Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sri Lanka Cricket's Tribute to 20 years of Jayasuriya

For twenty long years the south paw has done yeoman service to Sri Lanka cricket. He has brought smiles upon the faces of many Sri Lankans at home and abroad. The down trodden, the sick and the bed ridden, school boys, house wives, together with the elite were recipients of his fantastic talent which he has displayed all around the world

“Sanath Jayasuriya there is something about that name”, quote unquote Sunil Gavaskar. “This man Jayasuriya is something you know” quote unquote Bob Willis. “I have not seen Sir Don Bradman bat but I have had the privilege of playing against Jayasuriya and see him bat” quote unquote Sachin Tendulkar. Many accolades of praise have been stated about his ability both with the bat and ball, further many have admired his agility on the field not only when he wore a younger mans clothes but even as a 40 year old.

Views that matter from men that matter has been expressed; hence if I were to state all I would be recording 13,248 pages equivalent to his one day runs. However I like to share a few thoughts I shared with Glen Magrath and Venkatesh Prasad who have bowled at this great player. I remember in an exclusive interview I had with Magrath he explained why Jayasuriya was so dangerous as a batsman. “Look mate if you do not hit the correct areas he makes you look a school boy”. Venkatesh while playing for India and that too at his peak told me “ How I wish I was not playing in this match, bowling to Jayasuriya I only think of how many runs I’d go for”.
Sanath is so unassuming, extremely modest, hero worshipped all around the world , but what I admire about him most are his religious values, his respect for his parents, his honesty with the media, last but not the least his transparency with his players when he captained the national team.

Sanaths’ life as a star was never ever a bed of roses. The media and the public will make him a hero, talk about him in the luxury of their homes, in public places, call it what you may. When he has a bad day, the wrath upon him is worse than the Kotla pitch in which he celebrated his 20th year in the centre.

Jayasuriya has had many nasty injuries, ask the different physiotherapists who had treated him , they will have one common statement and that is that Jayasuriya recovers much quicker than most players in the world.

Our memories go back to when he started a new dimension in the one day arena with Romesh Kaluwitharana in 1995, which many emulate in the current era. Teams around the world were kept on their toes while he was at the wickets. The great 340 against India at the R.Premadasa Stadium is his highest in the test arena. That onslaught still hurts the Indians. So many tons in the shorter version of the game. India came in for another battering in Sharjah where Jayasuriya nearly broke the world record in the one day arena scoring that super 189.

In World Cup 1996 when Manoj Prabhakar came for a big hiding from Jayasuriyas’ bat at the Kotla Stadium in Delhi, patriotic Indian Cricket fans held placards stating “We want a mother to give birth to a Jayasuriya in India”.

The lad that hails from Matara has proved to the world and especially to the Englishmen that copybook style of playing strokes is ancient. His unorthodox approach and great improvisation is what fetched him so many runs and made him an impossible batsman to bowl to on his day.
When England was at the receiving end from another Jayasuriya onslaught during World Cup 1996 Geoffrey Boycott the Yorkshire man, was tongue tied and called Jayasuriya a bully against a very good English bowling attack which looked mediocre to the eyes of the south paw.

What a career, he started his International career in 1989 and in 444 one day Internationals has made 13,248 runs with 28 centuries and 68 fifties.

In the test arena Jayasuriya has accumulated 6,973 runs with 14 hundreds and 31 fifties in 110 Test Matches. He bid good bye to test cricket in December 2007, but at least let’s be thankful that he is still in the reckoning for the shorter version of the game.

Sri Lanka Cricket will felicitate him shortly for his great accolades, unfortunately due to Sanath Jayasuriya’s recent International commitments the elaborate arrangements for the function could not be publicized. A felicitation for our great hero Jayasuriya be it mega or simple is inevitable very soon. Thank you Sanath for those great memories, to all of us you will live in our hearts as one of the greatest to have worn the Sri Lanka cap.

[VIDEO] Chanel Eye's report on 20 years of Jayasuriya

Jayasuriya, Malinga, Mendis, Kapugedara dropped for Bangla Tri series

End of the Road ?

Jayawardena, Fernando, Muralitharan not considered for the Bangladesh tri series

 The moment of truth has finally arrived for 40-year old Sanath Jayasuriya when Sri Lankan national cricket selectors decided yesterday to drop the legendary all rounder for the forthcoming triangular series in Bangladesh also involving India.

According to sources, the dashing left hander who completed 20 years in international cricket on December 26 has lost his touch since lately and the selectors gave him a final opportunity in the recent series against India using the opener as a middle order batsman but he proved to be a failure.

The former Sri Lankan skipper who was much talked about in recent times for appearing in political TV advertisements for the forthcoming Presidential election retired from test cricket last year but plays ODI and T20 for Sri Lanka. Selectors have also axed out of form batsman Chamara Kapugedara, paceman Lasith Malinga and spinner Ajantha Mendis. Selectors have felt that Malinga has lost his focus while Mendis has been dropped for poor bowling form as well as for below par fielding.

Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene, world record holder Muttiah Muralitharan and paceman Dilhara Fernando have not been considered for selection due to injuries. Chamara Silva returns to add experience to the middle order along with opener Mahela Udawatte while promising left hander Lahiru Thirimanne has been given a break.

All rounder Angelo Mathews has been picked subject to fitness.

Probable Sri Lanka squad: 

Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sagakkara (captain), Thilina Kandamby, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Malinga Bandara, Thisara Perera, Suraj Randiv, Thilan Thushara, Chanaka Welagedara and Mahela Udawatte.


(Official announcement on SLC page)

Monday, December 28, 2009

A tribute to two decades of Sanath `The Matara Mauler’

He made his ODI debut on December 26 1989 just a few days after Sachin Tendulkar played in his first such game. All the same one is not sure Tendulkar will be around at 40 however enthusiastic he remains about the game. But here is Sanath Jayasuriya still playing limited overs cricket a few months after his 40th birthday and 20 years in cricket. ODIs and Twenty20 s a young man’s game?

Try telling that to the ever youthful `Matara Mauler’ who is still boyishly enthusiastic about the game, still hungry for success and still wants to win matches for his team. These positive factors have seen him carrying on when cricketers who started out after him have longed called it a day.

Just a few months ago Jayasuriya was the first cricketer to get an ODI hundred past the age of 40. Only last year he had become the oldest centurion in ODIs. At 39 years and 212 days he broke the record of Geoff Boycott who was 39 years and 51 days when he scored a hundred against Australia in Sydney in 1979. I wrote then that a century past the age of 40 could not be ruled out for Jayasuriya and I was happy that the swashbuckling left hander proved me right. Verily he has sipped from the fountain of youth.

