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13th September 1998

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Sanath's Saturday

By Hemantha Warnakulasuriya

It was the day that the whole of Sri Lanka cried. It was the day of despair and gloom. It was the day that everyone went to sleep and dreamt a common dream.

The next day the dream was shattered. Even the most hard hearted man cried silently or within himself.

That was the day that Sanath Jayasuriya failed to surpass Brian Lara's record, though it was the day that our cricket team created history by notching the highest number of runs for an innings and the highest partnership for any wicket for a Test match.

Yet the Cooper & Laybrand statisticians refused to grant the necessary points to Sanath Jayasuriya and deducted a number of points from Sanath's tally. Their excuse was that , anyone could make runs at the Premadasa Stadium. It was also the day that Arjuna told us that these records and achievements mean nothing. No one in Enlgand recognizes our talents.

We won the World Cup but the English refused to grant us a Test series and went to Zimbabwe. Kalu made a tremendous impression in Australia but it was soon forgotten. We had to beat England in England. Then only would the world recognize our talent. It was important that we should get the maximum crowd support in England and if it was possible, he told us, please do come to England to cheer our team.

So I packed my bags and went to England simply to support Arjuna to achieve his dream. I felt that Arjuna considered winning in England was even greater than winning the World Cup. He feared that the English public would not consider it worth spending their valuable time and money to see our team (little brown men with unpronounceable names) playing cricket.

But I found long before we arrived in England that the tickets for the first three days were sold out. My fervent plea to a media moghul, through a friend of mine did the trick. But the fax said that the tickets for the 28 th Friday; (non available). There were tickets available for the Triangular Series, but the Test Match was of the utmost importance to me.

At last we have become crowd pullers. This is what The Guardian editorial said: " The England Cricket Board were scared the public would not watch Sri Lanka. This pathetically over-conservative approach to marketing-as the big crowds this weekend have proved."

The Triangular Series and the win at Lords were memorable. But I found that a large number of Sri Lankan supporters were still disappointed when Sanath got out in the third ball he faced for a duck. It was an unbelievable catastrophe. The failure that haunted Sanath had tracked him to England and had got a stranglehold on him. He had scored one measly century at a one day outing but had got out after having scored twenty thirty runs at a lively pace.

One Sri Lankan asked why the team was playing Sanath in the Test match when he had failed miserably at the county matches. Russel Arnold has scored a fine double century. Chandika Haturusinghe has also scored an unbeaten hundred. The English press has praised the achievements of Russel Arnold, Mahela Jayawardene and Chandika Hathurusinghe.

The statement made by a friend of mine when Sanath failed in Colombo, that Sanath is the most over rated batsman in the country and is simply a pinch hitter and good only to go over the top at the limited version of the game came to my mind. How uncharitable he was, as to so many in the sub continent no cricketer in the recent past has brought so much pleasure as Sanath has done. But no one is above the team.

If Sanath continues to fail he would have to be replaced or dropped until he regains his form. But others said that there would be riots in the country if that happens because he is the most loved human being in this tiny Island of Sri Lanka.

I remember what Arjuna said when Sanath scored 340. "We will be in a position to humble any English attack with Sanath and Aravinda."

Aravinda has gone from strength to strength. He is mature and to me the number one batsman in the world, but what has happened to Sanath?

At The Oval I was seated with a large contingent of Sri Lankans who had paid 40 -50 Pounds Sterlings a day which is nearly Rs. 4000-5000 a day. When Sanath reached 50 I thought he had broken the hoodoo and would no longer be considered to be dropped for at least till the World Cup.

As usual Sanath looked towards the sky and prayed to the Gods with his right hand interwound with 'pirith nool'.

The English public has only heard of Aravinda de Silva as a cricketer of some repute. His century at Lords for Kent is still considered by many connoisseurs of cricket as the best one day hundred played at Lords. Sanath was one of the few cricketers to be elected as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year without ever playing on English soil.

But yet the cricketing public and the press had not heard very much about him. How true Arjuna was. In order to obtain international recognition we must play in England and try to beat them on their own soil.

