[size=14pt]Sri Lanka hoping to revive happy memories [/size]
CRICKET: Sri Lanka will be hoping to revive their happy memories of the 1996 World Cup semifinal clash when they take on India in the first of the four one day internationals at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata under lights here on Thursday.
It was at this venue ten years ago that Sri Lanka under the captaincy of Arjuna Ranatunga stamped their class on a turning wicket to beat a powerful Indian team to reach their first ever World Cup final.
Sri LankaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s success in this game also had the Indian cricket fans shell shocked as they displayed their disgust by setting fire to some of the areas of the stands and throwing fruit and water bottles onto the field.
This was of course not the first time that there had been riots at Eden Gardens because matches were disrupted again due to unruly crowd behaviour in 1966/67 against the West Indies and in 1969/70 against Australia.
Even then this venue has now become a place of pilgrimage for many international cricketers where they get the opportunity of making an impact in front of the most passionate and vocal crowds in the game.
India were tottering at 120 for 8 in 34.1 overs while chasing Sri LankaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s challenging total of 251 for 8 in that crucial semifinal fixture after being put into bat by skipper Mohammed Azharuddin. The match was briefly stopped after the fall of the 8th Indian wicket but when play was about to resume the crowd again threw bottles at the deep fielders.
The match referee Clive Lloyd then stopped the game and awarded the match to Sri Lanka by default as they were on the threshold of victory.
This was also the fourth win for the team batting first at this venue from five matches played under lights. Sri Lanka never looked back from there onwards and went on to beat Australia in the final to lift the ICC World Cup for the first time.
This game will also be a significant one for the veteran Sanath Jayasuriya who played havoc with the Indian middle order in that historic outing while claiming the important wickets of opener Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjerkar and Ajey Jadeja.
The dynamic Sri Lankan all rounder also held on to two brilliant catches to get rid of opener Navjot Singh Sidhu and wicket keeper batsman Nayan Mongia.
The other two surviving members of the Sri Lankan team are of course paceman Chaminda Vass and the champion off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who are in fact being rested for this four match series.
But the real match winner on that occasion was the master batsman Aravinda de Silva who launched a superb counter attack to make 66 from 63 deliveries with the help of fourteen boundaries.
De Silva played one of the most memorable innings in front of a capacity crowd of more than 90,000 to lift the Sri Lankans to a strong position after they had lost the explosive openers Sanath Jayasuriya (1), Romesh Kaluwitharana (0) and Asanka Gurusinha (1) with only 35 runs on the board.
Sri LankaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s total of 251 for 8 in this match is of course was not the highest team score at this venue. They made another lasting impression in their next appearance in 1997 when they hammered a huge 309 against Pakistan. IndiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best batting effort at Eden Gardens has been their total of 292 for 6 against their traditional rivals Pakistan in 2004/05.
India also had the credit of dismissing the West Indies for a mere 123 runs at this venue in 1993/94 which is upto now the lowest ever one day total at Kolkata.
The Eden Gardens was established in the year 1864 and hosted its inaugural test match in January 1934 where India played against England.
The Indians were still going through their cricketing infancy at that stage with Douglas JardineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team cruising to victory well inside four days.
The first ever one day international was played here in February 1987 when India took on their traditional rivals Pakistan. The Eden Gardens in Kolkata is also profiled along with the MCG in Australia and the LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in England and remains cricketÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s answer to the Coliseum.
Chris Dhambarage in Kolkata, India