Will Malinga's (R) slingy yorkers defy the curse of the finals for Sri Lanka and lead them to their first T20 World Cup title? Or will captain Dhoni (L) add yet another feather to his cap? Come this evening, the World T20 finale shall reveal it all. PHOTO: STAR
Lasith Malinga kept standing at one end of the pitch for a while on the gloomy afternoon yesterday at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur and it looked like the stand-in Sri Lanka skipper was seeking divine blessings ahead of today's ICC World Twenty20 final against a prolific India.
The memories of the night of April 2, 2011 might have been haunting him. On that night, India broke their hearts at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium to lift their second 50-overs World Cup title. India needed 16 runs from the last three overs and Sri Lanka duly turned to their WoMD Malinga, who gave a single on the first ball of the 48th over. But then it was India skipper MS Dhoni who dispatched the slinger's next two deliveries for fours and hereby made sure the Lankans lose their third ICC global event final after losing to Australia in 2007 in the 50-overs and Pakistan in 2009 in T20.
The curse of the final continued to haunt them as they lost to the West Indies in the 2012 World Twenty20 at home. Two of their finest players, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, have been bearing this pain ever since. Now, can Malinga give these two stalwarts a fitting farewell from T20 Internationals?
It's a chance to bury his own demons, as he has forlorn memories against India in a final. But MS Dhoni awaits with all his weapons in peak condition to complete a rare treble of holding three ICC trophies at a time with the World Cup and Champions Trophy already in his possession.
The pundits or the purists are not calling it a true World Cup as it itself is named as the World Twenty20, but the fervour among the cricket fans has developed with no difference, so without any doubt a win will give the Lankans something to cheer about after their famous 1996 victory.
With all the history and the heartbreaks, the emotion was subsiding all other aspects. Still if someone considered the strengths of the teams in these conditions, there may not be much difference. Sri Lanka made Bangladesh almost their second home after they had started the journey with the series against the home side and then won the Asia Cup in between. They knew the conditions better than anybody and they had the momentum in the tournament and had all the weapons in their hands.
But one Virat Kohli can shatter all their dreams, and nobody knows whether captain cool Dhoni preserves his best for the big occasion. While India depend on spin bowling, Sri Lanka must pin their hopes on Malinga to stop India clinching their second World T20 title after 2007.
The Indian skipper would not like to focus on the statistics and, going by the forms of the teams, many will hesitate to predict a winner for today, but checking emotions would be the key for a team to come out triumphant tonight. But millions of cricket fans will pray that Sri Lanka will not at least repeat history of failing at the last hurdle, so that a classic show puts an end to a memorable tournament in a country like Bangladesh, where fans won the hearts of peoples for their passion for the game.