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An Undeserved End For Sanath Jayasuriya

By Orin Davidson
March 14th, 2008
The last 12 months have seen a number of superstars of this era bow out of cricket.

Sanath Jayasuriya batting during 2007 Cricket World Cup final against Australia. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Shawn Pollock have all moved on smoothly from international competition, but from all appearances another great Sanath Jayasuriya is set for a bitter departure.

And undeservingly so.

The hard hitting phenomenon has been dropped from the Sri Lanka limited overs team for the upcoming West Indies tour which would effectively end his career without him bidding a graceful exit to his multitude of fans around the world.

At 38 years of age and with Sri Lanka’s fortunes dipping in the international game after a tremendous 2007 World Cup, it is obvious the Sri Lanka Board will not turn to the veteran ever again.

While Lara was given a rousing sendoff during that World Cup and Warne and McGrath had farewell series during the Australia domestic season, the Sri Lankan Board doesn’t seem inclined to give Jayasuriya a similar type sendoff.

And if the opening batsman feels slighted in any way he has every reason to.
For he has brought credibility to Sri Lanka in a bigger way than any other player has done.

He is the player who revolutionized limited overs cricket not only for his country but for the entire cricket world.

His power hitting in the early overs was made into a must do strategy for all teams after Jayasuriya adopted the approach with amazing success beginning in the mid 1990s.

It was a major factor in Sri Lanka claiming its lone major achievement in world competition when they upset the form book to win the 1996 World Cup.
To this day Jayasuriya has maintained his ferocious style despite the ravages of age and his record of 12,310 ODI runs with 25 centuries speak for itself.

Few players can play with the type of attacking flair Jayasuriya adopts in both forms of the game with success. Which is why he must be considered Sri Lanka’s best ever batsman, given his 6973 Test runs with 14 centuries for an average of 40 spanning 15 years in Test competition.

No other Sri Lankan combines power and concentration as Jayasuriya has done.
One of the great highlights of the Sri Lankan’s career must be his close chase of Lara’s 375-run Test world record on home soil. He finished an awesome innings on 340 which even Lara himself later admitted gave him a sleepless night following it in the West Indies.

Many other glorious innings have been carved from Jayasuriya’s bat in the longer form of the game including his 213 off England which he rates his second best after the 340.

Along with his tenacity, Jayasuriya is equipped with the most important quality that makes great sportsmen. His toughness - which is not only evident in his obvious exploits in the field, has allowed him to rebound from adversity.

His revival after being criticized amid calls for his dropping was evident in 2004 which featured blazing centuries against Australia and Pakistan including a double and Asia Cup tons.

In 2006 he engineered another revival that included two ODI centuries including a phenomenal 285 off 15 overs with Upul Tharanga in partnership that has to go down as one of the greatest exhibitions of power hitting by two men collectively.

That toughness may have developed from a rough upbringing in rural Matara - 100 miles from Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.

Jayasuriya’s hunger for success is a result of the deprivations from a humble early existence that among other negatives saw him not owning a cricket bat until the mature age of 18 years old.

It helped him land the 1996 World Cup Most Valuable Player award for among other feats slamming 82 runs from 44 balls and the fastest World Cup 50 from 30 deliveries at the time.

Fittingly, Jayasuriya was a key component in Sri Lanka’s next biggest accomplishment in finishing runner up in the World Cup last year, losing to world number one Australia in the final.

He reeled off 467 runs at 38 years of age and if you were around to see him sink hosts West Indian hearts with a classic 115 in difficult conditions that effectively dumped the Caribbean side from the world’s premier competition they were hosting for the first time, you will agree he has to go down as one of the all time greats of limited overs cricket.

Not forgetting his effective left arm spin that has dashed many a batsman’s hopes especially in the sub continent, Jayasuriya with his docile personality would be the perfect role model.

You therefore, have to be amazed at his treatment by the Sri Lanka authorities.

A chance for a farewell series against West Indies or one at home is the least the country could reward a player with - someone who helped engineer their emergence as a world cricket power.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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