Mahela’s Rhapsody in Blue continues to enthral Caribbean crowds

By Trevor Chesterfield | May 08, 2010

It would be a tad churlish to suggest that Chamara Kapugedara denied Mahela Jayawardene his place in history. Well, this is what has been claimed by some. Of how Kapugedara hogged the strike in the last over at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, and that the former national captain, seeking only two runs to be the first score two centuries at T20 international over level, missed such an opportunity.

This is typical of the calumny flying around the bars and pavilions in Colombo, explaining how through these comments, those making them didn’t read the game too well, or the way the batsmen handled that final over of the Sri Lanka innings against the West Indies. Anyone who knows both players would agree with the same line they would offer if asked, of how more important it is for runs to be put on the board than going records. There will be another chance, given the number of games to be played, for Jayawardene to unfurl his eye-pleasing skills in this shorter format of the game to become the first to score a T20 three-figure international innings.

He has the ability, patience and stage to shape what will be a remarkable performance for any batsman at this level of the game, with his strike rate in this particular innings of 175, with the runs scored off only 56 deliveries. This tells us what an energised performance it was.

Okay, so he was lucky. A batsman or bowler needs a little luck at this level. And so what if he did happen to find the West Indies on a day they appeared to be a side drawn from a third division Mercantile Social League club, masquerading as international imposters, you still need to somehow put the runs on the board.

What did entertain is how the partnership between Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara prospered in a way you have not seen from them since their world record 624 for the third wicket against South Africa at international level. Sure there is that 311 against Bangladesh in Kandy a year after the South African epic which also comes to mind for its style. As they have been partners in 11 Test century partnerships and seven at ODI games, this particular one is impressive in its proclivity for its strike rotation instead of the wallop and out style, you so often get from batsmen urged by coaches to throw the bat around to score quick runs and an early dismissal.

No one is going to be that foolish, certainly not Mrs Jayawardene’s son Mahela unless there are serious reasons.

Jayawardene can trace his success this ICC World T20 series in the Caribbean to his Indian Premier League turnaround on April 4, when Shaun Marsh copped an injury shortly before a game and suggested to the Kings XI Punjab XI coach Tom Moody as well as the franchise captain, Sangakkara he would like a chance to open. He had done with success for Wayamba and also Sri Lanka at ODI level.

‘It has never mattered to me who scores the runs as long as we win matches, and this was an ideal chance to do that,’ he said at the time of his promotion to open the innings against the Kolkata Knight Riders. His innings of 110 proved the point of his argument how he should be opening the innings, a theory that I have pushed with him for a couple of years. The white ball is different to the red in that the polish and seam do not last as long.

As his form took root and with the ICC tournament in the Caribbean in the offing, translating his success and appetite for runs needed to be fed and languishing at four or five in the order at this level has made no sense at all to me after watching his ODI performances as an opener.

Against the West Indies, he eased his way into his innings, as much as he did against Zimbabwe. Why should he need to change his style? Switch his sweet-sounding Stradivarius for a twanging electric guitar just to please a few in the audience who cannot understand the nuances of how it is better to play Mark Anthony than Macbeth and allow his batting talents to work for him and the side.

His laconic cover-drive, sweet pull, delightful hook (did anyone notice how Sanath Jayasuriya was set up and suckered?), the on-driving at times and the way he went in search of the ball to hit. There was all the classic skill and style. The Rhapsody in Blue was giving an encore and as Sangakkara stepped up as well to keep him company, there was some quality synchronisation of batsmen who know each other’s game well, and ways to attack the bowling to suit their strategy. In this case was of domination and this was so well employed as they plundered anything that was wayward; and that was all too often. It was matter of stepping up a gear.

Possibly, by the time you read these comments, and have ground your teeth in furious disagreement, the game against Australia will be just over the horizon. It is the next step up and the way that bowling attack demolished India with their careless strokeplay, it will be a challenge for Sri Lanka of who to open with Jayawardene on the faster bouncy surface at Kensington Oval.

The ends of this refurbished venue on an island that can be called Little England of the Caribbean are named after two great West Indies fast bowlers: Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner.

Maybe it is a harbinger regarding the result in advance, as with Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes, this duo are not the sort who will shake your hand until the game is over. On the field, it will be a little spluttering and a few other words of welcome that could singe the earlobes as well as make you wonder if there is an easier occupation.

©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
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