Arjuna Fire

NEW DELHI, Feb 24, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka had always been a talented side often giving the impression of being too soft on the field until captain Arjuna Ranatunga changed it all with his aggressive approach to win the 1996 World Cup. They always had skilful individuals, but as a team they achieved worldwide fame only under Ranatunga who taught his players to have faith in their ability and never to be overawed by the opposition.

Ranatunga defied history in the final when he put Mark Taylor’s Australians in to bat after winning the toss – no team had ever won the World Cup chasing a target.

“I am not a person who takes much notice of history,” said Ranatunga.

“We knew we could win that game by batting second. When I won the toss, I knew that we would have a very good chance of winning if we could keep the Australians down to 250 or 260.”

Australia were restricted to 241 after being 137-1 at one stage, thanks to Ranatunga’s clever use of his spinners. Sri Lanka then rode on Aravinda de Silva’s masterful century to win by seven wickets at Lahore.

The victory changed Sri Lanka cricket for ever. Once the self-belief was gained, they were never to be taken lightly by the opposition in coming years.

“This is a