Not too long ago Jayasuriya was the first to play 400 ODIs a mark soon equaled by Tendulkar. At the moment he has played 444 matches a few more than Tendulkar. In matters of runs (over 13,000) and centuries (28) he stands second to Tendulkar. But of course when you add his 300-odd wickets – Tendulkar’s tally is around the 150-mark - it can clearly be seen that Jayasuriya is one of the greatest one day players ever. Even at an age when people have long since called it a day from what is essentially a young man’s game there is no indication that he will be retiring even though it is about two years since he called it a day in Test cricket.

Clearly the secret behind Jayasuriya’s successful career is that he enjoys the game and that he is still young at heart. It was this upbeat attitude that saw him enjoy himself in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa particularly while hitting 88 off 44 balls against Kenya and following this up with 61 off 44 balls against a much stronger New Zealand attack. Even as Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly – all younger than Jayasuriya - opted out of the tournament Jayasuriya was still around to regale audiences in the newest and shortest format of the game. But then of course he has been
regaling audiences all over the cricketing world for almost two decades.

It is a tribute to his skill, enthusiasm and fitness levels that Jayasuriya has lasted so long and like good wine, seems to be getting better with age. Certainly the end of his career is nowhere in sight as yet. He did in fact announce his retirement in 2006 but almost immediately retracted his decision. Which was just as well for Jayasuriya still had much to contribute to the cause of Sri Lankan cricket and had still a lot to contribute by way of entertainment to spectators and the TV audiences all over the cricketing world.

Jayasuriya has lit up one-day cricket at the highest level ever since his power-hitting at the top of the order enabled Sri Lanka to win the 1996 World Cup. At his peak in the mid and late 90s Jayasuriya the buccaneering batsman emptied bars as followers of the game rushed to their seats to watch him take the bowling apart. Similarly cricket fans rushed to the TV sets as Jayasuriya wasted little time in sending the new ball to all parts of the grounds. Fours and sixes flowed off his blade and I was once a happy witness to Jayasuriya and his swashbuckling opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana bringing up Sri Lanka’s fifty in 3.2 overs against Kenya in the World Cup match at Kandy in 1996. He was certainly the batsman whom bowlers did not want to come up against for it was mayhem from ball one. He intimidated bowlers like few batsmen have done dispatching even good balls to the fence by extraordinary hand eye coordination and super fast reflexes complimenting his natural talent.

Where does one start to reel off Jayasuriya’s outstanding performances in ODIs? He still holds the record of fastest 50 (off 17 balls), has hit a century off 48 balls, shares the highest partnership (with Upul Tharanga) of 286 for the first wicket, is the only player to complete the double of 10,000 runs and 300 wickets, has hit the third highest individual score (189) and possesses a career strike rate of over 91 which is really quite mind boggling considering how long he has been playing.

One must also not forget that he has been an outstanding player at the Test level – second to Mahela Jayawardene in the runs tally (almost 7000) at a pretty impressive average of 40 coupled with a bag of almost 100 wickets. Till Jayawardene overtook it in 2006 Jayasuriya held the record for highest individual score for Sri Lanka (340 against India in 1997).

In the new millennium as players like Adam Gilchrist, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Shahid Afridi, Andrew Symonds, Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen have upped the career strike rate to anything between 91 and 110 Jayasuriya achieving the status of elder statesman has stayed in the background. And even if there are finally some indications that he is nearing the end of the road what a remarkable career it has been!

(Source - Article by Partab Ramchand)

Kotla Pitch had become dangerous - Sanath Jayasuriya

'I took blows on my helmet, shoulder, knuckles... Batting was tough…’ says Sanath Jayasuriya

Calcutta: Sri Lanka’s senior-most pro Sanath Jayasuriya, who completed 20 years as an international cricketer on Saturday, felt that the Kotla pitch had “become dangerous.”

“I had to take guard on the second ball itself and it definitely wasn’t the best wicket to bat on... The bounce was too uncertain... Gradually, it got worse and the surface had become dangerous,” Jayasuriya told The Telegraph, on Sunday evening.

The 40-year-old added: “I took blows on my helmet, shoulder, knuckles... Batting was tough, but I had to stay put... Actually, because of the situation, my job was to just remain there...”

After doing the hard work for 94 minutes, Jayasuriya fell leg before, not to a quick, but to Harbhajan Singh.

He scored 31, the highest. The abandonment came seven overs later.

In an unusual coincidence, of the 22 players for the day, Jayasuriya alone featured in the abandonment in Indore, 12 years ago.

Sure, the Kotla pitch wasn’t fit for play, but the fact still is that today’s batsmen grow up in a somewhat soft environment, with every kind of protective gear available on the shelves. So, the alarm bells probably ring louder the moment the wicket does something out of the ordinary.

It used to be very different when, for example, Brian Close (1976) and Mohinder Amarnath (1983) stood up to the West Indies quicks...


Golden bat for Jayasuria on completing 20 years in cricket

MUMBAI – Disappointment was clearly within his heart when Sanath Jayasuriya, in his recent interview to cricinfo, said, “the sad thing is, I don’t know whether the Sri Lankan cricket board is even aware that I’m completing 20 years today!”

Jayasuriya made his ODI debut against Australia at Melbourne exactly 20 years ago on 26th December 1989.

Jayasuriya has seen the felicitation of his IPL-teammate Sachin Tendulkar who had received a warm felicitation for completing the same number of years in cricket.

“Yes, we are aware about his services to the nation,” DS D’Silva, the chairman and Nishantha Ranatunga, the board secretary said from Colombo.

“We (the interm committee members) have agreed to felicitate him on his return to Sri Lanka,” they further added. “We shall present him a golden bat worth Rs 5,00,000.” However, Jayasuriya may have to wait for the golden bat.

“We are waiting for the big occasion to present him this bat,” the chairman said. Sadly, it had not been announced officially yet.

Interestingly, Sanath Jayasuriya is the first cricketer to be appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador (by UNAIDS, Geneva) for his commitment to prevention of HIV/AIDS among young people in Sri Lanka.

He is the only player to score more than 13,000 runs and capture more than 300 wickets in one day internationals.

The SLC board is not likely to take action against Indian cricket board for the bad-pitch at Kotla where the match had to be called off for uneven bounce in the wicket. “We shall first see what the match-referee (Australia’s A G Hurst) has to say in his report to the ICC before reacting on the match,” D’Silva added.


Sanath revolutionized one-day cricket

by Shirajiv Sirimane in India

“I have not seen Don Bradman bat, but I have seen Sanath Jayasuriya.
I have not seen a better batsman in my cricketing career.” - Sachin Tendulkar.

One-day cricket began between English county teams on May 02, 1962 and the One-Day International (ODI) match was played in Melbourne in 1971 between England and Australia.

