The Jayasuriya One-Day
by Revata S. Silva
It was truly fantastic. Something
which defies rational thinking. True that Sanath Jayasuriya had
guts and nerve to reach great heights in his fairy tale cricket
career during the last decade. But it was more a rollercoaster
ride of a na`EFve teenager.
The existing open economy may have had
something to do with it, carrying this youngster on a gigantic
and mind-boggling tumult, which actually made cricket history to
be written again. It will be hard for anyone resembling this
ordinary southerner coming out for Sri Lanka cricket so soon.
One Day cricket was the matrix this new-look hero was cast in.
Then everything happened. His interesting story might run a few
volumes if it is to be most graphically and intelligibly
narrated. Sanath’s story is nothing less than a saga. When it
comes to nearly thirty five years of One Day international
cricket, his name will ever pop up again and again.
One might agree, one might not. Some
might wish to spit this fact out like a bruising nettle in the
mouth, but many millions might will feel otherwise.
Sri Lanka cricket may never find a
cricketing star as fabulous as ‘Sana’ as he is affectionately
known in the island. To this writer’s knowledge, nobody else
earned as much as Jayasuriya did through a Pepsi Cola
advertisement at the height of his popularity in the aftermath
of the Wills’ World Cup win in 1996.
Since the days Jayasuriya, as a chubby
kid, was noticed by a village school cricket coach for his
extraordinary batting skills hitting tennis balls in unusually
effective style on the southern sandy beaches at Matara, his
cricket evolved in a modest but not sensational note till his
entry at national level.
He first played One Day internationals
from December, 1989, over a year before he got his Test cap. In
that year’s Benson & Hedges series match against Australia,
played in Melbourne, Jayasuriya faced only five balls before
being dismissed by Merv Hughes for three runs. He then played
his first Test in February, 1991.
Then Jayasuriya took 40 matches and 46
months to score his first ODI fifty. That was against Pakistan
in Sharjah. Till his 37th match he was batting down the order
and played more as an bowling allrounder with the accent on his
left-arm leg spin. He batted at No. 3 for the first time in
In a Hero Cup match played in Patna,
India in November, 1993 against Zimbabwe, Jayasuriya came out as
opener for the first time partnering Roshan Mahanama and scored
23 in 27 balls. That was his 42nd one dayer. He scored his first
ever ODI century, 140 in 143 balls with 9 fours and 6 sixes,
against New Zealand in his 71st match played in Bloemfontein,
South Africa in a Mandela Trophy match
When Sanath played in the first 1996
World Cup encounter (against Zimbabwe in Colombo), which was
incidentally his 100th ODI match, his career had spanned six
years. That really was a modest period which can now be termed
the ‘pre-ecstatic era’ of Jayasuriya’s career.
A star is born
As said earlier, Jayasuriya defied
more than any other the pure rationale of the cricket thinking.
He came from nowhere to stun the world of cricket. He rose from
the ashes, as it were, to rewrite cricket history books and
alter and radically change the orthodox scenarios in cricket
The true fairytale begins after the
’96 World Cup. The fifteen-over fielding restrictions were
scrutinized. Many other perceptions governing the game and
ingrained tactics underwent a bizarre sea change.
Afridis and ultimately Gilchrists,
too, were born and the entire one day game, if not the classical
form of the game was stood on its head. Wisden bestowed the
title on Sanath as the "Player of the Year" in 1997.
Tension was heightened and the game
spelt a fanaticism in the subcontinent. All these because none
other than this shy, slightly built youngster with iron fore-
hands and awkward temperament in batting and with a religious
faith in the middle were the salient characteristics of his
The records flew in a trice. The
fastest ODI ton, then the fastest fifty, the most number of
sixes, the highest ODI individual score and the most successful
captain – in terms of success ratio – in the country etc.
The result was as expected. Beautiful
Jayasuriya sarees came out from Mumbai. A film on his lifestory
and many new born kids in India named after him. And, a new
brand of rice called Jayasuriya rice! Commercialism was in full
The last decade saw the player oozing
with confidence and reaching status of a folk hero, a seasoned
campaigner who looks to wind up a career investing it in a
classical dramatic genre. Maybe the next World Cup in the
Caribbean will be the defining moment.
But the saga does not end there. The
lessons are there from far greater heroes of the grand
cricketing history. The fact in Sri Lanka is that heroes are
born but dismantle themselves in quick time. The same thing
happened with many of our heroes who stepped down from the game
in recent times.
How will Jayasuriya saga continue in
this small island in years to come? Will it be another
disappointing flop or will it be a dawn of some valuable cricket
tradition? Everything depends on how serious Jayasuriya will be
on the importance of himself in future sports in Sri Lanka.
But one thing is certain. This southerner has
already reached dizzy heights in the sport. Jayasuriya insignia
will definitely be something hard to be erased off in annals of
the local, if not the regional, sports history.