Goodbye Sri's been fun

Whatever happens on the pitch, Sri Lanka as a nation has experienced a much happier Cricket World Cup than the tournament it hosted - and won - during the civil war in 1996.

    A no-fly zone, a city in lockdown and worst of all, V.I.P.s and V.V.I.P.s - and probably the odd V.V.V.I.P. - can't park their private jets at the local airport.

    All this for a cricket match.

    Fortunately for me, this isn't the cricket match I'm covering.

    While India and Pakistan lose their collective heads over the mela in Mohali, I'm in the rather more relaxed surroundings of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.

    Don't get me wrong, this is a country hugely excited about the World Cup, but it's an excitement tempered with a more chilled-out attitude, more akin to people from the Caribbean than the sub-continent.

    As Colombo says goodbye to the World Cup, they do so in the knowledge that this has been a much happier experience than the last time they co-hosted this event in 1996.

    Back then the country hosted just four matches, two of which didn't take place because Australia and the West Indies refused to play here, citing security concerns.  

    In January of that year, more than 80 people had been killed and 1,200 injured in a huge bomb in Colombo. The Sri Lankans received walkover victories but were upset that their two opponents had pulled out.

    This time round there have been 11 matches all held successfully, although one was rained off. Sri Lanka has been determined to enjoy its moment in the spotlight as it hosts its first major sporting event since the end of the civil war in 2009.

    That enjoyment has transmitted itself to the players as the Sri Lankan team have played without fear, as demonstrated by their crushing 10-wicket win over England in the quarterfinals, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga smashing a 231 opening partnership to secure victory.

    Sitting with the home fans at the Premadasa Stadium, the support was as loud as I have heard anywhere, but the players seem to be inspired by it rather than intimidated.

    As I write this we are a few hours away from their semifinal against New Zealand. The locals are all convinced that Kumar Sangakkara's team will prevail, the Kiwis having never got beyond this stage.

    Whatever happens, on the 30th I fly out of Colombo to Mumbai for the final. So goodbye Sri Lanka, thank's been fun.


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