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Violence, but on the pitch

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altImagine sitting at the dentist’s and getting a root canal done, or sitting seat belted at the most mind numbing roller coaster ride of your life with the inevitable fall about to hit you. The common feeling in both situations is that of sensation, except in the former, the sensation brings pain and in the latter sensation gives you the thrill. Now imagine how virtually teary eyed would have been the captains, supporters of some of the best and renowned bowlers of cricket with their heroes being given this hammering treatment when the destructor in charge handing out this treatment was Sanath Teran Jayasuriya. There have been only a handful of cricketers to have risen metaphorically to the top of the ranks having begun the climb from the virtual bottom, impacting not just the game but elevating the euphoria with which it is followed. And with Sanath Jayasuriya, the rarity of this occurrence was such that it forever changed the perception of modern day cricket. Power hitting right from the word go, a resolve of a knight armed with a single minded aim to wreck havoc, in a fashion that remained unchanged till the end without a care for the bearer of this plight, Jayasuriya’s impact at the game lasted for over two decades of him staying at the pitch.

At only 5 feet 7 inches, Sanath in his supremely long stint at the professional sport, made giant strides towards greatness and sheer batting domination, in a fashion that still remains to be matched with stiff competition coming only from the present destructors in the form of Sehwag and Gayle. During his stay at the crease, the umpires worked just as hard if not more than the bowlers who were found wanting with constant movement of the hands suggesting either a towering six or a meaty hit to the fence, never mind the constant repetitions. Either as the scorer of one of the quickest ODI hundreds off 48 bowls, or the scorer of fastest ODI fifty at a lightning speed of 17 deliveries, a record he still holds or as the scorer of over 13400 ODI runs, Jayasuriya out rightly denounced the right of bowlers to dominate the sport known more as a batsman’s game than a bowler’s pet with showcasing of some unforgettable herculean exploits.

Who would have thought that a batsman who initially began at the lower order, one who often awaited an opportunity to go out in the middle and one who was never seen with bowl in hand, would end up as perhaps the most valuable asset for the Sri Lankan side, scoring not just a staggering 20,000 plus runs combined in both forms, but would also grab a rich bouquet of 421 international scalps. The first player to appear in 400 ODI games, this mighty Sri Lankan’s assault on international bowlers of great repute shall forever be remembered in the same fashion in which he approached each innings with the thought behind every knock big or small constructed on the philosophy of finding a way for “best unrest” for the bowler. With each achievement of Sanath, Sri Lankan cricket rose to greater heights. Together with Romesh Kaluwitharana, Jayasuriya opened not just the Sri Lankan batting in 1996 World Cup, but also a new chapter in Sri Lankan cricketing history. Attacking right from the word go and pausing only at the drink interval to replenish the brawns to attack again, the Jayasuriya method of attacking made the outcome of a game be judged from the score collected from initial 15 overs, a trend that seems to

motivate teams to this very day when aiming to gather maximum scores from 50 overs. And on each occasion he scored, he powered the Lankan might to greater heights with him being adjudged the player of the tournament and Lanka winning their first and only World cup. In the following years, crowds across the world witnessed the growing sensation of Santh Jayasuriya with thumping knocks coming against Pakistan, India and the rest dominating score charts world over. The wrists that butchered the opposition single handedly were also turned to at crucial intervals with the captain’s faith seeming to be bestowed in his uncanny ability to spin a magic. With legends like Aravinda, Arjuna, Vaas and Murali, Sri Lankan cricket moved to the top like a blitzkrieg, with Sanath’s reputation remaining intact as numero uno destructor.

There are players who willingly go after records and then there are some who the records chase. Without a botheration for the amazing tally of records that this brutal hitter of the cherry has amassed this smashing Left hander who has to his claim 270 ODI sixes, the second highest tally of maximum number of fours ever hit in a one day inning (24) and once held the fastest 50, 100 and 150 individual ODI scores, seems to have had a long standing affair with International records, one which is as evident as his love for batting, a swashbuckling trademark of Sri Lankan cricket. His highest score of 340 against India in 1997 is second only to Jayawardene’s 374 and is remembered as a knock that showcased in magnanimous light- the power of Sri Lankan cricket . His highest score of 189 again against India remains as the highest pinnacle of batsmanship ever scaled by a Sri Lankan in ODI cricket. With 14 test and 28 ODI hundreds along with 31 and 68 fifties from the longest and shorter formats packed with delightful and thrilling stroke play, this veteran Sri Lankan who also happens to be a staunch Buddhist hasn’t really dealt with bowlers in the most amicable manner in his career, with Aussie legend Glen Mcgrath hailing him as one of the most destructive forces he ever dealt with in his international career. Bring on pace or bowl with effective grit and grace, Jayasuriya would love to relish all corners of the park sending the ball out with brutal force. He never became a bunny of any bowler and took each challenge put at him with undeterred shoulders ever willing to single handedly change the course of the most pertinent of contests that Sri Lanka were put against. Not a man of many words and the one whose breezy stroke play punctuated the dismissive fate of bowlers as it did to park many a chequered flag in his international career, Sanath won as many as 48 man of the match awards in One dayers, second only to the little master. Known to keep a cool head at the pitch shifting the burden of thoughts quickly on to the opposition, he is a popular and sort after political figure, when away from the pitch with his soaring popularity with United People’s Freedom Alliance party in Sri Lanka, which he entered post retirement from his hometown Matara district.

With his retirement, the bowlers around the world would have certainly breathed a sigh of relief with them having relived of the grief he brought them thanks to his episodes of sheer dominance out there on the pitch. Through Sanath and fellow geniuses of his time including Arvinda Desilva, Vaas, Tilakaratne and Murali, the rich legacy of Sri Lankan cricket shall continue to serve the and lift the current lot of talent emerging from the Island nation, the future of whom depends as much on the on field brilliance as the vital and effervescent advice that this mighty mauler from Matera holds for their grooming.


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