When Superstar Sanath Jayasuriya and the seasoned Roshan Mahanama established an all-time world record partnership of 567 in test cricket, the qualities that went into it included endurance, concentration, patience and perhaps most important of all, a deep friendship between the two great batsmen.
Millions of fans who watched this momentous partnership at the Premadasa Stadium on August 4, 5 and 6 saw how at several stages Sanath and Roshan embraced each other when they reached 50, 100, 150, 200 and more. They were seen regularly encouraging and guiding each other - if Sanath at 26 is more extrodinary, then Roshan at 31 is more experienced.
The personal and professional friendship between Sanath and Roshan began at their club, Bloomfield. True friendship is tested not so much in sunshine or success but in the crises and storms of life. So was the friendship between Sanath and Roshan. In crises they stood by and supported each other - physically, emotionally and otherwise.
At national level specially, Sanath and Roshan have been a source of strength to each other and the fruit of this deep relationship was seen on August 5 when they reached a landmark that is likely to last for generations.
To capture the siginificance of the relationship between this pair, The Sunday Times felt it would be prudent to meet and interview them together.
Catching up with the record-breaking pair was as difficult as dismissing them during their marathon knocks. Mobbed by the local and foreign media, Sanath and Roshan had their hands ful, but took time-off to speak to The Sunday Times.
Q: What was your feeling when you first had a look at the Premadasa wicket?
SJ: The day prior to the test, I had a good look at the wicket and expected it to be a good batting track.
Q: Did you feel you could get a big score?
SJ: Yes, when India scored over 500 I thought I could get a 50 or 100. And when I reached 100, I thought I must get a big score especially because we were chasing a huge total and needed 339 to avoid the follow on.
Q: When did you first set your sights on Brian Lara's record?
SJ: It was only after I passed the 300 run mark.
Q: Disappointed that you didn't break his record?
SJ: Yes, but I think what I have acheived is great and I am very happy about it. After all that is cricket. Isn't it?
Q: What went wrong in that delivery from Chauhan that dismissed you?
SJ: Well, that ball popped up and was very quick after it bounced. It hit my bat before I could realize it.
Q: Roshan must have played a very supportive role?
SJ: Yes, Roshan was a source of inspiration to me. When I was striking the ball well, he took the singles and ensured I was on strike most of the time. This helped me a lot.
Q: You were on the field for more than four days in hot and humid conditions. How did you manage to survive?
SJ: All credit to physio Alec Kontouri. He has done a splendid job with our fitness and ensured that nothing went wrong with me during the innings. He worked quite a lot on me overnight when I was not out with stretching exercises, swimming etc. That kept me going without too much of a problem.
Q: With your big hundreds in tests you have proved that you can adjust well to the longer game and also to different types of wickets?
SJ: Yes, I scored my first test century on a fast track in Adelaide. Since then I have grown in confidence and thankfully can adjust to the type of wicket as well as to the test and one dayers without much of difficulty.
Q: Do you use a heavy bat and keep changing it from match to match depending on the wicket?
SJ: No. I use the same bat (02 pounds and 09-10 ounces) and change it only if it cracks. I have been using the same bat in the recent past for all my innings, but I never use it at practices.
Q: When you came into the first test, were you under pressure to score?
RM: Yes, I thought this would be my last test and last chance.
Q: Why was that?
RM: I was being pushed up and down the batting order and not given a permanent slot. Whenever I come to the middle, either the team was in a bad way or I had to score fast. This doesn't give me a chance to play my game. As a result I have lost a lot of my usual shots, especially the flicks to the leg side off the pads, and the drives.
Q: You must be relieved that you got a double hundred?
RM: Very much. And I also hope that I will bat at one place and not all over. Apart from No. 4, I have batted from 01 to 08. That also might be a record.
Q: Happy to have shared a world record with Sanath?
RM: Yes, Sanath and I have been thick friends, and I'am thrilled to share the record with him.
Q: You showed little or no sign of tiredness during your record-breaking partnership. What was the secret?
RM: I have been doing my physical training to the fullest and I think that is testimony to my endurance. Our Physio Alex has worked a lot on all the players and myself and that helped me to bat without a problem.
Q: You seem to be having a slight technical problem when you play forward?
RM: Yes, Barry Richards was very nice to show me a slight error in my technique. He wanted me to play in the same way but promised to give me a series of batting drills that will put this right. So I hope to correct it during the breather we have.
In the last few days many people have asked me for reasons; if there be any, as to how we come to be World Champions in cricket. The reasons from the way I see things are not too far away - pardon me, on the contrary they lie in the misty distance of a century or more ago, from perhaps the time when our English settlers planted the first seeds of their time consuming yet exquisite pastime in our soil. Abounding with natural talent that this very pastime demanded, local exponents through the ages such as Dr Raffel, the de Saram brothers, Shelton, Douglas and Fred, the Gunasekara brothers, Danny, Edwin, Victor and Dr. C.H., Cecil Horan, Tommy and Ed Kelaart, E.H. Joseph, C.T., F.C.W. and A.C. VanGeyzel, the Saravanamuttus, P, M and S, M.K. Albert, C.A. and C.E. Perera, R.E.S.Mendis and a host of others ad infinitum from the mid nineteenth to the twentieth century, lit the torch which has now erupted into an inferno.
