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1996 Wills World Cup – The only World Cup Sri Lanka has won


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I was not surprised to see most of the Sri Lankan cricket fans comparing the 2014 World T20 title with the 1996 World Cup. In the last 7 years, Sri Lankan cricket team under the captaincy of the two senior members, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene reached 4 finals, but was unable to win any of them. It’s also important to note that 9 ICC events have been held in the last 7 years. It was about time that Sri Lanka won one. This victory should be dedicated one hundred percent to the die-hard fans of Sri Lanka cricket who have supported the team unconditionally, even when some players chose IPL and Big Bash over the country.

What I intended to discuss in this article is the ‘false belief’ some Sri Lankan fans have that the 1996 victory has been repeated. Sri Lanka won the first and only World Cup in 1996 under the captaincy of (in my opinion the Father of Sri Lanka cricket), Arjuna Ranatunga. It was under his captaincy that the Sri Lanka team evolved from being ‘nothing’ to a leading force of World Cricket. It is not wrong to say that the World Cup victory was only a part of the illustrious career of Arjuna Ranatunga. It was him who broke the shackles for Sri Lanka cricket and stood as an exemplary hero, being a role model for future cricketers to excel their performances in the international stage.

Comparing such a historic victory with a WorldT20 tournament is an unfair comparison.

Firstly, one needs to differentiate a World Cup and a WorldT20 tournament. The 1975 Cricket World Cup (the Prudential Cup) was the first edition of the ICC’s Cricket World Cup. So far only 5 countries have won the World Cup since it’s inauguration 39 years ago in 1975. A World Cup is held every 4 years. West Indians won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, who were followed by India in 1983, Australia in 1987 and Pakistan in 1992. Sri Lanka won the World Cup(Officially called Wills World Cup) in 1996 and Australia won the World Cup thrice in a row in 1999, 2003 and 2007. India won the last world cup in 2011 and are current holders of the ICC World Cup.

There are 3 World events held by the ICC.
1. ICC World Cup
2. ICC Champions Trophy
3. ICC WorldT20

ICC introduced the WorldT20 in 2007(Held every 2 years). 5 countries have won the event even before the tournament elapsed 7 years. Namely, India, Pakistan, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka won 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014 WorldT20s respectively.

Secondly, one needs to differentiate the situations leading to the two ICC events. 1996 World Cup is known as the game-changing point for Sri Lanka cricket. Pre’96 and Post’96 eras have been completely different. Before ’96, our team was merely a cricket team that rarely won matches against leading sides and the main ambition of playing a test match was to try and draw it. It was after the 1996 victory, the team as a whole and players individually excelled into a greater level that the team together could bring great victories like the off test at the Oval against England. Sri Lanka were called the ‘Undisputed One Day Champions’ during the 1996-1998 era.

In contrast, Sri Lanka Cricket team under the captaincy of Lasith Malinga won the WorldT20 tournament after disappointing losses in 4 ICC finals in the last 7 years. It was almost as if it was a ‘must win’ or ‘no way out’ for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka participated in 9 ICC World Events in the last 7 years. Namely,

1. ICC World Cup 2007
2. ICC WorldT20 2007
3. ICC WorldT20 2009
4. ICC Champions Trophy 2009
5. ICC WorldT20 2010
6. ICC World Cup 2011
7. ICC WorldT20 2012
8. ICC Champions Trophy 2013
9. ICC WorldT20 2014

In contrast, the only ICC event between 1992 World Cup and 1999 World Cup(7 years) was the 1996 World Cup, which Sri Lanka won, surprising cricketing pandits and changing the history of the game. One would also think that if there were World Tournaments frequently, like today, during the 1996-2000 period, Sri Lanka could have won a whole bunch of them with the game-changing batting of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, followed by Aravinda De Silva’s heroics and match-winning defence of Arjuna Ranatunga.

All credit should go to the Sri Lanka cricket team led by Lasith Malinga for bringing home an ICC World Title after 18 years. But, one should also not downgrade the 1996 World Cup victory which is the ultimate glory that a cricket team has brought to our motherland.

Therefore, it’s important for us to understand the difference between a World Cup and a WorldT20. It is up to the intelligent viewers and true fans of Sri Lanka cricket to determine what victory is greater.

Written by a ‘Die-hard Sri Lankan cricket fan since 1996’

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