The English public went into raptures with Sanath's innings. Every boundary he scored was lustily cheered. They were astonished at the artistry with which Sanath was able to pierce the fielders with the ball rocketing to the boundary.

That Saturday was Sanath's day and Sunday and Monday were Murali's. It is unfortunate that the local media has blown out of proportion the comments made by David Lloyd. He was hounded by the English Press, Radio and the TV commentators, including Geoff Boycott for his remarks so that he became a lone leper without even a colony.

For the elitists, the purists and the connoisseurs of cricket in Sri Lanka who 18LABELled Sanath as a slogger and an over rated batsman with only limited number of strokes, the English Press answered those critics with sheer cricketing poetry. Whether we would win the World Cup no one could prophesy, but what Arjuna, Aravinda, Sanath and Murali have achieved during the past few years will be remembered for generations to come. The manner in which the British public and the English press responded to our magnificent achievements would make every Sri Lankan proud of our cricket team.

The Sunday's newspapers published in England on 30th of August, 1998 devoted pages of large photographs of Sanath and Aravinda and virtually ridiculed the English team.

One picture showed Angus Frazer, the most popular cricketer in the English team, for having bowled England to victory against South Africa, taking a hard look at Sanath Jayasuriya who had hit him for a magnificent boundary with a caption "Hard times ........ bowling to Sanath Jayasuriya proved to be a least rewarding task of the summer.

'Stephen Brinkly writing to 'The Independent' states "at the centre of the proceedings was the left handed opener Sanath Jayasuriya. Like his side Jayasuriya came on this tour with a reputation as an impudent, innovative one day dasher. Neither his 350 nor his team's world record of 952 last August (against India on a Colombo pitch which apparently bestows on The Oval the qualities of a mine field) could quite dispel the notion that the long haul of Test matches was not a natural environment.

The innings of 213 with which he tormented England should ensure that that particular canard is not raised again. It took a mere 278 balls, stretched over few minutes short of six hours - which seems like no time at all, made his fellow centurion, the quite captivating Aravinda de Silva a mere spectator, and probably ended the international career of the England leg spinner Ian Salisbury. Jayasuriya was irresistible and insatiable, Salisbury could not offer any resistance and by the end of his first 17 increasingly sad wretched overs must have had quite enough. Jayasuriya pulled hard and quickly he square drove deliberately and precisely in the air and his glances were so fine he could have been engraving cut glass.

Stephen Fay wrote to the same paper under the caption, 'The Elegant Executioner' and said, "They have brought in the boundary rope a few yards for this Test at The Oval, which make it even easier for Sri Lanka's fluent batsmen to score fours. There were 33 of them in the record breaking partnership of 243 for the third wicket between Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva, and they were achieved with such elegance that only a blinkered patriot would have wanted to see either of them get out.

This was caviar for the general public - a full house of 16,500 spectators on a warm cloudless day to remember, Jayasuriya we knew about only by reputation: He is the man who revolutionized one day cricket by hitting wildly from the outset, and who scored 340 against India last year.

Ian Salisbury was bowling his dispensable overs and Jayasuriya jumped down the pitch to drive deftly through the covers. The crowd sighed because the remarkable thing was that he actually missed the ball and it dribbled away to Alec Stewart. As if to relieve himself he hit the next nine balls for 26 runs.

His 150 came in 212 balls to get there he hit a six which was also notable because it was the first of the innings. These Sri Lankans may be the world's one day champions, but they played Test cricket according to classical norms. The ball stays mostly on the turf. The single one day shot remaining in his Test repertory is a slash hit hard over gully's head; for the rest stroke play in an implacable mix of power and timing. When he drives through the covers, he leans into the ball heavily with his bottom hand, and it doesn't matter what size the boundaries are.

As Sanath Jayasuriya tucked his bat under his arm 16,500 people stood and applauded him all the way to the pavilion. He said he was surprised at the warmth of the reception, and he smiled like a man fulfilled. He had every right to do so."