However the face of the game was completely changed by a Sri Lankan player almost 20 years after it began ironically in Australia itself. This player is the living legend of Sri Lanka cricket Sanath Jayasuriya together with Romesh Kaluwithrane and Coach Dav Whitmore invented the ‘hit out’ tactics in the first 15 overs of the game first rattling the high riding the Australians and then the entire cricketing world.

The tactic used was to take advantage of the early fielding restrictions by smashing the opening bowlers to all parts of the cricket ground, rather than the established tactic of building up momentum gradually.

He set bench marks for other countries to follow and due to this tactic Sanath and Kalu were one of the awesome ODI openers in the world entertaining crowds and TV viewers.

“Sanath has been an inspiration for Sri Lankan cricket from 1996 onwards, when he turned ODI cricket upside down. He is a valuable player and there was a time when we were over-dependent on him.

The whole dressing room would be silent after his dismissal and he created an atmosphere in which you feel that if he is with us, you are invincible,” Sangakkara summed up last Saturday in India.

Jayasuriya is known for both cuts and pulls along with his trademark shot, a lofted cut over point.

He was the key player in Sri Lanka’s victory in the 1996 Cricket World Cup, where he was adjudged Man of the Tournament in recognition of his all-round contributions.

Jayasuriya, 40, made his international debut on December 26, 1989 against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Jayasuriya is the second highest scorer in ODIs, next to Sachin Tendulkar. In 443 matches, he has scored 13,397 runs with 28 centuries and 68 half centuries.

He was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1997 and served as captain of the Sri Lankan team in 38 Test matches from 1999 to 2003.

Jayasuriya held the record for the highest Test score made by a Sri Lankan, 340 against India in 1997.

This effort was part of a second-wicket partnership with Roshan Mahanama that set the then all-time record for any partnership in Test history, with 576 runs.

Both records were surpassed in July 2006 when fellow Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene scored 374 as part of a 624-run partnership with Kumar Sangakkara against South Africa. On 20 September 2005, during the Second Test of the home series against Bangladesh, Jayasuriya became the first Sri Lankan to play 100 Tests, and the 33rd Test cricketer to achieve this feat.

Sanath has said that he can not think of a life without cricket. “Now my ambition is the next world cup,” he said.

It has been 20 years since Sri Lankan heavyweight Jayasuriya began his international career and many have seen him in cricket and for those who are not keen on cricket he comes to the TV screens via electronics and of course in series of advertisements ranging from banking to fiancé agriculture to fast moving consumer goods.

But only a few Sri Lankans know that Sanath is a world known figure as he is the first cricketer to be appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador (by UNAIDS, Geneva) for his commitment to prevention of HIV/AIDS among young people in Sri Lanka.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

SLC forgets, but President congratulates Jayasuriya

Veteran batsman Sanath Jayasuriya had a surprise telephone call from President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday congratulating the senior cricketer on completing 20 years of international cricket. However, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) snubbed the cricketer as it took no efforts to mark the occasion.

The President had called up the cricketer in New Delhi yesterday morning where he was preparing to play the fifth and final One-Day International against India.

But surprisingly none of SLC’s highly paid officials or the appointed Interim Committee members took the trouble to call up the cricketer.

SLC has been quick to draft and distribute media releases, even when its chairman D.S. de Silva distributed cricket goods, but surprisingly had overlooked the important milestone.

Only Javed Miandad and Sachin Tendulkar have represented their countries in ODI cricket for more than 20 years.

Jayasuriya first played for Sri Lanka in 1989 on Boxing Day when he appeared in a One-Day International at the MCG against Australia, and since then, has been ever-present in the Sri Lankan team and went on to captain the side for four years.

Playing under Arjuna Ranatunga, Jayasuriya’s debut was inauspicious as he was dismissed by Merv Hughes for just three runs, but he went on to have a successful international career, the highlight of which was being named the ‘Player of the Tournament’ in the 1996 World Cup.


I'd like to play for another six months - Sanath Jayasuriya | Interview Part II

Jayasuriya on his immediate goals, the captains and coaches he's played under, his favourite opposition and his best innings

Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi
December 27, 2009

"One important thing that has played a big role in my success is hand-eye coordination. If the ball is in my zone, I will always go after it"

Moving on to the 1996 World Cup - can you talk about the knock against India in Delhi?

The Delhi match was unique. When India got 275, we never expected to win. But once Kalu [Romesh Kaluwitharana] and I went after the new ball, India didn't know what was going on. My 79 came off 76 balls. It was one of the best things in that tournament, when we chased that target easily. The highlight for me was getting a lot of runs against [Manoj] Prabhakar. We made 50 in the first four overs and most of the runs I made against Prabhakar. He was one of the most difficult bowlers I faced early in my career because of the swing he could get. But on that day I felt really nice and I didn't want to stop.

What about the 82 against England in the quarter-final? 

That was a must-win match. In the team meeting I raised a concern about never having faced [Phil] DeFreitas, and said I might find it difficult. Arjuna just said, "Don't worry about the names, just go out and hit."

Which are your best innings in Tests and ODIs? 

In ODIs, the 189 in Sharjah against India remains the best. The next best was the 152 at Headingley, where we were chasing 322, which we got to in less than 40 overs. In Test cricket, the 213 [at The Oval in 1998] will always remain at the top, followed closely by the 148 against South Africa in Galle in 2000, where I nearly got a hundred in one session.

Interesting that you do not mention the 340 in the 1997 Test series against India. After that knock Sachin Tendulkar said, "I have not seen Don Bradman bat, but I have seen Sanath Jayasuriya. I have not seen a better batsman in my cricketing career…" 

I do rate that innings very highly because I was under a lot of pressure as an opening batsman. I do remember the appreciation from Tendulkar. He is legend.

What is it about Tendulkar that stands out for you? 

He is very calm, cool, and a pleasant character. It is an unbelievable experience to play alongside him in the IPL for the Mumbai Indians. His only message to me always has been "Keep enjoying and playing your game."

The one ability I would like from Tendulkar is the way he treats every player in the team the same. He understands there is no one special as that will hurt the other players. That and his calm demeanour.

Murali is another individual who has been around as long as you. What is it that makes him special?
He is a very hardworking guy, despite having gone through a rougher time than any other cricketer in this world. The outsiders always had a different attitude towards him but he took everything in his stride and became the world's No.1 bowler. His whole-hearted attitude is amazing.

What I have always admired about Murali is how he is always willing to support new young players: he points out to them how hard it is to be an international cricketer and how difficult it is to be in that position for a long period. He loves to share his insights.

Where would you place him in Sri Lankan's cricket history? 

Murali without doubt occupies an important place in our country's history. But Arjuna and Aravinda worked hard to bring him to the important position he is in today in world cricket.

Tell us a bit about Aravinda. 

