Monday, December 14, 2009

Sanath Jayasuriya returns to old haunt in middle order

At 40, challenges still exist for Sanath Jayasuriya. The Sri Lankan team management, led by captain Kumar Sangakkara, has decided to push Jayasuriya down the order to make better use of the allrounder. Jayasuriya admitted it was a "big challenge" for him to return to the position where he had started his career.

"Since 1995, I have not opened unless I was coming back from an injury. So it is a big challenge, which for the last 15 years I haven't faced," Jayasuriya told Cricinfo on the eve of Sri Lanka's first ODI in Rajkot. "But I have taken up the challenge and I will work hard to perform."

Jayasuriya was a regular middle-order batsman before being asked to open in the World Series Challenge in Australia in 1995 by the then captain Arjuna Ranatunga for the first time. Jayasuriya lapped up the new job with an intensity that would make him a household name in the years to come and completely redefine the role of an opener in the 50-over the game. But with age Jayasuriya's reflexes have thinned down, resulting in the dip in his ODI form. To avoid the issue becoming a growing concern, the Sri Lankan think tank decided to push him down the order. The new job came with a disclaimer: there was no security.

Interestingly, Jayasuriya's previous performances in the role have been far from impressive: in 39 innings, he averages 13.13 with no fifties. He last batted in the middle order in 2005 against India, scoring an unbeaten 43 at No. 6 to help Sri Lanka chase 206.

Despite the pressure building on him, Jayasuriya indicated he was not in a desperate situation. "Nobody is guaranteed a place if you don't perform," Jayasuriya said. "It doesn't matter if you are an allrounder or an opener. So whenever I get an opportunity I have to perform."

Comparing the two roles, Jayasuriya said facing the new ball was a completely different equation as against negotiating the old ball in the middle-to-end overs. "It is unlike batting as an opener where you have the license to play your natural game and go after the bowling. The field is up and you are looking to get runs on the board so you are attacking from the very beginning," he said. "In the middle order, you need to play according to the situation and occupy the crease for longer periods."

Despite the change in his job profile, Jayasuriya remains a dangerous proposition for the opposition, a fact the Indian captain MS Dhoni agreed with. "Whenever he has played a long innings, batting through the middle overs, he emphasises more on running between the wickets," Dhoni pointed out.

Dhoni said Jayasuriya is not as brutal while batting in the middle order, where the focus is to run hard and then go after the bowling at the end of the innings. According to Dhoni, the key to arrest Jaysuriya's development was to restrict him from converting the singles into twos and threes.

"He is a very good runner, (who) tries to put pressure on fielders," Dhoni said. "The key is not to give him easy singles and doubles."

Sri Lanka have announced that Upul Tharanga will partner Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top.

Sanath Jayasuriya did better than Tillakaratne Dilshan in the Twenty20s but was comfortably overshadowed by Sangakkara's top-order fireworks. Always a powerful striker, he will now be an important middle-order player regardless of whether Sri Lanka get away to a flier or lose early wickers. The test will be for him to add extra patience to his game in the latter scenario. Jayasuriya's left-arm spin is equally vital - his spell in the first Twenty20 was crucial to Sri Lanka's win - and he has a knack of breaking through when the lead bowlers are struggling.


1 comment:

rudra said...

why this submissive photo buddy?

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