These were no ordinary souls, but performers of immense skill and genius, Greek sounding but alas forgotten, unsung and sadly lost to the modern local cricketing intelligentsia. They relayed their skills through the Jayawickramas, de Sarams (second generation), Sathasivams and Coomaraswamys, Kretsers, and McCarthys, to the Goonesenas, Jayasinghes and Inmans, Tisseras and Tennekoons, from whom the present lot has inherited their ability. So what is on display now should not surprise, for it is the natural flow from all that has preceded and a continuation of the Lankan cricketing odyssey began so long ago.
Then is fired the question why has it not happened before? The question hardly merits an answer. It is like not supplying bricks and cement to a craftsman and then picking on him for not producing the desired mansion. From day one we have been adept at the abbreviated game and this goes back to very early times. We were nursed in this concept of the game which was bread and butter to us. Most times we emerged honourably and without disgrace but couldn't produce winning results for reasons obvious. The craftsmen were not given the bricks and cement. It is no longer the position now. The wherewithal in the form of time. money, encouragement, infrastructure and exposure is now at our doorstep. The supply of these and removal of constraints opened wide the doors for the free expression of our hitherto suppressed talents and maximised them to the fullest potential and ultimate fulfilment. Current results are the natural fall out.
Also, a string of extraneous events, some far removed from the playing of the game itself, and therefore distasteful also had a major influence into diverting our talents into a winning streak, something we ourselves did not believe in. We must be thankful to the likes of Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Shane Warne, Darrel Hare and Ross Emerson on for providing the catalyst by their supercilious attitude to our team in Australia last year and bringing to the boil the performance of our cricketers. They perhaps misjudged the Oriental psyche. Stung by innuendo and oblique insult, their pride and self respect were hurt to the quick. In the result, wittingly or not they buried their many simmering differences and banded together as one from then on. Captain, Coach or Manager could do nought to thwart this upsurge of national unity, and here was the turning point. It was not the genius of any one individual, but the collective spirit of togetherness, perhaps lacking upto now, allied to the mix of our undisputed natural talent and mental readjustment triggered by the aforementioned harassment that catapulted us to the Hall of Fame.
Now to be a little technical. The pyjama game is a batsmen's game introduced for entertainment and result oriented. The much sung adage "bowlers win matches" is out of context here, in fact the reverse is true in that "batsmen win matches". Strangely, it is really an anomaly, for though it was originally conceived to produce entertainment with a promise of quick scoring all the while, it has in its short evolution transformed itself into a containing game where the main objective is for the bowler to be negative and thus contain the batsman rather than to attack and get him out - which if they do would be considered a bonus. Now we are good at containment for that is required only for a limited 50 overs. This containment is enhanced hy our superlative fielding (for which also we are world renowned) which helps in picking those bonus wickets. These assets coupled with our unrestrained flair for stroke play has put us where we are. The entertainment really comes in the last 7 or 8 overs of an innings, where technique is tossed overboard in a flurry of unorthodox slogging.
The introduction of this variation to the game was surely manna to us and our Caribbean brethren for we have the same temperament, attitude and ability. Have they not already won the World Cup twice and been runners-up once in 6 attempts? We took to it like ducks to water for we have been playing this sort of cricket for as long as we can remember, so need we be surprised at the position we are in now? I recall mentioning in an in-depth study of our game nearly a quarter century ago, during our dark period of scarcities in the '70s, when we were permitted to take only 3 Pounds Sterling out of the country when going abroad, that this was the only sport where we have the ability to gain international rating and there would come a time when our cricketers would one day be bringing in much needed foreign exchange (Daily Mirror of 26 June 1973). For this brash statement I had to endure having to be looked upon as somewhat of a crank . However, I would like to believe somehow that this is really what is happening now. ln short it is merely the continuation of the saga started over a century of years ago. But a word of caution here. We cannot forever remain where we are, for this works in cycles and we may one day be at the bottom, to rise yet again another time. We must view it in its true perspective and with equanimity.
Blinded by the euphoria generated by our recent successes in the mini-game we must not allow ourselves to lose our way in the quest for the noble sentiment of reaching Super status in cricket by the year 2000. For, the established game as most of us know, is a different proposition altogether. True, it is still played between 2 teams of eleven participants, with a bat and hard ball, on a length of pitch still 22 yards separating 2 sets of stumps and a couple of umpires. But expression is different. In this game the hackneyed cliche "bowlers win matches" comes true. Batsmen in this version, more often than not save them.
