LEADING ARTICLE : Sri Lanka:a small wonder

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Sri Lanka yesterday struck a blow for all small nations by proving the size is not an obstacle when a country sets out to be world class in a highly competitive field. It was not just that Sri Lanka managed to win the cricket World Cup, beating Australia by a handsome margin, it was the confident stroke-playing style in which they did it that was so uplifting.

Sri Lanka has had a long uphill struggle. When the first World Cup was played in 1975, Sri Lanka were minnows. They only had full Test status conferred upon them in 1981. Prior to the start of the tournament, a massive bomb in Colombo led Australia and the West Indies to withdraw from their games in Sri Lanka.

So what is Sri Lanka's secret, that it can take on any side in the world at one-day cricket and expect to come out on top?

It does not have a special cricket academy of the Australian kind, which the English are about to emulate. Judging by the ample girths of players such as Aravinda de Silva, intensive training a la Graham Gooch doesn't play much of a role. The administrators of the game are not geniuses: the internal bickering in Sri Lankan cricket makes Yorkshire's internecine wars seem tame.

There seem to be three lessons from Sri Lanka's success. The first is that the Sri Lankan's have always thought big about their cricket. They wanted Ian Botham as their coach and when they couldn't get him they appointed an international class coach in the shape of the Australian Dave Whatmore. The second is that they play with confidence and passion, instilled in them by inspiring leaders like their captain, Arjuna Ranatunga. And the third and final ingredient is the sheer style and power of their batting. They suffer none of England's inhibitions, they do not hold back, they go for it. Their win was great for cricket and for underdogs everywhere.

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