Loved beyond boundaries
by Aravinthan Arunthavanathan
When AB De Villiers strides out to the middle, the crowd at Chinnaswammy stadium in Bengaluru chant ABeee, ABee. When Lasith Malinga is at the top of his mark at the Wankhede in Mumbai, the echelons echo Maliii….Maliii…. AB De Villers and Malinga are top notch members of an elite coterie in international cricket, who are revered outside their land of origin. The membership in this elite circle extends to a select few like Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Ian Botham in the past to Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Kane Williamson at present. The most recent entrant to this club is Kumar Sangakkara who seems to be captivating the English with his charisma. Kumar may seem to the inventors of Cricket that he is more English than most English. Exuding elegance and captivating with charisma Sangakkara has obtained membership in the elite club interestingly post retirement. However, Kumar isn’t the first such Lankan to be adored in an alien land.
Immigration encounters abroad are not the pleasantest of experiences for any traveler. It does not get any worse when you have made an unknown blunder in your documentation and end up in a soup. It was exactly the case for yours truly in Kolkata two years ago. A lengthy delay seemed inevitable. The immigration official was calling his superior to escalate the issue. The line was not reachable. Luckily that day I was wearing a Sri Lankan cricket T Shirt. It’s my go to clothing when travelling because of the comfort more than anything else. Yet that was good enough for us to start a conversation on Cricket. There was no mention about the present but the past. Unsurprisingly the dominance of a dynamite southpaw from down south was the central topic. Thankfully, I remembered the minute details which many would not regarding Sanath Jayasuriya’s exploits against our neighbors. Surprisingly, immigration official reminded me even more. We stuck a cord instantly. The superior was not even needed. The parting words were “Well Afterall you are from Sanath Jayasuriya’s land, pay attention to detail the next time you come.” I do not know Sanath in person, but he was my savior that day. Every time ever since, there hasn’t been a single visit where I haven’t encountered an Indian who adores Sanath’s exploits. The adulation he garners in a cricket loving nation with surplus of home bred demigods is beyond admiration. If Sangakkara connects with English through charisma and class Sanath was blockbuster material in India through brutal butchery and methodical massacring of Indian attacks during his career. Sanath was a villain to India who was too good not to be liked. Those who witnessed it know it.
Sanath’s rise to prominence came at the Kotla in New Delhi in a 1996 World Cup group game. Sanath’s evisceration of the Indian attack announced to the world loud and clear that Sri Lanka were not push overs anymore. The same year Sanath notched his first century against India at a packed Khettharama making a mockery of another Indian total built around a Sachin century. In the years that followed since 1996 every year saw Sri Lanka play India. Often a Sanath century was a highlight. The 151* in Mumbai, 189 in Sharjah were some of the stand outs during this period. However, since relinquishing leadership in 2003, Sanath’s inconsistencies with the bat became a topic of interest. In 2004 with pressure mounting the skipper Marvan Atapattu was adamant Sanath would come good soon during the Asia Cup in Colombo. Soon Sanath delivered a majestic century in losing cause in a must win game for India. The following period saw fluctuating fortunes for Sanath. Despite winning a game with a dislocated shoulder against India in Dambulla, a lean patch in a disastrous tour of India saw him being left out of a Sri Lankan squad for the first time towards end 2005. Sanath soon rose from the doldrums with a magnificent series against the English in 2006 which helped the audience witness the Matara mauler being reborn and serve Sri Lanka with supremacy till the end of the 2007 World Cup. However afterwards it was a plunge for Sanath. In 2008 Sanath’s place was hanging under the knife. A scintillating century for Mumbai Indians against Chennai Super kings in the inaugural IPL had given rays of hope. The Asia Cup in Pakistan in 2008 had the potential to be the end for Sanath if he failed to deliver. A century against a not so strong Bangladesh was never going to suffice in the long run. When Sri Lanka faced India in the final it was do or die for Sanath. The final is a game which is recollected for the Ajantha Mendis magic which scripted one of Sri Lanka’s best comeback wins. However, in the midst of it, the master blaster’s masterclass is often overlooked.
