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Arjuna Ranatunga Masterminded Lanka’s ‘96 World Cup Victory: Upul Chandana

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Colombo, Sept 13: Some people are destined to watch the unfolding of history from the ringside. Upul Chandana is one of them. The leg-spinner, who played 147 ODIs and 16 Tests, was part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning side, but he didn’t get a game the whole tournament. But that hardly mattered to him then, and even now.

“I am a World Cup winner for my country. It does not matter whether I was in the playing 11 or not. The victory was the result of team work,” Chandana told PTI.
The Lankans entered that tournament, held across India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as the underdogs.
But Chandana said the squad was quietly confident as captain Arjuna Ranatunga kept them in good spirits.

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“Before the World Cup, Arjuna ensured that all the team members remained in a good mood. We were gathered in Colombo. He went out of his way to provide the players, especially from outside the city, with all the facilities like training and accommodation,” the leg-spinner said.

“We felt like a big family going into the tournament, and the captain never let anything ruin that atmosphere. His captaincy played a big part in us winning the maiden World Cup,” said Chandana.
Chandana, who is now a full-time coach, remembered Ranatunga as a shrewd tactician, whose strategic acumen were way ahead of the time.

“It was after his thought that we used Sanath (Jayasuriya) and Kalu (Romesh Kaluwitharana) as openers. It was a masterstroke as other teams were not ready for that kind of batting in Power Plays,” said Chandana.

Both Australia and West Indies did not travel to Sri Lanka because of security concerns following a suicide bombing at Central Bank, and Sri Lanka adjudged winners by walkover.
Their lone big opponent in the group stage was India, a match they won by 6 wickets at Feroz Shah Kotla. (PTI)

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