A date with our Cricketers

By Megara Tegal and David Stephens

As much as having breakfast with the Sri Lankan World Cup cricket team sounds like a treat, a media event isn’t the best opportunity to learn more about them. Friday morning (January 22), it was a date at the Cricket Board as the team members moseyed in, calm and casual but ready to take on any cutting questions the reporters hurled at them.

Entering in twos or threes, each cricketer spared a few moments with the journalists, sharing their thoughts on the upcoming World Cup tournament, their cricketing careers and a few laughs, over a cup of tea and bites. In contrast, it was the journalists who flocked around them who were under pressure desperately trying to get their questions answered within the limited time they had been granted.

Captain of the team, Kumar Sangakkara was most accommodating in answering every question posed to him and spent more time than was allocated with the journalists present. If Sangakkara is feeling the pressure of the hopes of 20 million resting on his shoulders, it didn’t show. Without doubt he’s the modern incarnation of Captain Cool.

Speaking about the expectations people have of the team, as the last time the Sri Lanka co-hosted the World Cup tournament victory was ours, he says “there’s always pressure,” adding “there’s no other place we’d rather play.” A statement that would no doubt delight the legion of Sri Lankan fans now more than keyed up with the tournament due to kick off on February 19.

At a table not too far away, Mahela Jayawardena, Vice Captain, was wrapping up his time with the press by signing autographs. Having spent more time with the journalists as well, he shared his views on what will be his fourth World Cup. Speaking about the response they’ve received from fans he says the fans are very enthusiastic and passionate about the game but they don’t let it take control and overstep borders. He goes on to say they have been very supportive; and adds that he hopes the team will be able to bring back the trophy and give their fans something to party about.

Young batsman Chamara Kapugedera who will be playing in his first World Cup tournament strolled in next. Once the captains moved on, Chamara sat down with the journalists and tried to answer thorny questions fired at him. He admitted his batting position was demanding but he was up for the challenge.

As the heated questions died down, Chamara eased up and laughed as he answered a question about what look he was going to sport, saying he was not sure but to keep an eye out for it. One of the last few cricketers to turn up was Angelo Mathews, another young cricketer who, like Chamara will be playing in his first World Cup. Speaking about the ’96 victory when Sri Lanka trounced arch rivals Australia in an inspirational triumph in Lahore, he says “I was a small kid watching it on TV at the time. We are hoping to do the same [win the tournament] this year,” adding a message to the public, “please support us.”

Pacies Lasith Malinga, sporting a bold ‘Destiny says it all’ tattoo on his forearm and his trademark blond hair highlights and Nuwan Kulasekera were both there too as well as batsmen Upul Tharanga and Thilan Samaraweera relaxed and smiling. Let’s hope their positive mood continues as the whole of Sri Lanka send the team their wishes for a lion-hearted performance.

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