Chandimal Is My World Cup Hero

There can’t be any Sri Lankan in Dhaka without a smile.  There can’t be any Sri Lankan anywhere in the world following the World T-20 final who is not smiling at this moment, just a few minutes after Sri Lanka defeated India to win ICC silverware after 18 long years.  The entire team had broad grins. The officials too. And yet, one smile was special.  It belonged to someone who didn’t take the field.  Dinesh Chandimal.

There was a report that Chandimal wept when he heard he was dropped for the Semi-Final against the West Indies (he had been docked for the game against New Zealand due to a slow over-rate).  I don’t know if this is true.  It is never a happy thing to be dropped.  It is probably worse not to be picked at all (ask Marvan Atapattu, he has booked the defining chapter on ‘The Book of Drops’ if and when it gets written).  It was not that Chandimal was not picked. It was not that he was dropped. What is ‘special’ about it all is that he was the designated captain of the team that went on to win the Championship.  And he, the captain, was dropped!   ‘Devastating’ doesn’t quite describe what he probably would have felt.  

The man was woefully out of form and as Lasitha Malinga’s short and successful ‘captaining’ experience showed, a team that already had four skippers (Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillekeratne Dilshan and Angelo Matthews) didn’t really have to worry about him being dropped.  As someone pointed out, there was the ‘National Captain’, Lasith Malinga, and there was the ‘Leadership Council’ made of the aforementioned skippers.  Mahela led the leaders, it was pretty obvious.  

What is beautiful about it all is that it was an issue for everyone except for Sri Lankans.  It is hard to think that the press of any country would not have raised a lot of questions if a designated captain abdicated for all intents and purposes in favor of one the men he is supposed to be leading.  For Sri Lankans, apart from a few wry jokes, it was as it should be. Logical to the last letter. 

Still.

Still there’s the small issue of a young man who had been appointed captain and had to lead players who had a dozen years’ worth of experience more than he did.  There’s the small issue of having left Sri Lanka as captain and having to watch the final from the dressing room.  There’s also the small issue of Dinesh Chandimal running around the ground after Sri Lanka won the match, carrying the man who put the final touches to the campaign on his shoulders.  Dinesh Chandimal helped hold Kumar Sangakkara high.  He couldn’t stop smiling a schoolboyish smile.  That delight was unadulterated. That admiration was unadulterated.  And in this, there was as much ‘team,’ ‘team-spirit,’ and ‘leadership’ than anything we were privileged to watch unfold out there in the middle of the ground.  

There was courage on the part of the selectors, that unhappy, ready to be maligned tribe; for they dropped the captain. Had Sri Lanka lost, someone might have said ‘you can’t win a match after dropping a final’.  Someone else might have said, ‘why did you pick him in the first place?’  A third might say ‘were you crazy to make him captain?’  Sanath was bold. Chandimal was humble.  

Now that’s a World Cup story right there.  In some strange, round-about way, therein lies a gene-fact of a team-corporeality that helped bring the World Cup to Sri Lanka.  We didn’t have a single stand-out player in this tournament (as opposed to the previous two editions).  We do best, perhaps, when we do it together.  Dinesh Chandimal did his part and did it well.  With utmost grace.  Take a bow, Chandimal  

 

 


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