02 October 201023:17

CWC 1996 final a huge moment, says de Silva

De Silva played a huge part in Sri Lanka emerging as world champions

CWC 1996 final a huge moment, says de Silva - Cricket News

Aravinda de Silva was the toast of the nation after the win in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 final.

Sri Lanka's former batsman Aravinda de Silva still remembers the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 as the most cherished moment of his career. de Silva played a huge part in Sri Lanka emerging as world champions on 17 March 1996 beating Australia to the title.

With six months to go for the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, de Silva was reminded of that day in 1996 when Sri Lanka emerged on top of the world. "For any cricketer being part of an ICC Cricket World Cup final is a huge moment. I cherish that day as the biggest moment in my career," said de Silva.

Then the Sri Lanka vice-captain de Silva batted like a dream through the course of the 1996 edition to help his team reach the final and then finally emerge winner in Lahore.

On the big day, said de Silva, the team did not have nerves and wanted to be part of the action as quickly as possible. "The team was confident going into the final. We had done well right through the tournament, so the squad was keen to get onto the field. We wanted to prove that we could win on that day," added de Silva.

When the moment arrived, Australia got off to a good start, before Sri Lanka pulled things back, thanks to the spinners. It was de Silva's off-spin which played a part in tying up the Australia line-up. de Silva ended with figures of 3-42 from nine overs to emerge as the best bowler on the day for Sri Lanka.

Remind de Silva about his spell and he just plays down his contribution. "It was a total team effort. Our spinners had bowled well throughout the tournament and that day it was no different. I just bowled a few overs to help fill up the quota," reckoned de Silva.

Sri Lanka was under pressure chasing Australia's total of 241 for seven. History was against Sri Lanka that evening, as no side had ever won the title chasing. And when Sri Lanka innings began, the pressure increased that much more. Both the dashing openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana departed with the score on nine.

But de Silva did not feel any pressure when he walked out to bat. "I was always prepared mentally to bat whenever required. The plan was such that I should be prepared to bat even off the second ball of the innings. Batsmen like Sanath and Romesh batted with so much freedom that they could even get out early. The depth in the batting gave them opportunity to bat freely," recalled de Silva.

De Silva joined forces with number three batsman Asanka Gurusinha to put on 125 runs for the third wicket. Gurusinha made 65 off 99 balls with six boundaries and a six. De Silva paid rich tributes to Gurusinha on the role he played in the squad in 1996. "I thought Asanka was the key to the side then. The way he batted ensured that he took control of the innings and brought some sanity. After the kind of starts Sanath and Romesh would give, it was important for someone to consolidate the innings."

The stage was then set for Sri Lanka's senior pros, captain Arjuna Ranatunga and de Silva to join forces. For the duo it was an emotional moment as they inched closer to the target of 242. "It was an emotional moment for us. Arjuna and I had seen a lot of ups and downs in our cricket. Arjuna had been there since we became a Test nation in 1981 and I joined a couple of years later. So for us it was a huge moment as we got together that day," said de Silva.

The pair put on an unbeaten 97 runs for the fourth wicket as Sri Lanka ran home winners. The final moment is what de Silva remembers to this day. "The winning run is what I remember the most. We kept celebrating after that. I remember it continued for at least three more nights."

De Silva ended with 107 off 124 balls with 13 boundaries. Ranatunga made a 37-ball 42 with four boundaries and a six as Sri Lanka won by seven wickets. " The 1996 win gave a kick start to the sport in the country. Young boys just took to the sport and the popularity of the game rose in the country."

It is 14 years since that heady night at the Gaddafi Stadium and de Silva is now in a new role in Sri Lanka cricket. He is the chairman of selectors and tasked with the job of choosing the team for the 2011 edition. " It is a huge challenge for me. But today the team is a lot more confident. It has much more depth in every department," said de Silva.

With six more months to go for the mega final on 2 April, 2011 at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, de Silva picked Sri Lanka to be one of the contenders for the crown on that big day. "Sri Lanka obviously is one of the teams who can make it to the final. Among the other teams, I believe Australia or India stand a chance too," said de Silva.