The champagne was ready in the ice bucket and Chinese crackers were kept ready to light up the night sky over Colombo. But instead of celebrations, disappointment and dejection filled the city streets on Saturday night after India comfortably defeated the home team in Mumbai.
Thousands had gathered at the city’s main beach front, the historic Galle Face Green, to watch the match on a giant screen in the afternoon. No one minded the blazing sun or the heavy humidity hanging in the air.
Elsewhere streets were deserted by the midway of the Lankan innings. After initial pile-ups of cars to reach the nearest television set, traffic disappeared by early evening. Clubs and pubs were brimming with enthusiastic Lankan supporters.
Few hours later, the Galle road, Colombo’s main thoroughfare, was lined with thousands of dejected fans returning home. Many sat slumped on the pavement in groups and in disbelief. Restaurants emptied out earlier than expected. The national flag was still fluttering on cars, bikes and three-wheelers but the cheer was gone. The bands had stopped playing.
The fans were saddened but hundreds of them were sporting enough to line up at the airport on Sunday morning to greet the returning Lankan team.
The team was escorted to the Independence Square where a special ceremony was held to felicitate the cricketers.
Captain Kumar Sangakkara addressed the gathering and thanked the audience and the rest of the country for supporting them through the tournament.
In between, fast bowler Lasith Malinga announced that this World Cup would be his last. "I hope to be of service to my team as long as I can, but I won't be able to play in the next World Cup in 2015. I have been carrying injuries for the past few weeks and with little rest," Malinga, was quoted as having told state-run television.
Newspapers were gracious in their comments on the runners-up. ``Lost, but not shamed’’ said the Nation newspaper. A headline in the Sunday Times newspaper was ``Rama-Ravana World Cup Final.’’
Newspapers also pointed out as the country focused on the World Cup, the government ordered ``huge increases in fuel and gas prices’’. The worry over the ever increasing cost of living could just eclipse the disappointment in cricket.