I rate Aravinda as the best batsman ever produced by Sri Lanka. If he wanted, he could get a hundred anytime he wished, in any match, against any opposition. Not everyone can do that. In no time he could race to a half-century - that was the beauty of Aravinda.

He was very useful in my early cricketing life and I am glad I met him, Arjuna [Ranatunga], [Roshan] Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan [Tillakaratne] - these five were the main pillars of Sri Lanka's World Cup success in 1996.

Who are the batsmen you have enjoyed watching? 

When my cricket career started, Viv Richards was on his way out of the game but he was still a delight and I loved watching him. Then came Aravinda, Brian Lara, Tendulkar, and now there is Virender Sehwag. All these have different methods to their art.

What is the difference in cricket in the 1990s and in this decade? 

The game now is different. There is more technology, and the way players approach the game is different. The bowlers have a better grasp of the batsman's weaknesses and strengths, and the batsman is more aware about where the bowler is going to pitch. In one way it is more difficult now. But also, you cannot say that as a batsman I had an advantage in the 1990s.

Who were the most difficult bowlers to face? 

Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne - each one of them was a difficult bowler. You can't find those bowlers now.

Recently asked who he would fancy taking on between Warne and Murali, Tendulkar said he would like to sit in the dressing room and watch them. What about you? 

It is a difficult question and you cannot force me to pick one. But I would pick Murali in my team because he has a lot of variety and can bowl a lot of overs.

Earlier you said that technically you don't rate yourself highly, but that you trust your aggressive instincts. Can you explain your method of attack? 

It came naturally. I was always an attacking cricketer. I never practised anything specific, but when I became an opener I needed to adjust my technique a little as I had to play straighter. One important thing that has played a big role in my success is hand-eye coordination. If the ball is in my zone, I will always go after it - I might get out, but I might also get runs. Out of 10 attempts I might get eight shots to the boundary while getting out once or twice.

I did not pick on specific bowlers. I would chase every bowler. If you want to succeed you need to take those risks.

How do you switch on and off in the middle? 

I rarely switch off when I am batting or bowling. I always focus on what I'm doing. I only switch off during the over breaks.

Paul Farbrace, the former Sri Lankan assistant coach, once said that in the game against Bangladesh at the 2007 World Twenty20 in South Africa, the first ball you faced, you hit in the air and were caught. You came back to the dressing room and said, "Sorry, coach."
As an opening batsman, I had to get some runs. People had expectations from me. So I had to apologise. I do attach a lot of meaning and importance to my wicket, because if I had batted for longer, things would have been different. But having got out in the first over I had put pressure on my team. That's why, as I said earlier, I will always go for my shots and sometimes I might not pull it off.

What have been the most difficult times in your career? 

There have been quite a few. But of late, when I was dropped just before the 2007 World Cup and then before the first IPL, I felt hurt. I scored a hundred and many runs in that IPL and one of the government ministers pitched in and convinced the selectors that I needed to be in the side. So I came back during the Asia Cup in Pakistan. I made two centuries and a couple of half-centuries and felt good once again.

"Arjuna always fought for the players and looked after them, and that is why the players always liked him"

What about captaincy? Were you ready for it when it came? 

Frankly, I had no idea. I had returned from the 1999 World Cup in England without any runs [82 in five games]. Four or five days after our return, Sidath Wettimuny, who had become the chairman of the selectors, called me at 11 in the night to inform me I'd been appointed captain. I was shocked. There were many other senior players who could have easily been appointed ahead of me. But Wettimuny said the seniors would support me. The main reason given was they wanted to groom me for the future, and since I was playing well I was ready for the job.

My biggest challenge was handling the senior players - Arjuna, Aravinda, Mahanama, Hashan. In fact, Mahanama might have expected to become captain, but he took it in his stride.

The selectors wanted Arjuna and Aravinda to only play Test cricket, as they wanted to reinvigorate the ODI side, focusing on agility and athleticism in our fielding. So the emphasis was on youth. But when our middle order was not up to the mark, I suggested to the selectors that Aravinda be brought back if he could become fitter, which he did, and it worked for a while.

I did my job for four years and then stepped down after Sri Lanka had reached the 2003 World Cup semi-finals. I enjoyed my stint. I didn't have an easy time as a batsman when I was captain, but I steadily started to get runs, and Sri Lanka started winning consistently. After the tour of Sharjah in 2003 I decided on my own to step down. I thought somebody else needed to take over.

Today you are in a position similar to the one your seniors were, where your position in the side is not secure. How do you deal with the challenge? 

I am always happy. I know as long as I'm fit, I'm pro-active in the field and can hold catches, I'm still a contender. I am going through a lean patch with the bat for the moment, but I am not worried. I know my form will be back soon. Meanwhile I am fine-tuning in other areas, which will keep me busy as well as prepared.

Which teams have you enjoyed playing against? 

India and Australia are highly rated teams and I have always wanted to score against these two. One innings against Australia I forgot to mention was 114 in 2006 in an ODI at the SCG. I had landed in Sydney the previous day and was coming back from injury. The flight was about 20 hours, but I went straight in and played my game. When you play the Aussies they are always tough, and when you score against them it always feels good.

What is your fitness routine?

In addition to the schedule given by the trainer, I do some extra work in physical training, weights, and then the rehab [from injury]. That has helped me stay fit for such a long time. That and the fact that I have always tried to be the best in whatever I do.

You are supposed to be highly superstitious. What are your must-dos? 

I touch a spot on my helmet and both my pads before every ball. And after hitting a four or a six I have a habit of going to the middle of the pitch and tapping it. These are just habits I picked up as a youngster.

Does being religious help you? 

I've followed the Buddhist philosophy for long. But I have also gone to Hindu temples, and churches. Each time I pray I just ask for happiness, and to become a mentally stronger person. In recent years I have started meditating a lot and that helps me keep cool when I make my decisions.

During the 2007 World Cup final you did not hit a six in your knock of 63. Was that a conscious decision? 

I wanted to win that final. Oh, how I dearly wanted that second World Cup medal. Unfortunately Adam Gilchrist spoilt my occasion with his breathtaking innings. As for not hitting the sixes, the Aussie bowlers probably didn't bowl balls I could have taken advantage of. But I must take this occasion to thank Tom Moody and Trevor Penney, the coaches then, who put in a lot of effort to help Sri Lanka.

How did your coaches help you personally? 

Dav made us the professional as I've already mentioned.

Bruce Yardley helped me, and the other spinners, with his tactics.

Just like Dav, Tom always gave personal attention to every player. He would push a youngster to the limit and make him train harder. Most youngsters performed when Tom was there.

Personally, I have always felt really nice whenever the coach speaks to me. It doesn't matter if I have played 400 or 500 matches, I'm still susceptible to mistakes. It is always about getting the little things right and it helps you if the coach can point them out. Tom did that. Farbrace did that. Whatmore was the first.

