flown in to Lahore for the final in a chartered flight,” Pushpakumara told HT.

Pushpakumara remembers how some of the crew members were “offloaded” at the eleventh hour.

“Still the flight was over-the-capacity. Some of the passengers sat in the cockpit while some were seating in the toilets at the time of take-off and landing. As a result, for four-and-a-half hours, many people were standing in the aisle,” Pushpakumara said.

With the Lankan team achieving a stupendous feat, the celebrations had to be grand. “Even before we entered the flight, most of the travellers were splashed. The bar was flowing and it didn't come as a surprise that the crew ran out of booze in the first hour of our travel.”

Even though Pushpakumara featured in only two of Sri Lanka's victorious Cup campaign, he recalls how he, Upul Chandana and Marvan Atapattu - the bunch of reserves - were treated with respect by the others.

“It was Arjuna's (Ranatunga) team and he made sure that all the reserves were as integral part of the team as any other senior,” Pushpakumara said, with a smile on his face.