There was a time during the India South Africa game where I really suspected that someone was making South African flags out the back of the Prema and selling them for a few rupees. At first they weren’t there, and then suddenly one whole stand was holding up the South African colours. The Pakistani fans were the ones holding the flags, as most of the South African fans had gone home.
During the India Pakistan game it appeared like 4 out of 5 Sri Lankans at the game had adopted Pakistan as their home team. Thousands of fans had Sri Lankan shirts on and were waving Pakistan flags or had their face painted with the Pakistani flag on it. They were as Pakistani as you could get, for just the three hours.
It’s been one of the highlights of this tournament.
People picking their second country to follow, or following a whole new country just for qualification purposes while supporting them as much as they could and the cheering of superhuman feats no matter whose team performs them.
That stopped tonight.
Outside the grounds I swear some of the very same people I saw screaming for Pakistan a few nights back were now chanting “Go home Pakistan”, “bye, bye, Pakistan” or “Sri Lanka Zindabad”. Pakistan fans coming out of the stadium were greeted by laughing or taunting Sri Lanka fans who had long forgotten that Pakistan were there second favourite side and were now happily giving them some stick.
This is more of a party than a tournament. And I’m not just talking about what goes on player’s hotel rooms.
Because of the setting, the amount of games in quick succession and the nature of double headers, it’s been far less patriotic than a bilateral series or even a world cup. If you are here to support your country, you are probably also going to see neutral games as well. It’s how this tournament is.
But tonight all that disappeared. The Sri Lankans had been cheering Chris Gayle supporting the Pakistanis and getting excited at Shane Watson, but not any more. Tonight Pakistan was the opposition, not their second favourite team.
Watson or Gayle can be sure that their sixes will be met largely by silence followed by an ICC firework.
The Sri Lankan fans can now see themselves winning this. They really want to win it. They even started partying like they were winning it. One fan drinking what appeared to be arrack as he hung out of the sunroof of a car while wearing a Sri Lankan shirt and wrapped in a Sri Lankan flag was certainly enjoying the victory. There seemed to be more fans outside the ground than could ever fit into the ground.
Most of them, when there wasn’t a Pakistani fan to laugh at, were already calling Sri Lanka the champions. Why wait to Sunday when you can start celebrating now.
The party bit of this tournament has definitely ended, the party in Sri Lanka may not end for quite some time.
Result: I missed Afridi’s last ever innings (well it could be) by deciding to wash my hands. Dilshan now won’t get beaten to death by a sack of rambutans.