Darlings to demons

It used to be said that Sri Lanka's two major religions were Buddhism and Cricket. The successes registered by Sri Lanka in international cricket, particularly the winning of the World Cup in 1996, had added more religious fervour to the game. The country was the best in the world, and the Sri Lankans were ecstatic. Besides, the game transcended ethnic differences plaguing the strife-torn country. The Tamil spinner Muraleetharan, for instance, was almost a national icon.

In the run-up to the 1999 games, Sri Lankans deluded themselves into believing that their team was still on top of the world four years later. Aided and abetted by an adoring media, there was an unrealistic yet powerful expectation that "King Sri Lanka" would win the cup for the second time in succession, a feat that had only been performed by the West Indies in 1975 and 1979.

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Himal Southasian