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Enthusiastic local cricket fans rushed to travel agencies and to the Pakistan High Commission for air tickets and visas and well-wishers offered stupendous rewards to the Lankan cricket team as unprecedented excitement was building up for the World Cup cricket final between Sri Lanka and Australia in Lahore today.
Well-wishers had offered millions of rupees as rewards to the Lankan cricket team whether they win or lose today as hope grew among millions of Lankan fans that their proud and daring team would win the biggest prize in world cricket today.
The Pakistan High Commission responding to the situation kept the mission open on Friday and yesterday, both normal days holidays for it to issue visas for the Lankan fans traveling to Lahore. Though it may be a strenuous journey, many Lankans left for Lahore early today on chartered flights that will bring them back tomorrow morning after a spectacular 24 hour rendezvous in Lahore.
The Pakistani mission here inundated with telephone calls about visa inquiries yesterday answered some of the callers directly by telling them, "bring two photographs with your visa application" even without inquiring about the purpose of the call.
By yesterday morning, around 400 persons had obtained visas, a spokesman for the mission said.
As many as six Ministers including Sports Minister S.B. Dissanayake, Deputy Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga, Telecommunications Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Shipping Minister M.H.M. Ashraff and Deputy Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, were among those who were due to leave this morning for the Cup finals where little Sri Lanka is expected to reach their greatest heights in world sports.
Three main travel agencies offered special flight services for the World Cup finals. Aitken Spence shared an AirLanka flight with George Steuarts while Ceylon Carriers arranged a separate AirLanka flight.
Sports Ministry Secretary Dr. R.M.K. Ratnayaka told The Sunday Times massive reward offers kept flowing in for the Lankan team. The latest came from a Maldivian businessman who offered a two week holiday in Maldives for the whole cricket team with their family members.
Dr. Ratnayaka said already about six million rupees had been pledged by various firms and organisations for the players and whether the team won or lost they would be fittingly rewarded as entering the finals itself was considered a historic achievement for a small country which had never before entered even the quarter finals of the World Cup.
He said according to reports from Pakistan, the Sri Lankan team was likely to receive wide public support from cricket fans in Pakistan, while the authorities here also offering full support.
In Colombo Pakistan High Commission spokesman Rai Riaz Hussein also said the Pakistani people and government had welcomed the Lankans warm heartedly. "We consider the Sri Lankans to be among our best friends and fervently wish the Lankans would win the World Cup", he added.
As if to balance the picture Australian Deputy High Commissioner Lorraine Baker said in Colombo yesterday that winning or losing was part of the game.
Referring to recent hostility and rivalry Ms. Baker said, "We should not encourage such feelings since the game itself calls for great deal of sportsmanship and should end there".
Back at home family members of the Lankan cricket team were tremendously excited to see the Lankan cricketers as the cynosure of all eyes in world cricket today with prospects of taking the greatest prize increasing as the showdown approached.
Lankan Vice Captain Aravinda de Silva's father, Sam de Silva said he would not like to predict winners or losers as cricket was a game of glorious uncertainty as seen in the semi finals on Wednesday and Thursday.
"Even though it is great to see my son playing an important role in a World Cup final, we are not concerned about him alone. We want to see the whole team rising to extra-ordinary heights", he said.
Roshan Mahanama's father Upali Mahanama said it is great to see them in the finals. I have no doubt they will come back with the "World Cup".
Today's match is expected to have a local TV audience of more than eight million while another three to four million are likely to tune into their radio sets for commentaries.
In another development Maldivian President Mamoom Abdul Gayoom has offered the Sri Lankan cricket team a one-week holiday in the Maldives if they win the World Cup.
The Kobbekaduwa Commission was plunged into further crisis this week with another judge offering to resign and failure to find a replacement for the commissioner who resigned last week.
High Court Judge Gamini Amaratunga who had prepared his papers to resign from the commission this week was prevailed upon to continue, top judicial sources revealed.
They said Court of Appeal judge Asoka De Silva had declined an offer to be appointed to the commission to replace a fellow judge D.P.S. Gunasekera who resigned over disagreement with the commission's chairman, Supreme Court Judge Tissa Bandaranaike.
Justice Bandaranaike had asked Justice Gunasekera to reconsider sitting on the Presidential Commission probing the death of Lt. General Kobbekaduwa. The reason given was that Justice Gunasekera was a class mate of Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa.
