Two world cups, different hopes

Cricket never takes a break from news in Sri Lanka. Invariably, the game retains headline space all through the year — be it the “big matches” played by high school boys, which is an annual carnival here, or international cricket and the many shades of opinion on it. Last week, it was former skipper Angelo Mathews’s turn to be under the spotlight, although for the wrong reasons. Citing his poor fitness and “sluggish” running between the wickets in the recently-concluded Asia Cup, selectors dropped him from Sri Lanka’s ODI squad that will play England in early October. Evidently offended, the 31-year-old all-rounder said in a letter to Sri Lanka cricket: “I have been made the scapegoat in this entire saga of Sri Lanka’s dismal performance against Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the Asia Cup.” The Sri Lankan team’s early exit from Asia Cup did not go down well with fans or experts. Former stars Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva, according to media reports, have voiced concern over the future of Sri Lankan cricket. With just eight months left for the Cricket World Cup next summer, hosted by England and Wales, they worry about how far the team might be from a decent show. After all, the two players were part of Sri Lanka’s biggest cricketing moment yet, helping Arjuna Ranatunga’s men win the World Cup at Lahore in 1996. Given the team’s poor form and questionable track record, Sri Lankans may have little reason to be excited about next year’s World Cup. If we are talking cricket, that is. For there is another team in the island that is very upbeat about playing World Cup in England next year — the women’s netball squad. Ms. Sivalingam, who hails from Jaffna, got into the game in her university days and has since become an enviable goal-shooter, combining the advantage of her exceptional height — over 6.8 feet — with her deftness on court. Braving war-time displacement and the gaze that her height constantly drew, Ms. Sivalingam found new strength in netball and came to be known as one of the finest shooters in Asia.
Despite her team’s big feat and her own performance, she is hardly surprised by the exclusive airtime that cricket gets. “Oh yes, the media covers cricket very differently. In fact, that is how it has been for a long time. I think it became a trend ever since our team won the World Cup in 1996,” she told The Hindu . Much like in cricket-crazy India, the media in Sri Lanka too has a soft spot for the game. Men’s cricket, mostly. Last week, we did read about the Indian women’s team clinching the T-20 series, beating Sri Lanka 4-0 here. But nothing more. All the same, the extent of coverage doesn’t bother some sportspersons. At least, that is the sense one gets speaking with Ms. Sivalingam, who says: “Now we are targeting the World Cup and need to prepare for it. We are training hard.”
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