To get technical again, we have all along had an embarrassingly rich plethora of World class batsmen and brilliant fielders, but been threadbare on the bowling front, particularly in the "Fast" stream. We can contain batsmen for short periods (50 overs) and pick up wickets in the last few slog overs of the shortened game by means, which in tennis parlance is referred to as "unforced errors" by the batsmen and not as a rule due to any special skills on the part of the bowler. A classic case in point is Jayasuriya who sports a healthy haul of over a hundred wickets in the abbreviated game but less than 10 in 26 Tests. Still, a few years ago I made bold to hint that he could be the closest approach to the great Sobers himself (C.D.N. 10th April 1993). A powerful striker and timer of the ball and a brilliant fielder with more than a pretence of being an useful trundler. He seems to have a slight flaw in his action which if set right may yet turn him into something upwards of being more than useful at Test level.
Containment we have shown can be maintained for a short period but Test cricket is of longer duration. Having mastered this we must combine the second dimension of penetration to our attack if we are to transfer our World Cup success to the Test arena. Our batsmen may give us 300, 400 or even 1000 runs, but of what avail would this be if we are unable to dismiss our opponents not once, but twice within those totals during the course of a 5-day Test match?
We must step aside now and let the experts guide us to the portals of the 21st Century with nothing but the best interest of the game at heart. We wish them well for we know we can get there to the top. - C.H. Gunasekara
Sports in Brief
N. G. Jayasinghe of Nomads playing for Team G scored a classic 106 in their under 19 trial match arranged by the Board of Control for Cricket in picking Sri Lanka's team for the South African tour in December this year.
Jayasinghe scored this century at the P. Sara Stadium.
Schoolgirl Shannon Kern is presently the leader of the August Ladies Golf Union medal at the completion of the 9th round of the Hilton Grand Prix played at the Royal Colombo Golf Club.
Kern leads with 811 points followed by, Yvonne Abhayaratne 736, Niloo Jayatilleke 669, Suweneetha Selvaratnam 650, I. O. Kim 635, Kumari Herath 621, Anouk Chanmugam 576, C. M. Boo 575, Pravina Dunuwille 527, Frank de Mel 506.
Brothers Thushal, Priyantha and Anura all three sons of a fisherman, were the draw at the Airport Garden Windsurfing Regatta conducted by the Broadsailing Windsurf Association held at the Hotel Lagoon with tidy winds at Seeduwa.
Thushal, the reigning champion in many races, met his waterloo at the hands of his younger brother Priyantha in the first race sailed to perfect windy conditions with all the competitors competing with equal equipment obtained by the Broadsailing Windsurf Association which are Olympic Games Class .
Lalith Lalendra took the second spot followed by Sankasini de Silva, Thushal Gunawardena T. H. Subash and Giyan Kurukulasuriya, in the first race.
The second race saw Thushal go all out to avenge his defeat which he quite rightly did with better control to get ahead of his brother Priyantha followed home by T. H Subash, Anura Gunawardena, Lalith Lalendra and Sankashini de Silva.
Priyantha was placed first in the overall standings followed by his brother Thushal Gunawardena, Lalith Lalendra, T. H. Subash, Sankashini de Silva and Anura Gunawardena.
Meanwhile Thushal and Priyantha on the performances at this regatta have been picked to represent Sri Lanka at the Asian Windsurfing Championships in Thailand in November this year.
The General Manager of Airport Garden Hotel, Ranjan Stanislaus was the Chief Guest and gave away the awards.
Lalin Jeerasinghe was the officer for the day.
Two brothers took the first and second places in the Western Province Schools Mini Marathon 1997, organised by the provincial Education Department held from Homagama to a spot near the Art Gallery.
S. K. Susantha of Kirillawala MV Kadawatha won the event in a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes 38.2 seconds followed home closely by his brother S. K. Chaminda in a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes, 40 seconds with the third place going to M. Chaminda Peiris of Janajaya Vidyalaya, Moratuwa in a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes, 46.7 seconds..
K. Chandrika Jayamani of Pathakada Kanistha Vidyalaya, Galpatha finished the course in 1 hour 46 minutes 29.2 seconds followed by P. A. Priyala Dilhani of Olaboduwa MV Gonapola and K. A. D. Rasika of Ananda Balika MV Kotte finishing in second and third positions respectively.
The highlight of the girls event was the participation of 14 year old Upuli Samanthika of Lumbini MV, who won praise from all the spectators for her finishing the route which may older runners could not do.
The awards to the respective winners were made by the Assistant Directors of the Education Department (Western Province) , Rohana Karunaratne (Kalutara), Chandradasa Munagama (Horana), Mrs. Shanthi Podimahathmaya (Colombo) and M. Karunadasa (Kelaniya).
Representing the sponsors Pen Pals Limited were N. M. Caldera (Area Sales Manager) and Abaya Priyadarshana (Market Research Officer).
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