x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Anyone but India in the air

Daminda, who watched India's victory against Pakistan, tries to explain why there's an anyone-but-India feeling in the air.

India's Virat Kohli reacts as his team exit the World Twenty20 Cricket World Cup.
India's Virat Kohli reacts as his team exit the World Twenty20 Cricket World Cup.

Even the officials at immigration do not forget to remind you that India are going home from the World Twenty20 before the semi-finals. It is banter, but it is not hard to detect the barely concealed glee behind the words.

On the drive into Colombo, the driver explains how apart from the game against England, the crowd tended to cheer whichever team was playing India. Even Australia, once Sri Lanka's bete noire, got huge support the night they derailed India's campaign.

Daminda, who watched India's victory against Pakistan, tries to explain why there's an anyone-but-India feeling in the air.

"I think it has a lot to do with the Sri Lanka Premier League and Indian players not being allowed to take part," he said. "Also, we've lost quite heavily to India in recent times."

For many cricket followers around the world, the roots of the animosity lie in the Indian Premier League. During the six weeks it is played, most of the game's top players are in attendance, some forsaking national duty to pick up the pay cheque. Boards that fail to issue no-objection certificates to the players risk the wrath of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

But there is no two-way street. Although it has not been explicitly expressed, Indian players are not allowed to play in other T20 leagues. The board sees that as a dilution of the IPL brand. Such policies feed the big-bully feeling.

So, when India lose, as when Manchester United or the New York Yankees do, those not blessed with the same resources make the most of it. In Sri Lanka, they certainly have.

sport@thenational.ae