It appeared to me that the commentators for the opening game between Sri Lanka and New Zealand were taken by total surprise when they saw Sanath Jayasuriya batting as a lower middle order batsman.
The man who holds the record for the most number of 6s in ODIs, an ideal candidate for the T20 game, sent in at number seven?
It’s not as shocking for those who know what has been taking place in Sri Lanka.
Much of what we knew was all pure speculation based on media reports. No official statements have been made. But the treatment meted out to Sanath Jayasuriya by Kumar Sangakkara has now taken all of this beyond the realms of speculation.
Let me piece this together for you.
- Sanath Jayasuriya since retiring from Test Cricket has publicly stated that he will like to play in ODIs and T20s till the 2011 World Cup.
- He was a part of Sri Lanka’s T20 World Cup side in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20. He made 177 runs in seven matches at a modest average of 25.28. He hit five sixers in that tournament which was the most by any of Sri Lanka’s batsman. His highest score was 81 only second to Dilshan’s 96 not out against the West Indies in the Semi Final.
- Since the 2009 ICC World T20 (not including the match against NZ in the 2010 ICC WT20) Sri Lanka has played five T20 internationals. They have lost four and won one. In the five games since the WT20 Jayasuriya has made scores of 23, 1, 7, 26, and 31. Compare that to Mahela Jayawardene who has made 12, 3, 41, 9, and 12. Selection however was based on form at the IPL where Jayasuriya failed to secure a place in the star studded Mumbai Indians side and Mahela fared well for a struggling Kings XI. Jayasuriya played in just four matches in the IPL whereas Mahela played 13 games where he eventually had a chance to strike form. However, current form at the IPL was not considered for Dilshan who was a bigger failure.
- Jayasuriya played 23 ODIs in 2009 and his highest score was 98. After going through an extended lean patch, Jayasuriya lost his place as an opener to Upul Tharanga and was asked to bat in the middle order against India when Sri Lanka toured there in December of 2009.
- Jayasuriya was then offered a chance to take up politics by his long time fan and friend, President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ever since his acceptance and his subsequent victory at the polls, Sri Lankan fans have been divided. There were accusations flying around that Jayasuriya will use is his influence as a minister to get into the team. There were also complaints about how ethical it was for a sportsman to enter politics whilst playing.
- Unconfirmed news reports claimed that the squad for the ICC World Twenty20 did not include Jayasuriya’s name. It is alleged that the sports minister, whose approval is required, amended the squad chosen by the selectors to include Jayasuriya. The same news report also claimed that Sangakkara was unhappy with the inclusion.
It doesn’t matter where you stand on this. Any rational person should be able to realise that the sports minister holds much of the blame for bending over backwards to President Rajapaksa. Maybe you could even blame this all on Rajapaksa. But you won’t see Sangakkara taking on someone that big. Instead, his focus is on degrading a living legend struggling for form.
Let’s not forget that after years of great service to Sri Lanka, all that Sanath Jayasuriya has asked for is a chance to play till next year. What he got in the match against New Zealand was a public humiliation. He was asked to pad up as early as the eighth over when only two wickets had fallen, and eventually made to look a complete fool.