Having taken first lease of the wicket Sri Lanka got off to the worst possible start. Sanath sold down the river, his opening partner the consistent Sangakkara, who by now had taken over the mantle of being Sri Lanka’s leading batsman by sending him back halfway through a single. Despite the early setback Sanath was not deterred. He carried on his signature way flaying Ishant Sharma and RP Singh to all parts of the ground. Trademark square drives over cover, cuts through third man, pulls over square leg coupled with cute glanced down the leg meant Sri Lanka were off to a solid start. Sanath took a particular interest in Irfan Pathan smashing him for more than 15 runs in the eleventh over. However, a cluster for wickets at the other end meant the Indians were all over the Lankans like a rash. India had seen enough of Sanath in the past. Sanath ensured he reminded them of what was in store by galloping to his half century pulling an 86mPH short delivery from Ishant with disdain over square leg for a six. This was a 39-year-old in the twilight of his career smacking a young pace bowler who had wreaked havoc down under only a few months prior. It was not just a shot but a statement of supremacy. Sanath received a stroke of luck immediately afterwards as he survived an ugly cross batted shot off Ishant missing the stumps and RP Singh missing a skier at mid-on. RP Singh would soon rue the miss with what was to follow. What followed was carnage.
Jayausriya greeted Singh in the most disdainful manner dispatching his for two consecutive sixes over the bowler’s head and long off in the 16th over. The next two balls provided no response for the bowler as they were mercilessly manhandled by the master over covers for consecutive boundaries. As if leaving the leg side untouched was a shortcoming Jayasuriya closed the over with a six over square leg. The over fetched 26 runs and MS Dhoni and India knew the game was far from over. RP Singh was not the first Indian bowler to suffer at the hands of Sanath. Manoj Prabakar, Venkatesh Prasad all had suffered the wrath of Sanath’s willow. But what stood out was all of these bowlers belonged to different generation yet were not spared of Sanath’s mauling. A single batsman dishing out the same to bowlers across generations was truly admirable.
A gentle nudge down to square leg off Virender Sehwag helped Sanath to his 27th ODI century. It was a gentle nudge but there was nothing gentle about the knock. The sheer brutality of the knock was proven by the fact that his century came up in the 24th over and the team score was only 150. Sanath had notched 2/3 of the total score. Finally, when Sanath departed in the 36th over for 127 well-made runs he had scored more than 40% of the team total. A knock of such dominance in a final where the rest of the team faltered was true reflection of how good Jayasuriya was. Whilst Mendis dealt the killer punch later in the day Sanath’s contribution was truly magnificent.
This was not the first time, neither was it the last. Sanath would notch up his final international century in 2009 and another 99 the same year when his career was going down south. It was knocks of such nature with dominance that captured the attention of fans even in a passionate country like India. It is no surprise that his deeds are recollected even today with so much of adulation.
Sanath Jayasuriya was good enough to be loved in his own backyard. He was too good, not to be loved beyond the confines of his country. But being accepted to a coterie which cultivated cult following in a cricket mad nation like India, is the true testimony to the greatness Sanath Jayasuriya exhibited. In an era of social media where access to our favorites’ living rooms is just a fingertip, away being adored in foreign lands is still admirable. But to have achieved the same when even on field exploits were accessible only through print media and television was beyond remarkable. Sanath was not only a national but regional asset in his prime. Like the legacy of Richards, Bothams and Tendulkars, the legacy of Jayasuriya will live forever and we as Sri Lankan fans were truly blessed to have existed in an era to witness the master blaster’s brilliance.
Rajapaksa, Arshdeep deliver winning start for PBKS
A power-packed, collective performance with the bat set the platform for Punjab Kings’ winning start as they downed Kolkata Knight Riders by seven runs (DLS method) at the PCA stadium in Mohali on Saturday (April 1). Bhanuka Rajapaksa (50 off 32) registered his maiden IPL fifty while Shikhar Dhawan struck a 29-ball 40, and along with useful contributions from the rest of the batters, PBKS posted a formidable 191/5. Andre Russell top-scored for KKR but they lost wickets at regular intervals and eventually fell short of the DLS par score as they finished with 146/7 in 16 overs when rain forced the players off the field.
Punjab Kings 191/5 in 20 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 50, Shikhar Dhawan 40; Tim Southee 2-54) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146/7 in 16 overs (Andre Russell 35; Venkatesh Iyer 34; Arshdeep Singh 3-19) by 7 runs (DLS method).
