For twenty long years the south paw has done yeoman service to Sri Lanka cricket. He has brought smiles upon the faces of many Sri Lankans at home and abroad. The down trodden, the sick and the bed ridden, school boys, house wives, together with the elite were recipients of his fantastic talent which he has displayed all around the world
“Sanath Jayasuriya there is something about that name”, quote unquote Sunil Gavaskar. “This man Jayasuriya is something you know” quote unquote Bob Willis. “I have not seen Sir Don Bradman bat but I have had the privilege of playing against Jayasuriya and see him bat” quote unquote Sachin Tendulkar. Many accolades of praise have been stated about his ability both with the bat and ball, further many have admired his agility on the field not only when he wore a younger mans clothes but even as a 40 year old.
Views that matter from men that matter has been expressed; hence if I were to state all I would be recording 13,248 pages equivalent to his one day runs. However I like to share a few thoughts I shared with Glen Magrath and Venkatesh Prasad who have bowled at this great player. I remember in an exclusive interview I had with Magrath he explained why Jayasuriya was so dangerous as a batsman. “Look mate if you do not hit the correct areas he makes you look a school boy”. Venkatesh while playing for India and that too at his peak told me “ How I wish I was not playing in this match, bowling to Jayasuriya I only think of how many runs I’d go for”.
Sanath is so unassuming, extremely modest, hero worshipped all around the world , but what I admire about him most are his religious values, his respect for his parents, his honesty with the media, last but not the least his transparency with his players when he captained the national team.
Sanaths’ life as a star was never ever a bed of roses. The media and the public will make him a hero, talk about him in the luxury of their homes, in public places, call it what you may. When he has a bad day, the wrath upon him is worse than the Kotla pitch in which he celebrated his 20th year in the centre.
Jayasuriya has had many nasty injuries, ask the different physiotherapists who had treated him , they will have one common statement and that is that Jayasuriya recovers much quicker than most players in the world.
Our memories go back to when he started a new dimension in the one day arena with Romesh Kaluwitharana in 1995, which many emulate in the current era. Teams around the world were kept on their toes while he was at the wickets. The great 340 against India at the R.Premadasa Stadium is his highest in the test arena. That onslaught still hurts the Indians. So many tons in the shorter version of the game. India came in for another battering in Sharjah where Jayasuriya nearly broke the world record in the one day arena scoring that super 189.
In World Cup 1996 when Manoj Prabhakar came for a big hiding from Jayasuriyas’ bat at the Kotla Stadium in Delhi, patriotic Indian Cricket fans held placards stating “We want a mother to give birth to a Jayasuriya in India”.
The lad that hails from Matara has proved to the world and especially to the Englishmen that copybook style of playing strokes is ancient. His unorthodox approach and great improvisation is what fetched him so many runs and made him an impossible batsman to bowl to on his day.
When England was at the receiving end from another Jayasuriya onslaught during World Cup 1996 Geoffrey Boycott the Yorkshire man, was tongue tied and called Jayasuriya a bully against a very good English bowling attack which looked mediocre to the eyes of the south paw.
What a career, he started his International career in 1989 and in 444 one day Internationals has made 13,248 runs with 28 centuries and 68 fifties.
In the test arena Jayasuriya has accumulated 6,973 runs with 14 hundreds and 31 fifties in 110 Test Matches. He bid good bye to test cricket in December 2007, but at least let’s be thankful that he is still in the reckoning for the shorter version of the game.
Sri Lanka Cricket will felicitate him shortly for his great accolades, unfortunately due to Sanath Jayasuriya’s recent International commitments the elaborate arrangements for the function could not be publicized. A felicitation for our great hero Jayasuriya be it mega or simple is inevitable very soon. Thank you Sanath for those great memories, to all of us you will live in our hearts as one of the greatest to have worn the Sri Lanka cap.