Asia Cup cricket victory lifts spirits of crisis-hit Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans celebrate the win as a rare moment of respite amid a dire economic crisis.

Sri Lanka players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Asia Cup in Dubai [Christopher Pike/Reuters]

Sri Lanka has burst into spontaneous celebrations as it won the Asia Cup tournament for the sixth time in the shortest form of cricket in Dubai.

Skipper Dasun Shanaka called Sunday’s Asia Cup triumph a “real turnaround” for Sri Lankan cricket ahead of the T20 World Cup, and dedicated the win to the crisis-hit nation.

Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan by 23 runs in the final with Bhanuka Rajapaksa hitting an unbeaten 71 and Wanindu Hasaranga starring with bat and ball.

Firecrackers burst, cars honked and fans danced at Galle Face promenade in the capital, where the tournament was televised live on a giant screen.

“This is a super surprise,” Mohamed Thimal, 24, who watched the game at Galle Face, told AFP news agency. “We didn’t expect a win because we have not won a tournament recently.”

“Very happy, very happy,” shouted Jameel Irshad, who was celebrating with friends at Galle Face, which until July was the launch pad for toppling President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over economic mismanagement as the island faced its worst economic crisis in decades.

The country is enduring hyperinflation, and lengthy power blackouts and is facing acute shortages of food, fuel and medicines after running out of foreign exchange to pay for imports since late last year.

Rajapaksa’s successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was among the first to congratulate the national team.

“Congratulations to the Sri Lankan cricket team on winning the Asia Cup 2022. Well played Pakistan! The second championship for today. Goes to show that, with dedication and determination we can overcome challenges as a nation. Onwards and upwards Sri Lanka!” he said on Twitter.

Government employee Prathana Weerasinghe noted that Sunday’s cricket win came hours after Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup in women’s netball at a tournament in Singapore.

“A very, very proud day! Girls did earlier today and now boys. Wow, What else? Happiest day in years,” Weerasinghe told AFP.

Hemalatha Tillakaratne, 72, said she feared the government could institute price hikes as the country savoured the rare sporting victories.

“Today they didn’t impose the power cut because of the match, but they will start the blackouts again from tomorrow. They could also use this win to increase prices from tomorrow,” Tillakaratne told AFP.

Another fan, Krishani Athauda, 42, said the victory was so much sweeter because of the $200,000 prize money at a time when Sri Lanka is scrounging for foreign exchange to pay for essentials.”We are happy that we won the (cricket) Asia Cup despite the economic crisis,” Athauda said.

“At a time when people are suffering, this is a relief.”

A stream of messages from the cricket world in other countries poured on social media to congratulate the Sri Lankan team on its victory:

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies