Mahela’s rhapsody a classic performance

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(and hotwired D/L formula at the Caribbean T20)

By Trevor Chesterfield | May 04, 2010

Amazing what a year can do in the T20 international game. Among the questions being asked amid the showers at soggy Providence Stadium in Guyana, and captains and coaches trying to fathom the dithering Duckworth and Lewis calculations, is what happened to that fatuous stroke of last year, the ‘whatsitscoop’ that Tillakaratne Dilshan paraded with such a smirk in England.

What have been employed instead are largely been batting basics and solid technique and skills. The result has been two of the classiest innings you are likely to see at any level of the game.

First, we had a marauding performance by Suresh Raina, a name yet to grace the Indian Test squad for some mysterious reason known only to the Indian selection Mafia. He batted with élan and organised purpose as he put together a century that had him parading like some Phantom Menace, brandishing his Star Wars type willow sabre that put young Morné Morkel to the sword in an over that in essence helped India beat South Africa. Clean hitting, not slogging.

It was not as easy as it seemed as the Safs did hit back, but their charge came too late and left the South Africans 14 runs short of the target needed to get their campaign moving. Now they have to beat Afghanistan, a side that has to be admired for its fortitude as well as ability to shake up the system a little. Exposure in this tournament is good for their image, even if they don’t have a home base to call their own, but a camp in some UAE city, which is better than nothing.

What the Afghanis have achieved in barely two years is impressive; from the IDP camps of Pakistan and the war-ravaged fields of home to the pristine Caribbean venues and competing against the top nations by virtue of beating UAE to qualify. Chew in your curry and chicken you lot in Colombo or what other part of the universe you happen to live, because Afghanistan will shock a few teams, despite being a country having to play in exile because of circumstances beyond their control.

After New Zealand worked over the Sri Lankan’s bowling at the death in that opening game, and despite the obvious batting quality from Mahela Jayawardene, with sound support from Dinesh Chandimal, it needed a genuine pick me up from Kumar Sangakkara’s troupe to put a better batting act together in the second game. And Sanga pinpointed where Sri Lanka lost that first game. First it was Jacob Oram, the lanky all-rounder from Palmerston North, plundered successive sixes off Ajantha Mendis, just the way Yusuf Pathan thrashed the so-called mystery man in the IPL. Then that last over from Lasith Malinga whose radar went on the blink and he failed to bowl straight.

In his brilliant autobiography ‘Turning Point,’ New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, says he has a soft spot for Sri Lanka and is proud how his playing career has coincided with Muttiah Muralitharan. He also explains how he like the T20 challenge as batsmen charge the bowler and makes for a more attacking game where batting has its own styles and stylist.

He could have been writing about the Rhapsody in Blue: Mahela Jayawardene’s style of innings against Zimbabwe was just that. It was classic, as classic as a Creedence Clearwater Revival protest song with a message, as strong and as powerfully in tune and synch as the George Gershwin allegro notes of that excellent jazz composition. That is how Jayawardene batted.

Mahela Jayawardene
Mahela Jayawardene provides free coaching lessons to young cricketers during a visit to Hindu College, Matale. © Austin Management LTD.

Somewhere, recently there was some piffle written about warning the selectors and team management not to be suckered into the ploy of opening the innings at T20 level with the erstwhile national captain. It would be wrong; weigh the side down with indecision at the top. Flashy and fast-food delivery was needed, the ‘whatsitscoop’ the paddle and the reverse sweep would be the strokes of the tournament. Forget the batting basics, that is boring.

Take off the myopic blinkers guys and enjoy the Rhapsody in Blue as he batted as any classicist can, with impressive technique and the pull and cut were as perfect as you will find. There were times that his polished style made you wonder why the selectors and team management dithered so long. The man is in prime form of his career and those who have not played the game at this level, or any decent level are trying to pass on advice to those who have. Check the record books.

Yet apart from the one effort from Chandimal, and that brief untidy slugging by Thissara Perera, if it hadn’t been for Jayawardene’s batting against a side as puny as Zimbabwe, the side would have been scurrying around the Caribbean, waiting for the games against the Kiwis in Florida.

It is so easy to depict the sharp pens of criticism and the outpouring of indignation about how Jayawardene is lucky, or this player is over looked in the report, or that one, and really Chesterfield is so biased against so and so. If you have umpired a few first-class games, or written a couple of books about the game, been a provincial selector as well as coach, then we’ll sit and have a chat. And if you need a name or two, Jacque Rudolph is a protégé, along with Pierre Joubert.

Anyway, as Paul Collingwood has been singing in the rain, over the flawed Duckworth and Lewis format, you can understand how they are currently not the favourite uncles of most teams and their disgruntled management in this third ICC T20 tournament.

Anyway, those who know their Caribbean this time of year should have also known how rain could so easily threaten to turn the event into quagmire of sodden results reliant on the doddering, dithering rain calculations of a system devised Uncles Duckworth and Lewis. It was interesting to note, Zimbabwe didn’t know what their target was when they went out to bat. And the game between the Kiwis and Zimbabwe also ended in as big a farce as did the England/West Indies game.

It was suggested New Zealand still required four runs, then the rains fell again and the joke was, the Kiwis had actually won by seven runs. Now work that one out. Not being a hotwired professor of mathematics it is hard to argue what is right and wrong unless you have the D/L sheet in front of you.

Yet, take a closer look, the bewailing of England and some of their writers, they should have realised what was needed to win the game. Tough. And suggesting England’s 191 for five as being the best in this format of the game is the type of misplaced jingoism you can get from those wet behind the ears and who carry their patriotism on their sleeve.

©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
(For reasons of copyright, permission is required from the author and/or webmaster/editor of islandcricket.lk for publication).

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