After a prolonged and disheartening drought, the ICC World Twenty20 win must come as a supremely happy relief to Sri Lankan cricket. A wretched run in the knockout stages of major tournaments, including four final losses in the last seven years, was ultimately snapped in Dhaka with a victory over India. It was fitting that Kumar Sangakkara, one of the greats of Sri Lankan cricket, played a principal role in the outcome in his last T20 appearance. The left-hander’s assured, unbeaten half-century shut the door on an Indian recovery. Mahela Jayawardene, another Sri Lankan legend, also bowed out of international T20 cricket with the end of the competition. Sangakkara and he were later carried around the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium by their thrilled teammates; it was a moving sight. The understated captain, Lasith Malinga, turned the tide of the contest with his fine spell of bowling towards the close of the Indian innings. This must establish him as a great of the T20 game.
India may not have won the tournament, but its loss in the final should not be treated as a failure. To get within one match of holding all three of cricket’s major limited-overs titles is a commendable feat and a reflection of the side’s strength. India had arrived in Bangladesh with minimum expectations and amid a groundswell of adverse opinion following a string of poor results. It would not have been easy for players to focus through yet another storm raised by the IPL, either. M.S. Dhoni, who has faced personal charges including blatant conflict of interest, tried to keep his head and marshall the team with poise. Nothing good or bad in Indian cricket, he wryly noted, seemed to happen without his name being dragged into it. While it is true that India found conditions amenable, there is no gainsaying the competence of its extraordinary batsman Virat Kohli, and its spinners, R. Ashwin and Amit Mishra. Kohli, who was rightly declared man-of-the-tournament, has steadily transformed himself from being a bright talent into one of the shining lights of this Indian side. In Bangladesh, the ICC World Twenty20 found a warm host, with the enthusiasm of its great crowds undimmed despite the home nation being in awful form. The triumph was Sri Lanka’s first outright ICC title since the World Cup of 1996 (it had shared the 2002 Champions Trophy with India) and should delight the people of the island-nation no end. Their team had turned up fresh off one of innumerable contract wrangles with Sri Lanka Cricket, its heavily-indebted governing body. This victory may well sow the seeds of a radiant future for Sri Lankan cricket.