You have played under various captains. Could you highlight what each one stood for or helped you with?

Arjuna always fought for the players and looked after them, and that is why the players always liked him. Marvan [Atapattu] was straightforward in getting the message to the players and I respected him for that. If he backed a player, he would back him 100%. During his captaincy years I went through a very hard period as a batsman and there was a lot of media pressure to drop me, but he stuck to me and I can never forget that. I rated Mahela [Jayawardene] very highly as a captain too.

You recently said "I just can't think of a life without cricket". 

What I meant was cricket is my life. If I did not play cricket, my life would be empty. Even if I leave the game tomorrow, I'm happy because I did my part. I sacrificed many things, trained really hard, practised really hard, to come this position. But I know I can't carry on forever. That is why I left Test cricket, and the same would hold for the rest of my cricket. I'm not saying I'm going to play another few more years, but I would like to play for the next six or eight months. I will play hard and then would like to leave.

What's the biggest challenge for you now? 

The biggest is to play the 2011 World Cup. Before that, the first challenge is to come out of this lean phase with the bat. I know Sri Lanka are likely to play about 30 ODIs before the World Cup, but I am not thinking that far. I am only thinking of five ODIs at a time, and if I can perform in three out those five, I'm right on track for the next World Cup. I am trying. Obviously if the team management wants to send me a message they should be clear about that to me, as they have been in the past.


Sunday Observer pays tribute to Sanath Jayasuriya on 20 years as an international cricketer

‘Matara Mauler’ Sanna blasts a score in cricket

The ‘Matara Mauler’ Sanath Jayasuriya yesterday completed the 20th anniversary of his international debut for Sri Lanka. As one of the greatest cricketers in world cricket, Jayasuriya has come a long way since his entry to the world arena.

Born on June 30, 1969 in Matara, Sanath Teran Jayasuriya made his international debut for Sri Lanka exactly 20 years ago. But it was an inauspicious start scoring just three runs in Sri Lanka’s World Series Cup one day international against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the Boxing Day of 1989.

It was a bitter start for Jayasuriya as his debut international innings lasted just 11 minutes to face five balls to score the three runs before being caught by Greg Campbell off Australian paceman Merv Hughes. Jayasuriya never got an opportunity to bowl at it was the humble beginning of this great cricketer.

But later be blossomed into one of the greatest batsmen ever in world cricket. He proved his credentials both in the Tests as well as in One Day Internationals. Jayasuriya is simply unstoppable when he is in full cry, treating opponent bowlers to all corners.

He has shown no mercy to some of the greatest bowlers in the world and some of them were even forced to call it a day after an unexpected thrashing from Jayasuriya.

Having made his ODI debut on December 26, 1989 against Australia, Jayasuriya has now figured in a total of 443 ODIs to aggregate 13,397 at an average of 32.43. He has scored 28 centuries and 68 fifties. His impressive strike rate of 91.33 speaks volumes of control he has maintained over world class bowlers, hitting a total of 270 sixes and 1,495 fours.

The most cherished moment of Master Blaster Jayasuriya’s career was in 1996 when Sri Lanka team emerged champions of the World Cup tournament in the sub continent, beating Australia by seven wickets in the final played in Lahore on March 17, 1996. Jayasuriya had a rich harvest during the 1996 World Cup to be adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

His hurricane efforts won him the prestigious Wisden Cricketer of the Year award the following year.

It was Jayasuriya, along with his opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana, who ‘invented’ the art of pinch-hitting during the 1996 World Cup which took most teams by storm. As one of the world’s most uncompromising strikers of the ball, Jayasuriya has established his name in Test cricket too.

He was initially labelled a one day cricketer and as a result he had to wait little over an year after his ODI debut to play in a Test. Jayasuriya made his mark in the established game scoring successive double centuries in Sri Lanka ‘A’ team’s tour of South Africa. H e made his Test debut for Sri Lanka, scoring 35 runs in the second Test against New Zealand played in Hamilton in February 1991. He did not get an opportunity to bat in the second innings as Jayasuriya batted in the low middle order during the early part of his career.

At the time of his retirement from Test cricket in 2007, Jayasuriya had aggregated 6,973 runs in 110 Tests at an average of 40.07 with 14 centuries and 31 fifties. His marathon knock of 340 against India at Premadasa Stadium in 1997 remains his career best Test innings.

Besides that, the champion left-hand top order batsman has two other double centuries - 253 against Pakistan in 2004 and 213 against England at the Oval in 1998. He also scored 199 against India at SSC grounds in 1997 and 188 against Pakistan at Asgiriya Stadium in 2000.

Incidentally, his career best ODI innings too was against India - 189 off 161 balls at Sharjah Cricket grounds on October 29, 2000. On three other occasions, Jayasuriya has scored over 150 runs in ODIs.

Though he initially made his name as a batsman, he subsequently cemented his place as one of the greatest all-rounders. In 443 ODIs, he has captured 322 wickets at an average of 36.72 apiece. His figures of 6 for 29 against England at Moratuwa in 1993 remains the career best in ODIs. In Tests, his best innings analysis had been 5 for 34.

Jayasuriya is a born cricketer with a natural talent. At 40 years plus, he still runs between the wickets like a teenager and maintains a sharp eye on the ball. Many tried to dump this gifted cricketer in 2005, forcing a premature retirement. Even some scribes joined the bandwagon to make a malicious campaign against the truly village cricketer who never lost his head despite going places.

It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who meted out justice to Jayasuriya and found a fair deal for the Master Blaster to resurrect his international career. And he did make the best use of the next given opportunity, blasting a century in Sydney when he was recalled to join the team in Australia during the World Series in 2005.

Jayasuriya has often replied to his critics with the willow, and when it starts talking, his critics simply ate humble pie!

What is unique in Jayasuriya’s exemplary career has been his humbleness. Though he is one of the best all-time cricketers in international cricket, he is still the very same Jayasuriya who used to travel to Colombo by bus from Matara with his heavy cricket baggage during the early part of his career.

In keeping with the great qualities of a sportsman, Jayasuriya has been humble in success and determined in defeat. That has been the key to his success. Jayasuriya has proved that there are no short cuts to success. Hard work, dedication and sacrifice have been the vital ingredients of his successful recipe.

The Sunday Observer wishes Jayasuriya all success in his future endeavours.

Sanna Boy, you have taken Sri Lanka to the world.

We are proud of you.

(Article by Dinesh WEERAWANSA - Source)

Invincible smasher in the middle - Sanath Jayasuriya

The man who redefined the approach to batting in the shorter version of the game thirteen years ago completed 20 years of international cricket on Saturday.