This drew a fiery response from Justice Gunasekera who asked the chairman why he did not take this into consideration when the commission was appointed 14 months ago.
After charging that Justice Bandaranaike had no right to ask him to step down, Justice Gunasekera sent his resignation to President Chandrika Kumaratunga last week.
Meanwhile, the impounding of the passport of Additional Solicitor General Upawansa Yapa by the Justice Bandaranaike without the concurrence of the other two commissioners has caused a stir in the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
Mr. Yapa was counsel in an Commonwealth commission that probed Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa's death and in this connection Justice Bandaranaike had impounded his passport stating that he had to be interviewed by the present commission.
Lawyers are agitated about whether counsel could be questioned on their professional work and are likely to take up the matter at the next Bar Council meeting after the induction of the new BASL president late this month.
The matter is also to be reported to the Commonwealth Secretariat which had nominated foreign judges for the Commonwealth commission.
Senior lawyers will move the BASL to inform the Commonwealth lawyer's Association and the International Bar Association about the matter, it is learnt.
After the death of Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa in 1992 the government appointed the Ismail Commission to probe his death.
After the slain officer's wife, Lali Kobbekaduwa, called for an international commission, the Commonwealth Secretariat nominated judges for a Commonwealth Commission.
Following the commission seeking assistance, additional Solicitor General Upawansa Yapa was nominated from the Attorney general's Department to assist the commission as counsel.
LAHORE: The good news from here is that Roshan Mahanama has recovered from severe cramps that prevented him from continuing his courageous unbeaten innings of 58 against India at Calcutta on Thursday.
"Roshan is fit and will play on Sunday," skipper Arjuna Ranatunga told reporters on Friday.
Ranatunga said all that the batsman needed was a complete rest. "That's why we didn't send him to bat in the later stages of the innings because we knew that if he batted, his injury would be aggravated."
The skipper admitted that runs were needed at that stage, "but not at the expense of a batsman and that too as experienced as Roshan."
The Sri Lankan skipper, bidding to become the first-ever host captain to win the title, said the players were all geared up to take the century-old trophy to Sri Lanka. "We will play for the nation's glory and not for money," he said referring to lucrative offers made by Colombo businessmen.
Ranatunga said his players knew that the World Cup meant a lot for the people back home. "We will try our best but I must stress that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Pray for our success, we desperately need it."
Ranatunga recalled that a couple of overs by Waqar Younis changed the game for Pakistan. "It can also happen to us. And that is why I ask people in Sri Lanka to pray for us."
Ranatunga hinted that there will not be any changes in the team. "I don't think the winning combination needs to be changed. But we have our options open. The final decision will be taken on the eve of the match."
The burly skipper tried to defuse the tension mounting on him against Australia. "What happend in Australia and after that, is history now. There will be no element of revenge from our side. If we go with revenge in the back of our mind, we might lose the track. We have played good cricket in the past 12 months. Sunday's much is the crunch of all."
Mark Taylor, who arrived here on Friday evening with his team, said: "By the end of the tour, there was no tension between me and Arjuna (Ranatunga). In fact, the two sides got together after the Adelaide Test and we shared a drink and had a good chat for about 90 minutes or so."
The Australian captaian laughed off Ranatunga's statement that he was waiting for the Australians, saying: "I'm sure, he would be waiting, whichever side was coming."
"I want to say right now that this is a game of cricket and the World Cup final. Both sides would be keen to make a good match and may the best side win the cup. I am sure both sides want a clean and well contested game and that's why we are here for and so are the Sri Lankans."
Talking about the decision to forfeit group match against Sri Lanka, Taylor said Arjuna Ranatunga summed it up by saying that is history.
"History has been made and we cannot change it. We must look forward to the future of this game and the future starts from Sunday onwards."
Australian Manager, Bobby Simpson, was more optimistic about Sunday's final. "Lahore is a great ground for us. We beat Pakistan in the semi-finals in 1987 and a couple of years back won the triangular series once again beating Pakistan."
"They (Sri Lankans), have some exceptionally good batsmen capable of ripping apart the best attack in the world," Simpson added, saying: "They are the worthy opponents and my side is all prepared to take them on. "
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