Friday, May 16, 2008

The day Sanath Jayasuriya erupted

For close to a month, those 975,000 dollars seemed to be a bet on the wrong horse, that too on an ageing one.

All those days, Sanath Jayasuriya’s worth as the third most-expensive player in the Indian Premier League was under the scanner.

So were his form, feet-movement and hand-eye coordination. With scores of 29, 20, 1, 18, 18, 34 and 18, Jayasuriya was running out of time to prove his prowess.

The slump would have certainly hurt Jayasuriya. More so as he was off to blazing starts, but just couldn’t produce that defining innings, like his spellbinding 140 against the Kiwis at Bloemfontein in 1994 or that whirlwind 151 not out against India at Wankhede in 1997. “Sanath was disappointed, but with his experience, he knew exactly how to convert those starts into big scores.

It was only a matter of sustaining the tempo and focus throughout,” stated Mumbai Indians’ coach Lalchand Rajput.

You can’t keep a volcano from erupting for long. How many times have we written off Jayasuriya, only for him to hit back with his ballistic willow.

On Wednesday, against the Chennai Super Kings, the simmering volcano by name Jayasuriya just erupted in sheer fury, consuming Chennai’s bowlers in its noxious lava.

Chasing 156, a modest rather than a challenging target, pressure was slightly less on his shoulders. Sachin Tendulkar’s presence on the other end rendered him the cushion to go full-throttle.

He ticked off in his typical fashion, with an onside chip. And then he unfurled that short-arm jab—a shot that has fetched him perhaps a third of his 6,973 Tests runs and 12,301 ODI runs—off to the fence.

Another shot-arm jab over mid-wicket for six off Albie Morkel and a few slashes over the third-man boundary, Jayasuriya was only gearing up. By the end of those six overs, Mumbai, at 78 for no loss, were well and truly in the driver’s seat.

What followed was sheer daredevilry. With unalloyed fluency and blithe, he clobbered, biffed, hammered and bludgeoned the clueless Chennai bowlers through the length and breadth of Wankhede.

Smacking his 50 off 25 balls, he celebrated his maiden T20 ton off his 45th ball, pulling compatriot Chamara Kapugedera over deep-square leg for a six.

Importantly, with four successive wins Mumbai’s fortunes seem rosier than ever before. And if the Marauder from Matara resumes in the same vein, rest assured that bowlers be chasing shadows.

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