Equipped to help
Jamie Hunt blogs on how England's defunct World Cup kit is helping to put smiles on Sri Lankan faces.
Last Updated: 28/03/11 5:45pm
In the end, there was just wasn't enough left in the tank. The great entertainers of this World Cup just didn't have one last performance in them.
They overcame the dogged Dutch, thrilled against India in a tied match, allowed Ireland to chase 328, stunned South Africa, elated Bangladesh and saw off West Indies in the last chance saloon in Chennai. England brought drama and excitement to this competition.
The optimistic sentiment among fans and media, and even the team, was that England had delivered when needed, so why not again?
And defending 230 after batting first in Colombo against South Africa, even the half-time mood was a positive one. But Sri Lanka then taught England a lesson in run-chasing on slow, turning wickets and with every boundary in an unbroken partnership England's energy ebbed. Their contribution to this World Cup didn't deserve such an emphatic exit.
After the match some of the players let their hair down after a long winter with a few drinks... and then a few more. There will have been a few sore heads boarding an early flight the next morning for London but no complaints. Disappointed not to be in the final, but finally going home.
Many in this squad, Andrew Strauss, James Anderson and Paul Collingwood among them, had been away since October 29. They returned home on March 27th, just after the clocks went forward to bring in British Summer Time. The two days they spent at home in between Australia and the World Cup were the only two days of British winter they saw.
So their disappointment at not making the World Cup semi-final had the silver lining of finally being able to go home.
There's a nice tale to tell to about some of the England players that won't make many of the newspapers or tv screens back home. No longer in the competition they don't need all of the mountains of kit they carry around and some decided to give theirs away to the local fanatics of cricket.
In the running for the nicest man in cricket awards alongside Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara is England's Luke Wright. He'd already given away boots and kit to kids outside the ground following their defeat. Back at the team hotel he emerged from the lift with more.
But failing to find some children to pass this stash onto he gave it to an England fan staying in the hotel. But this fan, far from grateful, on receipt of the kit decided to give Wright a four-letter, x-rated verdict of England's performance. The kit is now with the SSN crew and we will pass on to some of the children that live with very little, other than their love of cricket, outside the Premadassa Stadium.
That's the other aspect of the stay in Sri Lanka that we have tried to bring to you at home while here in Colombo. We've seen it India and also in Bangladesh, but if it's possible, they love their cricket even more here.
Once again everyone wants to know why you are here, who would win the quarter final, can Sri Lanka win the World Cup and who is your favourite player? On the beach, in parks, in the roads, on scrubland and even on a small lawn outside a temple next the ground, there is always a game of cricket taking place. Cliché alert... Cricket is a religion here.
In the build-up to the semi-final between Sri Lanka and New Zealand we filmed the game outside the temple to try to paint the picture of the passion for cricket in Sri Lanka.
While we filmed and played one little lad, Aseeta, gave us a running commentary. He entertained more than Tony Greig and Bill Laurie and so we had to give him the microphone. He is a future commentator in the making.
I'd hate to know what he actually said about my own efforts. I tried my hand at bowling but the young batsman at the other end dispatched my upswinger (a mythical delivery learned as a youth of in Oxfordshire that swings up just at the point it is about to hit the surface) over the road for six. The young lad was dismissive and I was soon replaced.
On the previous day the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation took a delegation of media out to Northern Sri Lanka to see a project they are launching with the help of Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Vaughan and Sir Ian Botham.
The project will build a state-of-the-art school and sports facilities for local people and children living in the aftermath of a civil war that raged here for 20 years and claimed ten of thousands of lives.
Murali has secured 50 acres of land for the site and dedicates his time away from cricket to such projects. He retires after this World Cup and the country is lucky to have a legend of his stature trying so hard to re-unite and give hope to his people.
The ever-eloquent and intelligent Sangakkara spoke of how the passion for cricket could be the uniting force for two peoples who have been at war for so long and suffered so much. They will succeed through cricket, he said, and it is hard not to believe him.
The pictures we saw of the decimated country in the north and then the joy they showed when given cricket bats and balls, as well as everyday necessities such as mosquito nets, torches, jerry cans for water, makes you realise how much this game means to them.
Vaughan spoke with passion of what he saw. It gives you great perspective he said. We get cross if the trains are late or if you have no signal on your mobile phone. Then you see people who have nothing but are thrilled to be given a bat and ball.
Removed from communications and often without power, the one piece of information they always seem to receive is the latest cricket score involving Sri Lanka. If they win this World Cup in Mumbai, the whole country will celebrate together.
And for that reason alone it's easy not to be too disappointed that England's entertainers have gone home. I'll be supporting Sri Lanka for the rest of the competition.
For more information on Laureus Sport for Good, please visit www.laureus.com/foundation