Yes, we are referring to Sanath Jayasuriya, the fearsome hitter who in the company of that little Romesh Kaluwitharana altered the whole approach to opening an innings in the One-Day version of the game in the 1996 World Cup.

It hardly mattered to the soft-spoken ‘Matara Butcher,’ who made a quiet debut against Australia on December 26, 1989 as a lower middle order batsman, whether he played in flannel or in coloured clothing. His approach has been uncomplicated-cut bowling to ribbons.

He lofted bowlers over the cover with power, dismissed them to mid-wicket fence with his trademark short-arm pull, and smashed them with ferocious power down the ground. Yes, the left-hander was a never-ending nightmare for bowlers.

His very presence has been intimidating to bowlers, many of whom saw their career come to an abrupt end.

Probably on his last tour of India now, Jayasuriya is no longer the force that he has been for a decade since 1996. Age might have slowed him down, but even today the very sight of Jayasuriya walking out to bat, in the middle order these days, could chill the spine. “He creates an atmosphere as long as he is in the middle that we are invincible,” Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara noted.

The fact that he is the second highest run-getter in one-dayers-13,397 from 443 matches-only behind Tendulkar speaks volumes of his longevity and effectiveness. At 40, he is the older player in the game.

For Indian bowlers, Jayasuriya has also been the eternal tormentor and it is not surprising to hear former paceman Venkatesh Prasad singling him out as the most “difficult batsman” he had to bowl to.

“Sometimes we would go with not just plan A and B, but C, D, so on, and he would have an answer for everything. His power, his swiftness and his stamina stood him apart. I mean even today he is so quick between the wickets,” he marvelled.

On Sunday, will he, one last time, unfurl one of those violent classics at the Feroze Shah Kotla, the venue where he had first hammered the Indian bowlers in 1996, when Sri Lanka plays the last ODI of the current series? 

(Article by Madhu Jawali - Source)

Sanath Jayasuriya changed the face of ODI's - Manoj Prabhakar

The last two overs of Manoj Prabhakar’s international career were his most painful. Not only was he asked to bowl off-spin, the medium-pacer was also booed off his home turf in a Group A clash during the 1996 World Cup after receiving a pasting off the bat of Sanath Jayasuriya. Back then, Jayasuriya had just begun to open the innings along with Romesh Kaluwitharana, but soon the duo changed the way teams went about the first 15 overs of an ODI innings.

The match was Prabhakar’s last as Jayasuriya took 47 runs off his four overs. As the Lankan completed 20 years in international cricket on Saturday, Prabhakar recalled his encounter with the man who pretty much changed the face of one-day cricket.

“Not just me, but every other bowler in that period was struggling to bowl to the Lankans. They were hitting everything over our heads to use the fielding restrictions to the maximum. And the credit goes to Jayasuriya — he was unbeatable and one of the main reasons Sri Lanka went on to win the World Cup,” Prabhakar told The Sunday Express.

Now, 443 ODIs and 110 Test matches since his debut against Australia 20 years ago in Melbourne, Jayasuriya, 40, is not the player he used to be. Not commanding an automatic place in the XI, his role has changed with time.

‘New responsibilities’

“After 20 years of international cricket, he is now donning a different role and taking up new responsibilities. Overall, it was a great journey for him. He has enjoyed it and so have we,” Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara said.

Talking about Jayasuriya’s contribution to the team, he added: “He’s been a great inspiration to Sri Lankan cricket from 1996 onwards, when he turned ODI cricket upside down. He is such a valuable player that we noticed the team were over-dependent on him. He creates an atmosphere where you feel that if he is there, you are invincible.

“For all the runs he scored and the wickets he took, Sanath deserves the credit and accolades that come his way. He has helped us move on from the over-dependence on him, and now we’re learning to win matches without him. That doesn’t undermine Jayasuriya as a player.”


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jayasuriya & Murali - Two precious stones losing their lustre

There is no delicate way of putting this. Two of the finest cricketers of this age, two match-winners, two game-changers, Muthiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya looked in the recent series in India to have come to the end of the road. When such phenomenal performers with property rights over 22 yards of turf begin to look like journeymen two thoughts dominate.

One, gratitude for the many hours of pleasure they have provided with their varied skills, and two, a deep sense of loss. The feeling that the magic might never be seen again, certainly not over a five-day Test match, the real test of the great player.

By pushing him down the order in the one-day series, Sri Lanka were sending a message to Jayasuriya, who at 40 showed he was still good enough for the Twenty20 game but even on the placid wickets in India struggled in the one-day international. That he was not asked to open, and even kept on the bench are hints enough. Jayasuriya had retired from cricket three years ago, but returned when he was asked to by the country’s sports minister.

He is a game-changer, bringing to the international arena the cockiness that superior alley batsmen bring to their calling when boys. A quick eye, strong forearms and a big heart made up for the shortcomings in technique. Yet that technique was good enough for a triple century in Tests. Fast bowlers got used to the idea of seeing their best deliveries being picked out from the audience at cover point or fine leg. It began in the 1996 World Cup when Jayasuriya, born in Motera, outside Colombo the traditional nursery, brought to the game the unaffected, free flowing approach only those outside the pale of the coaching manual can bring to their efforts.

That he was able to continue this unorthodox approach through all forms of the game, at all times and through all the political upheavals that are a part of cricket in the region is a measure of the uniqueness of the man.

His teammate Muralitharan is just eight wickets short of 800 in Tests, and sentiment might see him play long enough to achieve that remarkable landmark. His impact on Sri Lankan cricket has been enormous, and it is no exaggeration to say that he is the single most important player from that Island ever to have played the game. The statistics alone are mind-boggling. He has played a role in 53 of Sri Lanka’s 60 Test wins, with 430 wickets at an average of 16. Forty of his 66 five-wicket hauls have come in those games.

If batsmen could not decipher the rotations of his wrist they could not be blamed – it took teams of scientists to work out that he propelled the ball legitimately without recourse to a bent arm. The International Cricket Council, forced to go deep into the vexed question of chucking came up with a definition that implied Muralitharan was a genius for being able to do what he could. If the definition of genius is, equally, the capacity for taking infinite pains, then Muralitharan qualified on that count too. A mild-mannered, gentle soul, he was barracked mercilessly in Australia and condemned by ex-players around the world. Yet his strength of character withstood the attacks that might have felled a lesser man.

The doosra, which he mastered, was one of the two technical advances in bowling in the latter half of the last century (the other being the reverse swing). Muralitharan expanded the possibilities in the art of spin bowling, adding to our enjoyment of a craft that is one of the game’s most intriguing. A dropped catch deprived him of a ten-in-an-innings feat, and occasionally a batting failure rendered his own bowling efforts futile but he remained the old faithful, inspiring a nation both by the intricacies of his bowling and the toil he put in to retain his place as one of the greatest bowlers of all time.

