In a cricket environment that is potentially at an all time low, I want to dwell for a minute on a fading star who has contributed to Test cricket being the prestigious event that it has been for the past 130 years.
When play begins at Bellerive Oval tomorrow, we will be more than likely watching the last rites of one of Sri Lanka’s greatest ever players, Sanath Jayasuriya.
In a trmendous career that has spanned three decades at the top, Jayasuriya has contributed to the most successful period in Sri Lankan cricket. Adam Gilchrist is credited with changing the face of one day cricket but in fact it was 12 years ago that Jayasuriya actually pushed the boudaries, literally, with his aggressive stroke play within the first 15 overs. This approach to the game culminated in what must be Jayasuriya’s crowning moment in his career, when Sri Lanka lifted the 1996 World Cup, defeating Australia. All forms of cricket have never been played the same since.
He then became a regular in the Test arena from this point on, with immediate success. His famous bottom handed slices over point became a feature of the red ball game and slowly his influence had an impact on the scoring rates in Test cricket, most notably applied by the Australian squads of the past ten years to unprecedented success.
A score of 340 against India in 1998 was his greatest legacy to the game of Test cricket, as was his ability to break a partenship with his annoying ‘darts’ with the ball. A measure of his respect in the world of cricket can be explained by the fact that although Sri Lanka required an impossible run rate in the last overs and with rapidly fading light in the final of the 2007 World Cup, both Big Daddy and Uncle J-Rod wouldn’t declare the game over…………..until Jayasuriya was dismissed. A sentiment expressed by most Australians.
Jayasuriya has been an extremely loyal servant to not only Sri Lankan cricket but to the game itself. Let’s hope, at the ripe old age of 38, he can produce one last barnstorming knock tomorrow to not only toast his own career in the right fashion, but to breath life into a limp game.
I wish him luck.