The Sunday TimesPlus

19th May 1996




Jayasuriya the great

By Hemantha Warnakulasuriy

Sanath Jayasuriya, the present holder of four world records, which in itself, I believe, is another record, has baffled all cricketing pundits around the globe. The way he bats defies description. When the ball once sailed over the ropes and landed on a satellite dish even Geoff Boycott, reputed TV commentator, was stunned in disbelief.

Sanath, who is called the 'one man demolition squad', has together with Kaluwitharana become synonymous with the term 'Pinch hitter'. Pinch hitters have become an important arsenal in limited over cricket. Even the Aussies, much to their chagrin, had to remodel their super star 'Warne' into a 'pinch hitter'.

Whether these terms do justice to Sanath's batting is another matter. To a person who has not observed, or is so myopic as not to observe, the sheer artistry of Sanath's batting, these terms may mean a slogger. A slogger tries to flash his bat blindly at the ball hoping it would connect. In the last few overs, a batsman is expected to slog and he often moves slightly from the batting crease to get some additional room and width and give a ball agricultural swipe. Is Sanath Jayasuriya in the same mould? Is he a slogger? The answer is an emphatic no.

Sanath's performance has not been properly evaluated. He uses his bat to such a devastating effect that some of his shots are beyond the realm of human ingenuity and possibility. After winning the Most Valuable Player award at the World Cup, he proceeded to Singapore for the Singer Trophy and started belting the ball around the park, so nonchalantly, that even commentators like Sunil Gavaskar being shocked at the punishment meted out to one of the best pace attacks in the world tried to find excuses. Among other things, Sunil said that the ground was small and one particular boundary was shorter than the others. So naturally the spectators expected to see more sixes scored by other more recognised and experienced batsmen like Sachin, Sohail, Inzamam and Anwar. But to their utter disappointment these batsmen did find the sixes not in their repertoire of strokes but even boundaries were hard to come by.

Lara's record breaking innings made him a millionaire, Sachin's, batting abilities have made him the richest cricketer on earth. Jayasuriya's four world records will remain in the record books for a long time. But yet being a Sri Lankan cricketer he will have to go to his sponsor and work as an executive for a living. Unlike the Government of Pakistan nothing was offered to the Sri Lankan cricketers because the politicians never believed that their team could win the World Cup. So Jayasuriya, with four records to his credit will remain where he was, perhaps enjoying driving the New Audi until he wins another prize. It was reported in a Sri Lankan Sinhala Cricket magazine that Craig Mcdermott called Sanath 'a Black Monkey'. He did not repeat the compliment nor did he respond. As a lad from a fishing village called Matara, where the people are nurtured in the Buddhist cultural heritage which goes back 2500 years, he knew the culture which taught him how to behave when sledged or abused; do not accept it, be silent and it returns to the abuser. The only answer Jayasuriya gave Mcdermott was to belt the next ball which crashed into the fence with lightening speed. He then went to score his first century in Test cricket at Adelaide.

It is interesting to record what the critics said when Sanath, established those records. P.K. Vaidyanathan writing to the Sportstar on Jaysuriya's exploits on the first day at Singapore says under the title, "Jayasuriya goes berserk. lt poured on the first day and thunder rocked the ground, the next day thunder by the name Sanath Jayasuriya."

That Jayasuriya made 134 in a total of 196 will give a fair indication of his aggression. In an over from leftarm spinner Aamir Sohail, Jayasuriya hit four successive 6s all into the stands which housed the Lankan fans. The spectators went delirious with joy as Jayasuriya timed each strike to a nicety. That over by Sohail cost 30 runs. The over contained a wide and a no ball too. Jayasuriya took credit for 29 runs. The previous best was 27 (Salim Malik and Asif Mujtaba, Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 1994 and by Moin Khan off Ian Bishop, Pakistan vs West Indies Champions Trophy, Sharjah, 1991).

Next, Jayasuriya completed the fastest individual 100 in one-dayers off 47 balls, the previous best being Azharuddin's 100 off 62 balls (lndia vs New Zealand at Baroda, 1982-89). Jayasuriya also took credit for hitting eleven 6s which eclipsed Gordon Greenidge's eight 6s off India at Antigua in 1984. Jayasuriya who also smashed eleven 4s, faced only 65 balls....

Runs came in a torrent. Poor Aamir Sohail, who repeatedly pitched the ball short, conceded 73 runs from eight overs. Unfortunately not many were present at the ground to see Jayasuriya's splendid stroke-play. During this innings Jayasuriya completed 2,000 runs in the shorter version of the game. Later, Jayasuriya said, "I did not keep track of these records until I reached them. The ball was coming on to the bat. I was timing the ball well".

This is what the same writer said about Jayasuriya when he scored the fastest 50 in one day internationals, which is the fourth record he established. According to this article which was published in the Sportstar, "Dave Whatmore agreed a few decisions cost us dearly but our batting lacked character this day".... None could have disagreed with what Whatmore said. A splendid start provided by Sanath Jayasuriya was frittered away. Jayasuriya's 17-ball 50 (the fastest half century in one-day variety) and the 28-ball 76 took one's breath away. It was exciting stuff.... When Jayasuriya blazed away with all those daring shots in the hot and humid conditions.... Jayasuriya timed the ball sweetly. He raced to his third world record in the competition.

R. Mohan, highly respected Columnist for the 'Sportstar' and 'Hindu' writes and reiterates the greatness of Jayasuriya and believes the claim that it was smallness of the ground that helped Jayasuriya to establish those records. 'No one tormented them more than Jayasuriya. It is not certain that even Viv Richards in his prime had a hot streak like this. Jayasuriya put his own World Cup from in which he was scoring at almost two runs per ball in the shade, with a strike rate better than 300 per cent in his 28-ball 76. There is nothing he can do wrong at the moment except, of course, fall to his own world record for the fastest century which must really be the most precious record one can think of in the context of limited overs cricket.... It is not as if he is simply doing anything crudely. He played some of the most magical cricketing shots in all directions in two outings against Pakistan which will stay in the record books for quite some time to come. The 17 -ball half century was in super smooth flow as Jayasuriya picked the ball up instinctively and hit it almost without fail in the sweetest part of his willow....

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