This was a big match.

Akin to a curfew, Colombo’s streets were deserted on Saturday afternoon, but Galle Face was not. Over 7,000 people had congregated there to watch the cricket world cup final between Sri Lanka and India on a big screen erected on the grounds. Nearly all the electronics showrooms with TV’s on display had tuned in to the cricket as well, resulting in small crowds who had settled in front to watch the match sometimes with deck chairs and stools. Traffic was chaotic in the morning in Colombo and its suburbs, with people thronging to stores to buy both genuine and imitations of Sri Lankan cricket sporting garb and other memorabilia. As we noted on Twitter,

“Never seen so many Sri Lankan flags on vehicles after the end of war.”

Nationalism and over the top displays of patriotism were on a crescendo, leading up to and on Saturday. There was Sarath Fonseka who said that a victory at the world cup would be akin to the victory against the LTTE two years ago. All radio stations, and most social networking site status updates (esp. Facebook and Twitter) referred to the team as ‘Lions’ that were ‘Roaring’. Many on Facebook, again like the days after war’s end, changed their profile images to the Sri Lankan flag, tellingly cropping it to focus on the Lion – never the two stripes. Unsurprisingly, corporate marketing also took a nationalist twist. As we observed on Twitter,

Dialog keeps referring to Sri Lanka as ‘Lion nation’. Revolting & racist. We support #cricket as Sri Lankans.”

Semi-erected structures around Colombo suggested the foundations of a mega, multi-day victory party and parades that were never to be. Given significant increases in petrol, diesel and gas announced on Friday night and Saturday, it was clear the government was hoping a victory to at least temporarily hide the burden of rising inflation. As the Editorial of the Daily Mirror noted,

Even before the winner of today’s match is known, the politicians in true Sri Lankan style will be sharpening their spurs to ride on the Sri Lankan team. Some may by now be preparing statements or speeches for gullible audiences in the island while the rest would be rehearsing how best to pose for pictures with the team, just in case India end up on the losing side.

We didn’t go on to win the match, but for a few hours last Saturday, glued to projections of a game played miles away, everything else was forgotten. Such is the power of cricket.

These photos were taken around Galle Face and Colombo during the first half of the game. All images by Iromi Perera.

  • mel

    For ordinary folk, the “finalist” tag is still a proud moment. Just watch the faces of people who lined up along Negambo Road or turned up at Independence Square. The numbers were may not have been ground swelling, but the look of shear happiness to “touch and feel” cricketers at close quarters, was amazing to watch.

  • Dr Dharmista

    What happens to Sanga and team now for failing to bring the Cup home? ITN’s Mahinda Abeysundara must be hatching the conspiracy theories by now. Just wait and see.

  • silva

    I am not a fan of cricket and don’t care who wins. But I am happy that Sri Lanka lost, because of its racist, genocidal policies. It has become the norm in Sri Lankan to refer to the country as “Sinhala Budhist” and they don’t even consider the minorities as human beings!!!! This is a blow to their arrogant attitude!!!

    • But what about us minorities who also support SL in sports? Are we too condemned with the majority? Aren’t you also defining SL as Sinhala-Buddhist?

  • r.stephen

    @ blacker…are you sure you are a ‘minority’? everything about your mindset and behaviour would suggest a majoritarian mindset. unless you are just a little confused, don’t worry you are not alone…

    • Stephen, are you suggesting that membership of an ethnic minority is no longer qualification for being considered a minority? Perhaps you subscribe to the notion that in order to qualify one must instead toe the appropriate political line, and have an appropriate “mindset”. So is DBS Jeyaraj no longer a minority member simply because he agrees on many issues with the GoSL; is Ranil W no longer a majority member because he disagrees with many Sinhalese Buddhists? Are we to understand that all minorities must oppose SL and all members of the majority must support it?

      😉 Perhaps it is you that is confused, Stephen; in this case on the distinction between a political minority and an ethnic one.

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    The important thing is not the victory. It is how the team played that matters. I watched all their matches. I admired the performance of every member of the team that took it to the finals. The art and science of their peak performance in the finals was beautiful. All their hard work from the time as a child they took to bat and ball to the final of the World Cup will be etched in their memory. We saw and enjoyed only the result of all the hard work, sweat and tears they endured and succeeded in their journey.

    Well done Captain Sangakara and the team. All those who love sports are proud of you. May you all always be gentlemen in sports and in life and avoid being used as a tool by politicians. As Kant said, “Man is an end in himself, not a means to an end.”

    • Ganesh Lingam

      Wisely said..Good Team,Sprited Team…all played with full power…Salute to your team again.

    • Lanka Liar

      Great advise from a great sportsman to a great team. Well done Sanga. We are not far away from calling the Sri Lankan team a “gentlemen’s team” rather lion or a tiger