x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A World Cup title triumph will heal a nation: Sangakkara

The country is still on the mend after two decades of civil war and nothing better than putting Sri Lanka on top of the world, says the captain.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, right, surpassed Jonathan Trott as the World Cup's leading run-scorer with his 73 yesterday. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
Tillakaratne Dilshan, right, surpassed Jonathan Trott as the World Cup's leading run-scorer with his 73 yesterday. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

COLOMBO // Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, says victory in Saturday's final in Mumbai would be the perfect gift to his compatriots as the country continues to emerge from years of conflict.

Cricket has often been regarded as a tool for nation building in Sri Lanka, even during the 26-year civil war, which officially ended in 2009.

The last time Sri Lanka played in the World Cup final, four years ago in Barbados, the Tamil Tiger rebels declared a ceasefire because they wanted to watch the match. Sangakkara said his side want to go one better than they managed in 2007, when they finished runners-up to Australia, to help usher in a new future for the country.

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"It means a great deal, especially because of the future that is envisioned for Sri Lanka now, for us to be in this position where we host a Word Cup and the team to get into a final, it bodes very well for the future of our country," he said.

"Cricket has always been the panacea that has healed all wounds in Sri Lanka. Whenever cricket was played, it seemed as if life was back to normal.

"We carry that responsibility whenever we play. We understand the gravity of that, and we also understand what a privilege it is to represent our country.

"We missed a good chance there. We wanted to take that opportunity in 2011 and to be here is very, very special for us."

While Sri Lanka are using their 2007 final hurt as motivation ahead of this weekend, New Zealand are left with a familiar feeling of pain.

They were beaten by a similarly comfortable margin by the same opponents at the semi-final stage four years ago.

Last night was the sixth World Cup semi-final they have lost, and Daniel Vettori, their captain, admitted the hurt his players are feeling is acute.

"It is obviously incredibly disappointing," Vettori, who will now step down as captain after four years in the role, said.

"The group fought so hard to stay in the tournament in that last game [when New Zealand shocked South Africa in the quarter-final] and to come up short here hurts a lot.

"We will look back at losing a number of wickets in that last 10 overs as the turning point.

"We gave everything we could at the end, but when they are chasing less than six an over it becomes incredibly difficult," he added.

pradley@thenational.ae

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More on cricket World Cup

Dravid: India are favourites against Pakistan in today's World Cup semi
India and Pakistan have been two nations with one soul
India captain Dhoni wary of Pakistan counterpart Afridi's spin
When India v Pakistan matches reached boiling point
Time for some hyperbole as Afridi blames media
Sri Lanka recover to beat New Zealand in Muralitharan's send-off game

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