Mumbai: Kumar Sangakkara has never been shy of attaching a higher significance to cricket. After winning the semi-final against New Zealand, which also ended their hosting involvement in the tournament, he said life in Sri Lanka seems normal when cricket is played. Before the final against India, he said in a similar vein, "It [winning the World Cup] means everything. We have come through a very tough period. A lot of people have laid down lives for our country. In this new future, hopefully we can take home the World Cup, and that will be even more occasion for celebration."
It is a beautiful thought, a sport healing the wounds of a nation, but it is also an unnecessary burden on a game. To Sangakkara and his team, though, bringing smiles to the faces of a beleaguered people is an obvious motivation. They don't seem to see it as extra pressure. Every Sri Lankan player carries a Sri Lankan flag with him, and the first thing they do when they reach a dressing room is to place those flags over their seats.
Sangakkara has led Sri Lanka during a tumultuous period for their cricket. His first assignment as captain was when the team was coming out of the shock of Lahore. In their first tournament back, they played an entertaining brand of cricket, and made it to the final of the World Twenty20 in England. Since then there have been unsubstantiated match-fixing claims, past players have not been subtle with their displeasure over the players' involvement with the IPL, there was controversy involving a senior player when the team went to Zimbabwe, there has been political pressure to keep playing players who were better off making way for youngsters, and of course Muttiah Muralitharan has slowly phased himself out. It has been tough to keep the team together, says a team source, but Sangakkara has managed to do that.