Thanks :: The Daily News (Sri Lanka)
By Hemantha Warnakulasuriya
It was the day that the whole of Sri Lanka cried. It was the day
of despair and gloom. It was the day that everyone went to sleep
and dreamt a common dream.
The next day the dream was shattered. Even the most hard hearted
man cried silently or within himself.
That was the day that Sanath Jayasuriya failed to surpass Brian
Lara's record, though it was the day that our cricket team creat-
ed history by notching the highest number of runs for an innings
and the highest partnership for any wicket for a Test match.
Yet the Cooper & Laybrand statisticians refused to grant the
necessary points to Sanath Jayasuriya and deducted a number of
points from Sanath's tally. Their excuse was that , anyone could
make runs at the Premadasa Stadium. It was also the day that Ar-
juna told us that these records and achievements mean nothing. No
one in Enlgand recognizes our talents.
We won the World Cup but the English refused to grant us a Test
series and went to Zimbabwe. Kalu made a tremendous impression in
Australia but it was soon forgotten. We had to beat England in
England. Then only would the world recognize our talent. It was
important that we should get the maximum crowd support in England
and if it was possible, he told us, please do come to England to
cheer our team.
So I packed my bags and went to England simply to support Arjuna
to achieve his dream. I felt that Arjuna considered winning in
England was even greater than winning the World Cup. He feared
that the English public would not consider it worth spending
their valuable time and money to see our team (little brown men
with unpronounceable names) playing cricket.
But I found long before we arrived in England that the tickets
for the first three days were sold out. My fervent plea to a
media moghul, through a friend of mine did the trick. But the fax
said that the tickets for the 28 th Friday; (non available).
There were tickets available for the Triangular Series, but the
Test Match was of the utmost importance to me.
At last we have become crowd pullers. This is what The Guardian
editorial said: " The England Cricket Board were scared the pub-
lic would not watch Sri Lanka. This pathetically over-
conservative approach to marketing-as the big crowds this weekend
The Triangular Series and the win at Lords were memorable. But I
found that a large number of Sri Lankan supporters were still
disappointed when Sanath got out in the third ball he faced for a
duck. It was an unbelievable catastrophe. The failure that haunt-
ed Sanath had tracked him to England and had got a ***hold
on him. He had scored one measly century at a one day outing but
had got out after having scored twenty thirty runs at a lively
One Sri Lankan asked why the team was playing Sanath in the Test
match when he had failed miserably at the county matches. Russel
Arnold has scored a fine double century. Chandika Haturusinghe
has also scored an unbeaten hundred. The English press has
praised the achievements of Russel Arnold, Mahela Jayawardene and
The statement made by a friend of mine when Sanath failed in
Colombo, that Sanath is the most over rated batsman in the coun-
try and is simply a pinch hitter and good only to go over the top
at the limited version of the game came to my mind. How uncharit-
able he was, as to so many in the sub continent no cricketer in
the recent past has brought so much pleasure as Sanath has done.
But no one is above the team.
If Sanath continues to fail he would have to be replaced or
dropped until he regains his form. But others said that there
would be riots in the country if that happens because he is the
most loved human being in this tiny Island of Sri Lanka.
I remember what Arjuna said when Sanath scored 340. "We will be
in a position to humble any English attack with Sanath and Ara-
Aravinda has gone from strength to strength. He is mature and to
me the number one batsman in the world, but what has happened to
At The Oval I was seated with a large contingent of Sri Lankans
who had paid 40 -50 Pounds Sterlings a day which is nearly Rs.
4000-5000 a day. When Sanath reached 50 I thought he had broken
the hoodoo and would no longer be considered to be dropped for at
least till the World Cup.
As usual Sanath looked towards the sky and prayed to the Gods
with his right hand interwound with 'pirith nool'.
The English public has only heard of Aravinda de Silva as a
cricketer of some repute. His century at Lords for Kent is still
considered by many connoisseurs of cricket as the best one day
hundred played at Lords. Sanath was one of the few cricketers to
be elected as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year without
ever playing on English soil.
