“Are you surprised?” At some point in the final, Athar Ali Khan, Bangladesh commentator, asked Russell Arnold about the huge crowd support to Indians. “Surprised and impressed by the turnout, considering Sri Lanka aren’t playing, but not surprised by whom they are supporting.” The reason for the overwhelming support was obvious: It dated back to the fractious episodes between Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis in the last game.
There is even a Facebook page where the Sri Lankan fans have expressed their desire to see India win the final. The snake dance, the arguments, the speculations over the broken dressing-room glass, and in general the heated environment during and after the game has pushed the Sri Lankan fans towards India.
And so, it wasn’t a surprise to see Indians being cheered heavily in the final. From the chants of ‘Jeetega bhai Jeetega, India jeetega’ to the shouting of individual Indian names. Every good fielding effort was supported, and Bangladesh batsmen’s wickets triggered celebratory shrieks.
The support reached a crescendo in the dying overs of the match, where each of Dinesh Karthik’s blows met thunderous applause. They waved the Indian flag furiously as Karthik finished the match with a six. At the same time, Bangladesh were furiously booed at, especially Shakib Al Hasan when he was speaking to the commentators after the match.
Manjula Amarasekara, a Sri Lankan fan at the ground, summed up the sentiments: “The way they (Bangladesh team) celebrated it was totally uncalled for, we want India to beat Bangladesh and I hope Indian team does the same snake dance in the ground.” Even as our conversation progressed, Mushfiqur Rahim slammed a six and four off Vijay Shankar but the Sri Lankan crowd couldn’t care less: they stayed mute.
Duminda, an auto driver, tries to convince how Bangladesh crossed the line. “They wanted to fight, you see, you see. This was not the world cup final, it was just a T20 game. Look what they did and how they behaved. We enjoy cricket and that is why we come here but never again we will cheer for Bangladesh.”
Out in the social media, war of words continued. Topics from Bangladesh economy to their history were discussed whereas Bangladesh fans reminded how Bangladesh government had given financial aid to Sri Lanka during Tsunami.
The local papers here have even carried news reports about how Percy Abeysekera, the legendary cheerleader for Sri Lankan team, will support India. The other day India’s wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik was asked about the experience of playing in an empty stadium when India turned up against Bangladesh. Karthik talked about how lack of crowd had a massive effect on their fielding.
“See I think a noisy crowd makes a massive difference. When you play international cricket you’re used to a certain amount of crowd – that’s one of the things that spurs you on. Sometimes the motivation is not there. The second match that we played I thought we fielded the poorest, against Bangladesh. We dropped about five catches. We weren’t the usual Indian team that’s known for our fielding. The fielding coach was straightaway in our ears and pointing it out, saying that’s not happening irrespective of whether we have a crowd or not, whether the outfield is good or not,” Karthik had said. On Sunday, Karthik and Indian team would have felt they were playing in front of adoring crowd back home.