|M. J. M. Lafir's world record in billiards is still our best
Individually, I consider the achievement of the late M. J. M. Lafir in winning the World Billiards Championship title in India in 1973 as our best. I would also point out that Lafir was runner up too in the World Billiards Championship conducted in Sri Lanka in 1967 which I had the privilege to witness.
A world billiards champion on one occasion and a runner up in another were commendable performances but, they have not been given due recognition and is also forgotten today. I have seen Lafir who was Lankas national champion for seventeen years perform at his best and I cant forget how crowds ran from one table to another to see this maestro in action.
Then there are the performances of the late Duncan White winning a silver at the 1948 Olympics and Susanthika Jayasinghe securing a bronze at the recently held Olympics. Susanthika is striving to win a gold at the next Olympics and it will have to be a tremendous effort by her to achieve it.
Then follows the recent feat by Muralitharan in capturing over 400 Test wickets. He has great chance of overtaking the world record which is only 100 wickets away.
The forward defensive stroke
Sunil Gavaskar once said that in batting the most important stroke is the forward defence for however good your stroke play may be, to survive at the wicket one needs a sound defence. If you dont survive at the wicket then you cannot score runs. Similarly in bowling, length and line are the cardinal requisites. Perfect ball control is vital to pitch the ball where you want. On a responsive wicket if you bowl a decent line and length you should reap dividends. You dont need too many variations on a responsive wicket for the wicket itself will provide them. One ball may turn more sharply than the other and so on. On a good batting wicket however, one has got to exploit all skills to trouble good batsmen with variations etc. One should however master the stock ball before variations are attempted.
In the olden days only the Colombo Oval now re-named as the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium was our big match venue. For this reason no two big matches could have been played during the same weekend as there was only one ground of repute. But today the situation is quite different. We could have got Test status long before we received it if this problem had been solved. Our standard was more than satisfactory to warrant Test status long ago, but due to flimsy excuses by the ICC we were delayed in getting there. We experienced this ground problem and also the 1968 English tour was cancelled due to unforeseen reasons which further delayed our Test status. When one considers how easily Bangladesh got Test status and the thrashing they are getting in Tests at present, one wonders what the ICCs line of thinking is on these important issues. When will Bangladesh win a Test match?
Finally, we played our first official Test match from February 17 to 22 (1982) against England at the Colombo Oval and we were beaten. I feel that when we first got Test Status, our main problem was adjusting ourselves to five day cricket. We were never lacking in talent. But as our club cricket was only of two or three days duration, we had hardly played any cricket over four or five days. Soon we got over this problem and during our twenty years of Test cricket, we have made giant strides and today we can meet any country virtually on level terms.
Many records broken
Sri Lanka has also broken a number of Test records for example the highest partnership and the highest total both achieved at the Kettarama Stadium against India and even the World Test record of 375 runs scored by Brian Lara was under threat in that match. But Jayasuriya fell short of it by 35 runs.
The ICC should now consider giving us a five Test series against good opposition. Other Test playing countries who got Test status before us, have achieved it.
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