He said after the India tour that his body is no longer able to take the five-day game, although he would like to continue in the shorter version (he has 512 ODI wickets). The decline has been noticeable in the last two years. Since 2007, he has taken 73 wickets in 15 Tests, but 39 of them were against Bangladesh in five. He was 37 this year, and the enormous workload over so many years was already beginning to take its toll.

Jayasuriya - The Entertainer | A lookback at his best performances in last 20 years

On the 20th anniversary of Sanath Jayasuriya's international career, we pick out some of his best performances.

6 for 29 v England, Moratuwa, 1993

A couple years before he would begin tormenting bowlers the world over with his ballistic approach up the order, Jayasuriya gave England a torrid time in Moratuwa - with the ball. Hardly a front-line slow left-arm spinner, a young Jayasuriya nabbed six wickets. He snapped two partnerships and ran down the rest of the order for 6 for 29, the star performer out of a very weak attack. England were bowled out for a paltry 180 and thrashed by eight wickets. It was Jayasuriya's first Man-of-the-Match performance.

Sanath Jayasuriya walks off after dusting England off in the 1996 World Cup quarter-finals

82 from 44 balls v England, Faisalabad, 1996

Jayasuriya took the world by storm in the 1996 World Cup, through his fearless and destructive approach at the top of the order, with his team-mate Romesh Kaluwitharana, which was one of the highlights of the tournament. Jayasuriya's memorable run reached its apogee during the quarter-final against England, when he bludgeoned 82 from 44 balls, including the then fastest tournament half-century, from 30 balls.

His manic innings contained three sixes and 13 fours and he was most savage on the left-arm spin of Ray Illingworth, whom he hit for four successive fours, and the seam of Phil DeFreitas, whose second over went for 22. Earlier in the day Jayasuriya had dismissed DeFreitas and Dermot Reeve and nailed a direct hit to run out Robin Smith. Sri Lanka continued their glorious ascent, while England sank ignominiously; they had never been knocked out before the semi-finals in the five previous World Cups.

76 off 28 balls v Pakistan, Singapore, 1996

Jayasuriya continued to blossom amid greater expectations after the World Cup. Within months he cracked the fastest fifty in one-day cricket, from 17 balls, against Pakistan. He reached the landmark with a six over mid-wicket to beat Simon O'Donnell's ODI record of 18 balls, against Sri Lanka at Sharjah in 1989-90. When Kaluwitharana was bowled in the sixth over, for 0, Jayasuriya had 66. He eventually holed out for 76 from 28 balls, having hit eight fours and five sixes.

151* v India, Mumbai, 1997

Jayasuriya has often tormented India during his one-day career, and his unbeaten 151 at the Wankhede Stadium was a bruising effort. A moderate target of 226 soon shrank as Jayasuriya blazed his way to the highest score by a Sri Lankan in one-day internationals - 151 off 121 balls, with 17 fours and four sixes, beating Aravinda de Silva's 145 against Kenya in the 1996 World Cup. Sri Lanka won with nine overs to spare

Jayasuriya rates his 340, during a record stand of 576 with Roshan Mahanama, as his best Test innings

340 v India, Colombo, 1997

The following year Jayasuriya was a significant part of a Test-record 952 for 6, against India in Colombo. He entered the final day 326 not out, 50 short of beating Brian Lara's then record individual score of 375. Over 30,000 crowded in, but many were still trying to find a perch when Jayasuriya, two balls after losing his partner for 225, was surprised by one that bounced from offspinner Rajesh Chauhan and popped a simple catch to Sourav Ganguly at silly point. The Indian fielders all ran to congratulate the batsman, and clapped him off the field. Jayasuriya had made 340, from 578 balls in 799 minutes, with 36 fours and two sixes. He banished once and for all any notion that he was only a one-day hitter. "I was out for 340 and people asked me whether I was disappointed," he once said. It is, in fact, his favourite Test innings, just ahead of his 213 against England at The Oval in 1998.

213 off 278 balls v England, The Oval, 1998

This one-off Test at The Oval is best remembered for Muttiah Muralitharan's 16 wickets, but it was really Jayasuriya's 213 off 278 balls in the first innings that set up Sri Lanka's first Test victory in England. England batted themselves to 445, with centuries from Graeme Hick and John Crawley, and sat pretty going into the third day. Few could have foreseen what would unfold. Sri Lanka, 79 for 1 overnight, sped to 446 for 3 with Jayasuriya shrugging off a lean Test year with a splendid double-century. Cutting, hooking and driving on dancing feet, he tore into the English attack and with Aravinda de Silva added 243, breaking their own record for Sri Lanka's third wicket. Even though England fought back staunchly on Sunday, when six wickets fell for 86, the momentum had been grabbed. Murali brought England back down to earth in the final Test of the summer, and then, with a target of 36, Jayasuriya signed off in blazing manner. He smote Angus Fraser for two fours and six on one over and a stunning six over cover-point and boundary off Ben Hollioake send the normally stoic English crowd into motion.

148 v South Africa, Galle, 2000

Sri Lanka's win in four days against South Africa owed plenty to Jayasuriya's genius. Having won the toss, he stunned the visitors into submission, hitting 96 in the first session. It was an innings of such ferocity that Shaun Pollock, in his first Test as captain, had little clue as to what field to set. Jayasuriya began by uppercutting Pollock over gully for four and then repeated the shot, setting the tone for a clinical win. Jayasuriya kept hitting over the field, and Pollock kept the field up. Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini were also meted out harsh treatment, forcing Pollock to turn to spin after 80 minutes. Paul Adams' first three deliveries were driven, flicked and crashed over the top for four. At lunch, Sri Lanka were 145 without loss; Jayasuriya had missed, by four runs, becoming the fifth player to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test. When he fell, for 148 from 156 balls, Sri Lanka were 211 for 2. He and Marvan Atapattu had put on 193 in 44 overs for the first wicket, then Sri Lanka's highest partnership against South Africa.

189 v India, Sharjah, 2000

The final of the Coca Cola Champions Trophy in Sharjah could not have been more one-sided. Nor could Jayasuriya have been any better in the one-day arena. He was the architect for this win, rescuing an innings that was dipping into the doldrums with a breathtaking 189 from just 161 balls, then the second equal highest score in the history of ODI cricket.

Sri Lanka were 116 for 4 in the 28th over, but the main man was still there. Together with Russel Arnold, who appeared to exert a calming influence on his captain, Jayasuriya rescued the innings. Arnold nudged an nurdled the ball around to get Jayasuriya on strike, and he timed his shorts skillfully. His iron wrists and bulging forearms created immense power in his shots and he hit four sixes and 21 boundaries in total. When he reached his century he ran amok, scoring 89 runs from 43 balls and took the game away from India.

