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Exclusive: Series win in Pakistan laid the foundation for 1996 World Cup victory, says Duleep Mendis

rituraj@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 23, 2021

Captain Arjuna Ranatunga celebrates with the trophy after winning the 1996 World Cup final in Lahore. (AFP file)

Former Sri Lankan captain and team manager Duleep Mendis. (AFP file)

Now as Sri Lanka celebrates 25 years of their World Cup triumph, Mendis revealed why the team went into that tournament with such confidence

Duleep Mendis, the former Sri Lankan captain who provided Arjuna Ranatunga’s men with tactical support as the team manager at the 1996 World Cup, said the foundation for their greatest cricketing triumph was laid in Pakistan one year before the big event.

Now as Sri Lanka celebrates 25 years of their World Cup triumph, Mendis revealed why the team went into that tournament with such confidence.

Mendis had joined hands with head coach Dav Whatmore of Australia in 1995 as the Lankans made a serious bid to win their first World Cup, having never gone out of the group stages of the big event in the past.

“Dave and Alex (Kountouris), the physio, both contributed a lot. Because we wanted something new in the system, and Alex brought in lot of changes in terms of players fitness, and Dav was very helpful as far as coaching is concerned,” Mendis, who is now coaching the Oman national team, told Khaleej Times over phone from Muscat.

“Myself, Alex and Dav started our partnership in the 1995 series in Pakistan. And we beat Pakistan in Pakistan in the Tests and ODIs. Then we won a tournament in Sharjah (featuring Pakistan and West Indies) before going to Australia. So, it was a good build up and the crowning glory was in Lahore.”

In Lahore, Sri Lanka became the first team in a World Cup final to successfully chase a target, eclipsing Australia’s 241 with a hundred from Aravinda de Silva (107 not out, 124 balls) and fine knocks from Asanka Gurusinha (65, 99 balls) and captain Arjuna Ranatunga (47 not out, 37 balls).

Mendis said Ranatunga instilled belief in the team that they could take on anybody, especially after the Muttiah Muralitharan no-ball incident in Australia.

“Arjuna was very aggressive as captain. He was bold enough to take decisions and he would lead by example,” Mendis said.

“By nature, I would not say that he was aggressive. But when he entered the cricket field, he was a different person. He wanted to fight for justice and he was a person who wanted to win.

“He was a very bold captain. And also, fortunately, we had Aravinda de Silva who was a master tactician. He would give all the necessary assistance on the field and back Arjuna. Aravinda was a very good vice-captain for the team.”

Mendis, who helped Oman qualify for this year’s T20 World Cup in India, said Australia’s refusal to play the 1996 World Cup league match in Sri Lanka also motivated Ranatunga’s men to go all the way.

“At the start, when they refused to come, it was very demoralising. We knew there were issues, but for that matter, most of the countries, have had issues. But we were very thankful to India and Pakistan for sending a joint team for an exhibition game to show solidarity,” Mendis said.

“Also, I must say, the last tour to Australia just before the World Cup, put the whole team together. We did not have to do anything to motivate them to beat Australia because Australia themselves motivated Sri Lanka to beat them.

“You know the Murali incident happened and it motivated the whole team to become one unit. That was the motivational factor for them to go into that World Cup and they wanted to beat Australia. And when they met them in the final, they all wanted to win that match.”

author

Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.





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