Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At 40 - A Tribute to Sanath Jayasuriya

by Vineet Sharma

Matara Marauder'
Sanath Jayasuriya had a rather sedate start to his international career, and based on his first few visits to the crease, it would have taken a brave man to bet that this southpaw would go down as one of the legends of modern cricket.

Jayasuriya's first steps in international cricket were at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a One-Day game on 26 December 1989, against the Australians. Jayasuriya walked in to bat at number five and his innings fizzled out for just three runs. In his debut series, Jayasuriya could manage a top-score of just 31 runs. The Sri Lankan southpaw's left-arm bowling skills outshone his batting abilities in the beginning of his career. In fact his batting powers did not dawn upon him until his first half-century against the Pakistanis at Sharjah, four years after his One-day debut.

A year later, Jayasuriya blasted his maiden One-Day century against the Kiwis at Bloemfontein. The knock was manufactured at a strike-rate of 97.90, which even now is a smashing rate for scoring runs in 50 overs cricket. The innings of 140 runs showed glimpses of the explosive bastman that Jaysuriya was to be in the future. Two years later in the Wills World Cup in India, Jayasuriya tweaked the burner and turned on the heat.

Given a free hand by his captain Arjuna Ranatunga, Jayasuriya assaulted the opponent bowlers right from the start. He went for boundaries off each delivery and the plan worked well for the Sri Lankan team, who then lifted the 1996 World Cup on the back of Jayasuriya's pyrotechnics at the top.

Jayasuriya's 'pinch-hitting' suddenly changed the way teams approached the start of a One-day innings. From the sedate, Jayasuriya changed it to supersonic. If the bat in the hands of Jaysuriya was a like magic wand, the ball in his spinning fingers spun a web of deception. Ranatunga and many other Sri Lankan captains used his left-arm spin in the middle-overs and also in the death.

Even in Test Match cricket, Jayasuriya kept the full-blast approach. From Colombo to the Oval, via Karachi; on seaming pitches, in swinging conditions, Jaysuriya became the all conquering master batsman for Sri Lanka. The star, the lyncpin, the crisis-man, he wore all the hats and racked up 14 Test Match centuries. Sanath seemed particulary fond of his neighbours India and Pakistan, as he has carved four and three centuries rescpectively against the two sub-continent opponents. His highest Test score was a run-fest of 340 runs against the doomed Indian side at Colombo.

In One-day cricket, Jayasuriya's records are stunning. The left-hander has scored 28 hundreds and scalped 313 wickets and is the fourth batsman in the game to stack up more than 10,000 runs in ODIs.

Being the top player in his team Jayasuriya was eventually handed the captaincy of the Sri Lankan team , but a disastrous campaign in the 2003 World Cup, and timid form with the bat, forced his resignation in April 2003. A lean patch followed but Jayasuriya was soon back to his normal run-scoring self in 2004. Apart from this blip, Jayasuriya created a mild furore by announcing his retirement from Test cricket in 2006. He back-tracked his statement and eventually played his last Test in 2007.

Jayasuriya carried on his One-day form to the T20 way of things. In the World Twenty20 in South Africa, Jayasuriya scored a scorching 88 runs, which now remains as his top-score in the shortest format of the game. Incidentally, the left-hander at 38, was the oldest player in the T20 WC in 2007. This fact is a statement about Jayasuriya's fitness and longevity, and also his ability to adapt to all forms of the game.

At the age of 39, Jayasuriya became the oldest man to score an ODI century. The second season of the IPL saw him plundering runs for the Mumbai Indians and in the this year's T20 WC in England, Jayasuriya played his part in taking his team to the finals. Now at 40, the man seems unstoppable with his run-scoring spree. Jayasuriya is veteran now, but his heroics with the bat and his enthusiasm and passion for the game, cannot be matched by most young cricketers. Jayasuriya is truly a legend of the game, and one can only say 'Jaya Ho'!

Source : MSN

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