Sanath Jayasuriya is considered by many as the man who single handedly changed the manner in which all international teams approached batting in Cricket.
He took on the bowling in the first fifteen overs when other teams concentrated more on consolidation. Players of the likes of Sehwag and Gilchrist were only thought of as opening batsmen once Jayasuriya proved to the world that success was possible when attacking against the new ball.
In the 1996 cricket world cup when other teams aimed for scores between 40 to 50 runs in the first 15 overs, Sri Lanka aimed for 100.
England skipper Micheal Atherton called it a ‘Spectacular way to fly’ in a post match press briefing. Jayasuriya had just destroyed England’s World Cup dream with a devastating display of hitting.
On one notable occasion, Sanath took on India’s fast bowlers in the group stage encounter. Manoj Prabhakar was carted to all parts in a short four-over spell in which he had to resort to bowling slow off-spin to curb the assault.
Consequently, Prabhakar’s career was abruptly ended. India chose not to play him thereafter.
Countless other bowlers have suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan mauler. On the verge of 40 he is still considered a devastating batsman.
Australia’s Glenn Mcgrath, one of the game’s finest fast bowlers, upon his retirement, picked Jayasuriya as one of the toughest batsman he ever had to go against.
"Others may have had better records but few were more dangerous. It is always a massive compliment to someone to say they changed the game, and his storming innings in the 1996 World Cup changed everyone’s thinking about how to start one-day innings. Great natural flair." – Glenn Mcgrath.
Whereas young men complain about over-booked schedules and too much cricket these days, Sanath Jayasuriya continues to fly from continent to continent to squeeze in more action. It seems the older he gets, the more his services are required.
This year alone, Jayasuriya has featured for both the Dolphins in South Africa’s domestic cricket league and the Mohammedans in the Bangladesh domestic league. He will also be making an appearance for the Mumbai Indians in the upcoming Indian Premier League season.
Fans the world over flock to watch the man play. Who wouldn’t want to tell their grandchildren that they saw Sanath just flick the ball for six with wrists made of steel?
There is no huge back lift, rarely a slog, or a huge waft.
Jayasuriya’s style is his own. His placement is immaculate; he often makes a mockery of the opposing captain’s field placing.
Veteran Indian commentator Sunil Gavaskar was left to admit defeat in India’s 2009 tour to Sri Lanka when Jayasuriya thrashed the mid wicket boundary repeatedly despite MS Dhoni’s attempts to plug the leg side boundary.
‘The fine leg should be square’ quipped Gavaskar after Jayasuriya pummelled Sharma through mid wicket. As if he heard Sunil’s comments Dhoni made the change, the fine leg fielder was moved squarer. Very next ball was hit for four more only in the very same position the fielder had been previously.
"Fielder is a little too square now," was Gavaskar’s subconscious (and inner Indian) response to the play. But quickly realizing his error, he corrected himself, adding, "On the other hand, this is Jayasuriya—he will hit it anywhere on his day, fielder or no fielder."
That’s the typical reaction Sanath Jayasuriya has received in his long, illustrious career. Fans and pundits alike tend to have a short-term memory when it comes to this modest man from a little coastal village in southern Sri Lanka.
His achievements and contribution to the game are second to none. As I pen this down, he remains the only man in ODI Cricket’s 38-year history to have four ODI scores above 150.
Jayasuriya’s destruction of the opposition has not only occurred in batting friendly home conditions. He holds the record for the fastest 150 in an ODI innings (off 95 balls), in a game played against England in England in 2006.
He also jointly holds the record for the second-highest ODI score, 189 runs, with Viv Richards. His name graces the record books numerous times, which includes the record for the fastest 50 ever scored and the most sixes ever hit in ODI Cricket.
And to top it all off, he is one of the few batsman to have scored a Test match triple century.
Like a fine wine, Jayasuriya has only got better with age. Since his 35th birthday, he has scored 10 centuries and countless kamikaze-style knocks in which he sacrificed his wicket playing attacking cricket. He leaves bowling he faces in tatters, boosting Sri Lanka’s scoring rate above and beyond the seven-run-an-over mark.
A quick-fire 40 runs from the bat of Sanath Jayasuriya inevitably leaves the opposition demoralized, and Sri Lanka on top.
AS he climbs "over the hill" agewise, he appears indispensable in Sri Lanka’s ODI and T20 line up. Not many in world cricket, let alone Sri Lankan cricket, can boast of the ability to hit a fast bowler against the new ball over cover for six; but Jayasuriya still can, and his accomplishments deserve to be acknowledged by all.