Scyld Berry writing to the Sunday Telegraph stated, the batting of Sri Lankan master stroke players, Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravind de Silva has made England's cricket look like small beer or perhaps rice water by comparison.

When England batted on the first two days there was a whiff, or stench of players playing for their tour places rather than focusing on winning the match in hand, for that failure England paid the price as Sri Lanka rattled along without any manifestation of haste and yet at the extraordinary rate of four runs every over to notch 300 runs on that day.

Jayasuriya and De Silva came together when England made the costly mistake of dismissing Sri Lanka's No. 3 caught in the gully off a lose drive. However fine a batsman Mahela may be, it is inconceivable that he could have matched the virtuosity of the batsmanship which ensued and kept on ensuing until Jayasuriya had made a double hundred, and Sri Lankan supporters in the full house deprived so long of a sight of their team in this country for being unfashionable were almost drunk on the rice water of it all.

Perhaps no other pair of Test batsmen in the world could have batted so brilliantly and for so long at a rapid rate.

Colin Bateman, the cricket correspondent of Express writing under the caption 'Gough's dream team smashed into reality' stated Sri Lanka's fearless batting epitomized by Jayasuriya's quite brilliant 213 put a few things into perspective before the winter tour not least, the bowling attack Darren Gough referred to as "as a dream team at heady Headingly.

When he was out Jayasuriya was mortified. He had cruised to 213 placing the ball with a slide rule accuracy between the fielders as he scored 33 fours and one six. He looked perfectly capable of eclipsing Brian Lara's world record 375, no wonder he was upset for getting out so tamely. The dream team had not caused him any sleepless moments.

Jim Holden writing to the same paper under the caption, 'England's bowling given the treatment' "Alec Stewart's men had a whip - round at The Oval to make - generous donations towards the England Blind cricket teams World Cup adventure in India this winter."

They had been watching the special exhibition game during the lunch interval how a size three football with a bell inside enables blind sportsmen to play a form of cricket. For the rest of a dog - day Saturday afternoon, England's bowlers must have felt they were bowling with the same outsized ball as they were smashed ring - a - ding - ding all-round the ground by Sri Lanka's scintillating batsmen."

Sanath Jayasuriya and pals simply could not miss and the runs cascaded from the crease like coins spilling from a one-arm bandit when all three belts come up. It left one bitterly frustrated bowler asking the crowd on the boundary: "What's going on? we might as well be in Colombo." but if the English cricket authorities ever insult Sri Lanka again by offering them just one off Test Match home or away - well it is utterly unthinkable.

It proved beyond reasonable doubt that a single contest this summer against these thrilling visitors is a sporting disgrace.

They used to argue that it was hard to sell tickets for matches against Sri Lanka.

Not any more. A capacity crowd had packed out The Oval, and they were entranced watching the inspired and blazing of Jayasuriya. The left handed opener's ability to dissect the England fielders with powerful cuts and elegant drives were simply sublime and his whirlwind run - a - ball thrill-a-minute innings of 213 placed the plodding pace of England's effort into stark contrast.

When Sanath finally played his only false stroke and was out for 213, Dukes, Duchesses, Lords, Ladies and commoners spontaneously rose to their feet to applaud in a dignified and civilised manner a little brown man, with a still unpronounceable name from a far distant place, who had learnt his cricket in an unfashionbale school near a fishing village, till he reached the dressing room.

He had at the end of the match captivated their imagination with sheer artistry of stroke play that would remind them of Chinese Brush drawings or for the timing with which he sent the ball rolling on the swards to the boundary to Japanese Haiku poetry and in the second innings the audacious and contemptuous stroke play to Beethoven's symphonies.

They would never forget his mannerisms, his simplicity and would always remember this man for having after Bradman ignited their interest in the gentleman's game they invented

Sanath among Wisden Greats

In 1977 the Editor of Wisden, Matthew Engel, wrote in his Editorial: "The 134th edition of the Wisden contains a direct affront to tradition... the selection of the 'Five Cricketers of the Year'.... yet, I have now felt obliged to modify them to include a player who was not a participant in the last English season - Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka. Jayasuriya's performances in the World Cup reverberated everywhere and earned him the right to be in our Hall of Fame." In the same edition David Hopps says "Sanath Jayasuriya cannot yet be classified as a Great player. His World Cup exploits... insisted that Course of the Game would change forever. Few of the Greats have ever achieved that".

