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The Cup’s brimming over in Lanka

Even before setting a foot on the Sri Lankan soil, one could feel the World Cup fever that has gripped the nation. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2011 00:44 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Even before setting a foot on the Sri Lankan soil, one could feel the World Cup fever that has gripped the nation. A large cutout of Stumpy the mascot, welcomes you at the Bandaranaike International Airport, with a tag line: ‘It’s not over till the last over.’

Every thing here revolves around what’s being billed as ‘The Cup That Counts’. From immigration officers to hotel receptionists, from cops to the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) officials, everyone’s waiting for the action to begin. “Today is a warm-up, not only for the Lankan team but for us as well,” a traffic cop says, as he diverts traffic towards the R Premadasa Stadium, which hosted the warm-up tie between Sri Lanka and West Indies on Tuesday.
They also had a hard time in queuing up the fans desperate to jot down their best wishes to the team in one of the numerous signature campaigns being conducted across the country.

Fans want a 1996 encore
With 12 matches to be played in Island nation, the fans would have been crazy about the event even if Sri Lanka had been rank outsiders. That they are a favourite has only added fuel to the fire. “We’re sure Sri Lanka will go all the way,” says Revathi, a collegian. “I remember how the nation celebrated when Arjuna Ranatunga lifted the trophy in 1996. I’m waiting to participate in another round of celebrations in April.”

Making up for disappointment
When the sub-continent hosted the event 15 years ago, Sri Lanka were awarded four matches. However, with Australia and West Indies forfeiting their matches citing security concerns, the Lankans had to be content with watching their team in action against Zimbabwe and Kenya.

No wonder, the fans are desperate to watch one-fourth of the total matches at the spectator-friendly venues, two of which have been constructed just for the Cup. “The fans couldn’t have asked for more. They have the best facilities to watch the best teams live in action,” SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga says.