Sunday, December 27, 2009

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)

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