253 v Pakistan, Faisalabad, 2004

Jayasuriya's 253 in the second innings of the first Test against Pakistan set up a 201-run win. It was a seminal knock that made amends for Sri Lanka's first-innings collapse and gave them complete command of the game on the third day. Jayasuriya grafted his way and strung together crucial stands along the way as Sri Lanka took a 264-run lead. It wasn't a swashbuckling innings, which is why it gave the man so much pleasure after Sri Lanka won. After being out to a Shoaib Akhtar no-ball on 9, Jayasuriya survived a few jittery edges and slashes to buckle down. He was at ease against the spinners, sweeping Danish Kaneria with power and precision. His 13th century came up with a big six off Kaneria over long-on and cued a period of vintage Jayasuriya. His next 29 runs came in 23 balls with some peachy off-drives, and on the fourth day he continued to tear the bowling apart on his way to his third double-hundred. He almost single-handedly boosted the lead to a daunting 418, back to his devastative best. Of the 154 runs that Sri Lanka added that morning, Jayasuriya made 123, despite losing partners at regular intervals.

A brilliant Jayasuriya sealed England's whitewash in the summer of 2006

152 off 99 balls v England, Headingley, 2006

England by this time been walloped 4-0, with Jayasuriya reeling off a century in the second game, but his assault at Headingley, when he and Upul Tharanga put on 286 in 31.5 overs, has become a reference point for England's one-day woes. Kabir Ali, who took the new ball, has not played since. "I am sorry about that," Jayasuriya once recalled. "But I did want to prove a point. The method and destruction with which Sri Lanka chased down 322 was a spectacle of remarkable audacity, self-belief and skill. Jayasuriya had been doing this for years but even he, the wise old man of Sri Lanka's side, looked over the moon after his 72-ball hundred and celebrated with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a young whippersnapper.

125 v India, Karachi 2008

Jayasuriya, had just turned 39 - an age at which some men have been known to contemplate grandfather-hood - and was very nearly upstaged by the magic of Ajantha Mendis during the Asia Cup final of 2008. He had just found a way back into the ODI side - his natural home - and paved the way for another title triumph for his side. His 27th ODI century included nine fours and five sixes and rescued Sri Lanka from the perils of 66 for four. Jayasuriya's entire innings was built on extraordinary coordination between hand and eye, and was a remarkable effort. The best period was when RP Singh returned for a second spell: Jayasuriya tore into him with sixes on either side of the sightscreen followed by two big shots over cover and a trademark six over midwicket.


Sanath makes batting easy - Mahela Jayawardene

"In ODIs and Tests alike, Jayasuriya deflated bowling attacks, taking pressure off his team-mates"

Mahela Jayawardene
December 26, 2009

Blazing away at The Oval in 1998, in the days before it was accepted for openers to attack

My oldest memory of Sanath Jayasuriya is of the time he was asked to open in Tests, and he scored a century, in Adelaide. Later that year, he had the whole nation glued to the cricket during the 1996 World Cup.

Immediately he was one of the big stars, up there with Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga, but to us, youngsters in their formative years, Sanath was much more. Here was a man from a humble background, from down south, perhaps the first "outstation" player to make it big, changing the way cricket was to be played - not only in Sri Lanka but the world. It said to every youngster growing up in Sri Lanka at the time that he too could achieve anything. Apart from Sanath, Muttiah Muralitharan was the other big player to come from outside the main cricket centres, but it took Murali time to become a hero for the country. Sanath's appeal and impact were immediate.

My first memory of Sanath as a team-mate is my debut, the famous Test where he scored 340 against India. When I first met him as a team-mate, I found him to be a very simple person. The remarkable thing - and the biggest lesson for others - about him was that he hadn't changed at all in the years till then. He was still the same person, his game was still the same. It told me, as a youngster, that I was in the team because I had something, because I had been doing something right. Normally youngsters, when they come to Test level, try to change things, but here Sanath was. He had made slight technical changes here and there, but the core of his cricket had remained the same.

In the dressing room Sanath is no Murali. Then again, not many are. He is quiet and simple, but whenever there is a contribution or a point to be made, he makes sure he does it, and in the right spirit.

As a captain, and as a senior player, he has always been aggressive, and he has wanted to see aggression in his team. He does get angry at times - he would as a captain too - but he doesn't go wild. You could see it in his eyes, though, and like any leader he was never short of a harsh word or two when it was needed.

Before heading to Australia in 2005-06, we had a team-bonding session down south, which is his part of the world. We had a lot of water activity lined up, which he loved. It involved banana boats, and he warned us it could be dangerous. We took the warning lightly and went about it. There was an accident and one of the guys fell on Sanath's shoulder, dislocating it. He was out for the first half of the tour and was really disappointed, but he took it in the right spirit. And his comeback innings was a match-winning century.

When he is playing one of those special innings and you are padded up to go in next, you have to keep reminding yourself that you are not Sanath and that you can't just go out there and do the same. The only bigger joy than watching him bat is to bat with him. When you are batting with him, you see that the bowling side is spending all its energy focussing on him, which ends up taking all the attention off you. You can quietly slip in, keep taking singles, keep doing your job, and let Sanath do the rest. Batting doesn't come much easier.

While Sanath is given due credit for his revolutionising ODI batting, scoring at eight or nine an over, his Test batting often didn't get as much credit. I have seen him score 96 in the first session against South Africa in Galle - against a decent attack featuring Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis, Paul Adams and Lance Klusener. Such innings deflated bowling attacks. They took out all the venom, and made it easy for the batsmen coming in. That sort of batting was not common in Tests when he started playing in that fashion, but it came to be recognised slowly.

My favourite innings of Sanath's - there are so many in one-dayers - was played in a Test, at The Oval in 1998, in the same match in which Murali took 16 wickets. England had already scored 445 in the first innings. Teams would have been pleased to have drawn that match after that, but Sanath's 213 at a strike-rate of 75-plus stunned England and gave us enough time to bowl them out again.

I am not surprised at all that Sanath has survived 20 years in top-level cricket. He was one of the first professional cricketers from the country. Before 1996 we had a lot of talented players, but we had no fitness routines, nobody to tell us what was the right way to go about things. But with Dav Whatmore and Alex Kountouris coming, we developed a professional approach. And Sanath was among the first ones to catch up with it. He is still as hungry as the next youngster; his eye may have slowed a bit, but he makes up for it with his work ethic and fitness. At times, even at 40, he can be faster than some of the youngsters in the field.

Outside of cricket, Sanath is a busy man. He has many friends: he has not let go of them as he has gone along. He is a big star and everybody wants to know him and wants to be associated with him, but like with his cricket, the core of the man has remained the same.

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