When Sanath Jayasuriya, scored 213 and a thrilling 23 not out at the historic Kenaington Oval in England, the umpires being from England and West Indies - he amply demonstrated his dual skills in the two innings - 'Test Batsmanship' and One Day thrills and spills. The challenging sixer achieved with his feet a foot above the turf, and on the off side took everyones breath away! This in addition to his famous 340 and 199 runs against India last year, amply justified the " affront to tradition" by Matthew Engel, who would have been the happiest man watching this batsman perform in England, David Hopps must surely now feel that not only has he changed the course of the game" - but also is now one of the Greats.

Disabled persons VB tourney

The second JICA Challenge Cup Volleyball tournament for disabled persons from Schools organised in joint collaboration with the Department of Social Services and the Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers (JOCV) will be held on September 18 at the National Youth Services Courts at Maharagama from 9.30 a.m.

The defending champions are Thihariya Islam School for Disabled.

This year seven schools will be in the fray.

The schools participating are:

Anuradhapura Deaf School, Ratmalana Deaf School, Thihariya School, Wattegama Vocational Training Institute, Seeduwa Vocational Training Institute, Thembuyaya Vocational Training Centre, Ketawela Vocational Training Centre.

The special invitees for this tournament are: Amara Hewamadduma, Secretary, Ministry of Social Services, Mrs. N.J. Pathirana, Director, Department of Social Services, Col. C. Wardena, Chairman, National Federation of Sports for the Disabled and Y. Kane, Resident Representative, JICA, Sri Lanka Office.

Hail the conquerors

When Murali bowls his magic spin
He charms the ball to strike and win
But if it sometimes disobeys
Murali spins in other ways.
When Sanath starts his mighty hits
He pounds the bowling into bits
In spite of ribcage bowling tricks
They were poor losers, poor old Brits.
Now Marvan with his stylish stroke
Made Alec seem a little joke
And Hashan called an ugly name
Ignored old Al and played the game.

Smart Kalu full of wicket wiles
Stumps batsman out then shouts and smiles
And Dharmasena faithful lad
Serves well in times both good and bad.
Pramodaya with a canny ease
Puts out the batsman from his crease
And young Mahela hopeful bright
Knows how to play the game aright.
Suresh and Upul do their best
With bat and ball they strike with zest
And Russel hits with style and plays
While Hathuru has his own smart ways.
A bowler of a splendid class
Is eager sadly absent Vaas
We hope to see him on the run
To join MM's great scalping fun.

Aravinda's stern majestic art
Comes from a noble mind and heart,
Arjuna's wisdom in the game
Has brought Sri Lanka power and fame.
Arjuna walks while others run
Arjuna has his private fun
He slams the pompous with a grin
He knows to lose, he knows to win.

The Cup is ours, the Test is won,
Beyond belief the deed is done.
The Brits in losing so much face
Might well have done so with some grace
Then harassed Cork and Gory Gough
Need not have been so wild and rough
The Brits are known to Play the Game
Don't change this Al, 'twould be a shame.

Well played Sri Lanka, honoured name,
Like Gentlemen you've played the Game
With Dazzling Bat and magic Ball

- Cheer Leader

Tennis Champ

Asiri Iddamalgoda emerged 1998 National Tennis Champion at the tournament conducted by the Sri Lanka Tennis Association.

Asiri defeated No.1 seed Rohan de Silva in a five setter match to clinch the title. The scores were 4-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in favour of Asiri. On the way to the championship title he defeated much fancied players like Rajive Rajapakse and Samitha Ranaweera.

Iddamalgoda, who was in USA on a Tennis Scholarship, returned to the island after obtaining hisMasters in Business Administration. He was national junior tennis champion in 1989/1990.

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