Ruturaj 92 in vain as Titans win opening game
A brilliant 92 from Ruturaj Gaikwad went in vain as defending champions Gujarat Titans beat Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad on Friday (March 31) in the tournament opener. Gaikwad’s innings was nullified to an extent initially by Shubman Gill before a few vital blows towards the end of the game from the Titans middle order got the job done for them with four balls to spare.
Chennai Super Kings 178/7 in 20 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 92; Rashid Khan 2/26, Mohammed Shami 2/29) lost to Gujarat Titans182/5 in 19.2 overs (Shubman Gill 63; Rajvardhan Hangargekar 3/36) by 5 wickets
Bowlers, Stirling lead Ireland to their first win in Bangladesh in any format
Ireland finally notched a win on their tour of Bangladesh by scoring a seven-wicket win in the final T20I in Chattogram on Friday. Mark Adair led the bowling charge with three wickets as Bangladesh were bowled out for 124, and Paul Stirling, later named Player of the Match, was at his inventive best as he struck a 41-ball 77 to headline the chase. It was Ireland’s first T20I win over Bangladesh since 2009 and their first win in any format in the country.
Bangladesh had already taken the series after winning the first two games earlier in the week, and made two changes, perhaps to try out alternatives. Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mustafizur Rahman went out; Rishad Hossain was handed a debut and Shoriful Islam made a comeback. It was the batting that came unstuck, though.
After opting to bat, Bangladesh were 61 for 7 in nine-and-a-half overs. Shamim Hossain, however, scored his first international half-century, making 51 off 42 balls with five fours and two sixes to give them a competitive 124. One of those sixes was a particularly eye-catching shot, when he reverse-whipped Curtis Campher hit over backward point for six.
But with Stirling in blistering form, and playing a few inventive shots of his own, the chase was done and dusted in 14 overs.Bangladesh’s slide started in the second over. Litton Das’ slash towards deep point against a wide Adair delivery landed in George Dockrell’s lap. It was the first time Bangladesh had lost a wicket in the powerplay after three matches.
Najmul Hossain Shanto was next to go, hitting a slog-sweep off Harry Tector straight to deep midwicket. Campher juggled the catch but clung on. In the next over, Campher himself got a wicket, when Rony Talukdar holed out at deep midwicket.
Towhid Hridoy and Shakib Al Hasan, however, went for their shots in keeping with Bangladesh’s new approach, and hit a couple of big ones, but both were gone in the space of three balls. Shakib was caught at short midwicket mistiming a pull off Adair, while Hridoy holed out off Ben White in the seventh over
Matthew Humphreys had two wicketless ODIs in Sylhet, but the left-arm spinner had a better start to his T20I career. He took a wicket off his first ball when he yorked Rishad for 8.
That made him the first Ireland bowler to take a wicket with his first ball in T20Is. This was, however, not the first time a debutant had done this against Bangladesh. Previously, Rory Kleinveldt, Pragyan Ojha, Lockie Ferguson and Cole McConchie have all achieved the feat.
Humphreys added his second off his third ball, when Taskin Ahmed was caught at deep midwicket for a duck.Shamim and Nasum Ahmed added 33 runs for the eighth wicket before Nasum was caught in the covers off Gareth Delany’s legspin. Adair took his third when he removed Shoriful, before Fionn Hand took Shamim’s wicket in the final over.
Stirling didn’t get going at the start, as there were two early wickets, of Ross Adair and Lorcan Tucker, but once he was set, there was no stopping him. He cut and swept Shakib for fours to kickstart the chase, and then deposited Hasan Mahmud’s half-tracker for his first six next over. No bowler escaped his wrath, or his inventiveness, as he hit ten fours and four sixes in his 41-ball innings.
Many of those came in one Shoriful over, the 11th of the innings, when he pulled a six and hit three fours to take 20 runs. Rishad put an end to the mayhem when he had Stirling caught at long-on in the 13th over – it was Stirling’s 22nd half-century in T20Is and Rishad’s first international wicket – but Campher closed out the chase with a four and a six off Taskin.
Ireland 126 for 3 (Stirling 77, Campher 16*, Tector 14*, Rishad 1-19) beat Bangladesh 124 (Shamim 51, Adair 3-25, Humphreys 2-10) by seven wickets
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