But yet the cricketing public and the press had not heard very
much about him. How true Arjuna was. In order to obtain interna-
tional recognition we must play in England and try to beat them
on their own soil.
The English public went into raptures with Sanath's innings.
Every boundary he scored was lustily cheered. They were aston-
ished at the artistry with which Sanath was able to pierce the
fielders with the ball rocketing to the boundary.
That Saturday was Sanath's day and Sunday and Monday were
Murali's. It is unfortunate that the local media has blown out of
proportion the comments made by David Lloyd. He was hounded by
the English Press, Radio and the TV commentators, including Geoff
Boycott for his remarks so that he became a lone leper without
even a colony.
For the elitists, the purists and the connoisseurs of cricket in
Sri Lanka who 18LABELled Sanath as a slogger and an over rated
batsman with only limited number of strokes, the English Press
answered those critics with sheer cricketing poetry. Whether we
would win the World Cup no one could prophesy, but what Arjuna,
Aravinda, Sanath and Murali have achieved during the past few
years will be remembered for generations to come. The manner in
which the British public and the English press responded to our
magnificent achievements would make every Sri Lankan proud of our
The Sunday's newspapers published in England on 30th of August,
1998 devoted pages of large photographs of Sanath and Aravinda
and virtually ridiculed the English team.
One picture showed Angus Frazer, the most popular cricketer in
the English team, for having bowled England to victory against
South Africa, taking a hard look at Sanath Jayasuriya who had hit
him for a magnificent boundary with a caption "Hard times
........ bowling to Sanath Jayasuriya proved to be a least re-
warding task of the summer.
proceedings was the left handed opener Sanath Jayasuriya. Like
his side Jayasuriya came on this tour with a reputation as an im-
pudent, innovative one day dasher. Neither his 350 nor his team's
world record of 952 last August (against India on a Colombo pitch
which apparently bestows on The Oval the qualities of a mine
field) could quite dispel the notion that the long haul of Test
matches was not a natural environment.
The innings of 213 with which he tormented England should ensure
that that particular canard is not raised again. It took a mere
278 balls, stretched over few minutes short of six hours - which
seems like no time at all, made his fellow centurion, the quite
captivating Aravinda de Silva a mere spectator, and probably end-
ed the international career of the England leg spinner Ian Salis-
bury. Jayasuriya was irresistible and insatiable, Salisbury could
not offer any resistance and by the end of his first 17 increas-
ingly sad wretched overs must have had quite enough. Jayasuriya
pulled hard and quickly he square drove deliberately and precise-
ly in the air and his glances were so fine he could have been
engraving cut glass.
Stephen Fay wrote to the same paper under the caption, 'The
Elegant Executioner' and said, "They have brought in the boundary
rope a few yards for this Test at The Oval, which make it even
easier for Sri Lanka's fluent batsmen to score fours. There were
33 of them in the record breaking partnership of 243 for the
third wicket between Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva, and
they were achieved with such elegance that only a blinkered pa-
triot would have wanted to see either of them get out.
This was caviar for the general public - a full house of 16,500
spectators on a warm cloudless day to remember, Jayasuriya we
knew about only by reputation: He is the man who revolutionized
one day cricket by hitting wildly from the outset, and who scored
340 against India last year.
Ian Salisbury was bowling his dispensable overs and Jayasuriya
jumped down the pitch to drive deftly through the covers. The
crowd sighed because the remarkable thing was that he actually
missed the ball and it dribbled away to Alec Stewart. As if to
relieve himself he hit the next nine balls for 26 runs.
His 150 came in 212 balls to get there he hit a six which was
also notable because it was the first of the innings. These Sri
Lankans may be the world's one day champions, but they played
Test cricket according to classical norms. The ball stays mostly
on the turf. The single one day shot remaining in his Test reper-
tory is a slash hit hard over gully's head; for the rest stroke
play in an implacable mix of power and timing. When he drives
through the covers, he leans into the ball heavily with his bot-
tom hand, and it doesn't matter what size the boundaries are.
As Sanath Jayasuriya tucked his bat under his arm 16,500 people
stood and applauded him all the way to the
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