My ardent wish is for Sri Lanka to win another World Cup - Punchihewa | Daily News
Today is the 24th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s historic win

My ardent wish is for Sri Lanka to win another World Cup - Punchihewa

FLASHBACK TO 1996: Ana Punchihewa and Arjuna Ranatunga with the most prized possession the Cricket World Cup.
FLASHBACK TO 1996: Ana Punchihewa and Arjuna Ranatunga with the most prized possession the Cricket World Cup.

With sport around the world and in the country coming to a virtual standstill because of the corona virus epidemic it will be pertinent to recall that today (March 17) marks the 24th anniversary of Sri Lanka winning the Cricket World Cup in Lahore.

When it will happen again is a matter of conjecture. We have come twice come close to laying our hands on the World Cup and lost the finals in 2007 and in 2011.

Ana Punchihewa who was president of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL as it was then known) reliving the moment in Lahore said, “On the day we won the Cup, Arjuna (Ranatunga) receiving the World Cup from Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Arjuna hitting the winning runs, those are the two most memorable moments that I remember that day and most of the people in Sri Lanka also remember.”

“It took a little bit of time to realize that it was really happening and the significance of that moment, then tears came to my eyes that ‘we did it, the boys did it’ that I had played a part in it, a little bit whatever to make it happen, the whole country was very proud of the moment to this day.”

When Punchihewa was elected president of the Cricket Board in 1995 one of his main ambitions was to make Sri Lanka the best cricket playing nation in the world by 2000 and to do that they laid out a corporate plan.

“There were about five of us including Arjuna, Aravinda (de Silva), Dav Whatmore, Anura Tennekoon and Ranjith Fernando the plan was done in September 1995. I can’t remember whether winning the World Cup was one of them but we might have put it there. Our goal was to become the best cricketing nation in Tests and ODIs. Unfortunately I lost the election two weeks after winning the World Cup. That was the saddest day of my life. They threw away the five-year corporate plan,” recalled Punchihewa.

It was one of the most shocking reversals in Sri Lanka cricket’s election history and perhaps the world for a president of a Cricket Board to be ousted two weeks after his country had won the World Cup.

“Never in my life did I dream I would lose. I lost because the votes were brought,” said Punchihewa. “I had another year and I could have pushed through what was in the plan and hopefully what happened later would not have happened. Sri Lanka cricket would have been better off, I don’t know. Those things happen for the best because when I look back there was no money then.

“Money only started to come after the World Cup and no one really interfered much. Interference and all that came after the money and I would have found it very difficult to do my job. Everything I built up would have come to naught with people and the government interfering. Of course the President (at that time) was helpful from the beginning he never interfered at all. I don’t know I would have even resigned.”

The key figures in Sri Lanka’s World Cup win when they beat Australia by seven wickets in the final were according to Punchihewa: “Arjuna the captain, the supporting staff Duleep Mendis (manager and chief selector), Dav Whatmore (coach) and Alex Kountouri (physio) were the people who were there. That was the size of the support staff we had not like now and of course, the team. Other than that, the cricket board committee they gave me their whole-hearted support.

“I said to the team I don’t know much about cricket but more about management and administration and I left them to do what they thought was best and anything they needed I would provide them. One person was Anura Tennekoon he was the secretary at that time of the Board but he resigned before the end of his term and he was not there when we won the World Cup. They made him the director of the cricket academy we were going to have, unfortunately it never came to light.”

Punchihewa said that he hoped that Sri Lanka could do it again and win another World Cup. “It is my ardent wish.”

“At that time we were producing the players through a school system which was supposed to be one of the best in the world. Then it started getting weak. Today the cricket is not upto the standard we had, still I see we have the talent but there is no structure. We have to reduce this stupid number of 25 clubs playing tournament cricket to ten that is first thing that must go , the second thing is to reduce the number of votes from 140 to about 30, then from that will come all the good things,” Punchihewa concluded.

Add new comment