They would have probably preferred to sleep off the disappointment and fatigue with only a couple of days remaining for the punishing IPL schedule to begin. But then it was an invite from the head of state. So, captain Sangakkara and his team were dutifully at Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official home,
Temple Trees, on Monday evening wearing smart casuals for a reception. With them were their elegantly dressed wives.
On offer on Temple Trees’ soft lawns were Rajapaksa’s friendly words of appreciation and mementos of 5,000 rupee gold and silver coins and expensive cufflinks. (I didn’t see many cricketers digging into the fried prawns and baked fish though.) If Sanga and the exquisite century-maker Mahela looked tired and in a daze, they made up for it with copybook politeness.
The captain was particularly effusive about his Indian counterpart. He said he was “honoured’’ and “privileged’’ to be made the captain of the ICC team but it was the better captain who won the World Cup. “Brilliant’’ was his one-word description of MS Dhoni. “It was (Adam) Gilchrist who took the match away (in 2007) and Dhoni and Gambhir took it away this time,’’ Sangakkara said, adding that Dhoni and Gambhir were the best players to tackle the Lankan spin bowling.
Sangakkara reiterated that cricket in the subcontinent had the power to bring people and different ethnicities together. “It is a unifying force,’’ he said.
Spinner M Muralitharan received a glass-covered plaque with a red cricket ball in it from Rajapaksa. But he complained about the instruction he received from the British High Commission earlier in the day. “They asked me to appear for a written test (to get a work permit to play for a Gloucestershire.) And I last sat for an exam in 1988,’’ Murali complained.
The cricketers attempted to cloak it by praising their opponents but the disappointment in losing the final was evident. Mahela said with a sad smile that the century was nothing compared to a World Cup victory. Malinga’s broken English and disarming grin did little to hide the feeling of letdown he felt at not taking more wickets.
Eloquent Sanga expressed it best when asked how long the sense of loss will last: “It will last for a while, I think.’’