Losing to a friend is no pain

Pakistan's victory in the T-20 World Cup finals at the Mecca of cricket was a prayer answered for that country struggling to repair her badly damaged image following a dastardly terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore last March. Her cricket will surely receive a tremendous boost from that spectacular win in these troubled times. A heroes' welcome must be awaiting them at home. Cheers!

Sri Lankans who wanted their boys to bring that much coveted cup home were disappointed. But the defeat cannot be too unbearable to them as the winner is a friend. Losing to a friend is no pain. After all, Pakistan is one of the few countries that helped Sri Lanka win her war on terror.

Skipper Kumar Sangakkara's performance was sterling. So was that of his team as a whole. He had steered Sri Lanka to the finals entertainingly but Sunday was not his lucky day, though he led his side from the front. The glorious uncertainties of cricket stood in his way and luck favoured the other side. The unbeaten were beaten! Nothing is so certain as the unexpected, they say. However, besides a superb captain's knock which helped Lanka claw her way up from a disastrously low score at the initial stages of the play, by accepting defeat gracefully and eloquently, Sanga proved that victory was not everything in the gentleman's game. It is all about sportsmanship. He deserves praise.

Now, Sanga's challenge will be to maintain his image and live up to his reputation as a mature cricketer without engaging in demeaning commercial activity such as gamboling in cock-and-bull TV adverts, especially those which wilily promote products injurious to children's health. In this regard, he ought to take a leaf out of former World Cup winning Captain Arjuna Ranatunge's book and conduct himself as a real leader. Arjuna, it may be recalled, never made a vendor or a clown of himself on TV.

A word on the evolution of cricket in a globalised and fast moving world may be in order, we reckon. Its leisurely pace is long gone. In its place we now have a staccato style. The game has gone the same way as bony super models' clothes on the posh Paris catwalks––short enough to be enthralling! In a world where leisure is fast becoming a luxury that many cannot afford, gone are the days when people listlessly watched interminable matches for days and patiently settled for a boring draw in the end. The modern world is result oriented and restless to the core. Cricket has had to evolve or perish like dinosaurs in this age of survival of the 'fastest'. It has therefore, for want of a better alternative, chosen to change and to reinvent itself by borrowing from other games which pose a threat to its survival. Interestingly, the influence of soccer on cricket is patently clear in the pre-play stages of T-20 game. There is basically nothing wrong with such an innovative approach.

At this rate, cynics may say, the day may not be far off when Lord's is acoustically equipped to create the legendary Wembley roar so that cricket fans will get the same thrill as their soccer counterparts! In a universe which is in a state of flux, only cricket cannot remain static. However, what the future holds for not only soporific test cricket but also the stimulating (50-over) ODIs is anyone's guess.

There was more to Sunday's Sri Lanka-Pakistan encounter than cricket. The two countries, as former Pakistan skipper Ramiz Raja has rightly pointed out, demonstrated that 'cricket cannot be brought down by terrorism'. In the cricketing world, the two countries worst affected by terrorism became the champion and runner-up in the T-20 World Cup '09 tournament.

While 1996 World Cup series was being played, some cricketing nations apparently considered Sri Lanka the most dangerous place on earth and boycotted the matches she hosted on grounds of security. In so doing, they wittingly or unwittingly helped further the cause of Sri Lanka's terrorists who wanted to subject her to international isolation. India and Pakistan, in a rare moment of unity, joined forces to pledge solidarity with Sri Lanka by sending their national cricket squads here to play a friendly match.

Today, Sri Lanka is free from terrorism thanks to a successful military onslaught against the scourge. And Pakistan has drawn inspiration from Sri Lanka's success story in battling terror and is faring well in war against Taliban. It is hoped that she will also succeed in her endeavour and be in a position to attract international cricket again.

May the World Cup bring Pakistan good luck!

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