When a batsman scores just one fifty in his first four years of international cricket, there wouldn’t be many people who would bet on him to make it big in the international arena. But, here is the case of Sanath Jayasuriya who scored his first half-century against the Pakistanis at Sharjah, four years after his One-day debut. His batting skills came to light only when he smashed the Kiwi bowlers to all parts to eventually reach 140, while scoring his first century at an impressive strike rate of 97.90. From then on, there has been no stopping the Mauler from Matara. As he nears his retirement, here is a tribute to his great achievements.
There aren’t too many cricketers whom people refer to as game changers. Sanath Jayasuriya is very much in this exclusive league of cricketers who changed the way the game was played. His heroics with the bat literally won Sri Lanka their maiden World Cup and Jayasuriya himself was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. He also won the Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in the year 1997.
Ever since being promoted as an opener by captain Arjuna Ranatunga, he gave the concept of pinch-hitting a new meaning by taking advantage of the fielding restrictions in the initial overs, by clearing the fielders with lofted shots. It is fair to say that this aggressive approach of Jayasuriya and his opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana was what changed the way the teams approached the initial overs. Jayasuriya also had the knack of getting the big scores. In ODIs he has to his credit four scores of 150+, and nine scores of 130+. But, perhaps the most impressive record is that he was the highest run getter for Sri Lanka in all their world record totals in all the three formats of the game. He scored 340 in Sri Lanka’s highest Test score of 952/6 against India, 157 in Sri Lanka’s highest ODI score of 443/9 against Netherlands and 88 in Sri Lanka’s highest T20 score of 260/6 against Kenya.
Jayasuriya has the most Man of the Match awards (48) in ODI cricket behind Sachin Tendulkar (62). He also holds two Man of the Series awards, four Man of the Match awards in Test cricket and eleven Man of the Series awards in ODI cricket. He is also the second batsman to reach 13000 runs in ODIs next to Sachin Tendulkar. His fitness and passion for the game made him the first cricketer to have played 400 ODIs.
Jayasuriya has also been a handy bowler for Sri Lanka picking up 322 ODI wickets and 98 Test wickets. Though, his heroics with the bat has often overshadowed his bowling, he to this day remains a useful bowler. He is the only player to have scored more than 13000 runs and picked up more than 300 wickets in ODIs. His left arm slow spin bowling though underrated, was used by captain Arjuna Ranatunga throughout the middle and latter part of Sri Lanka’s innnings. His economy rate of 4.76 in ODIs says all about his control of the ball and his ability to choke the batsmen in the middle overs.
A true champion of sorts, he is one of the greatest ever to have played the game. He is a big hearted cricketer who gave his very best everytime he walked onto the cricket field. He will wear the Sri Lankan jersey for the last time on June 28th in the opening ODI match between England and Sri Lanka. His undying passion for the game and his spirit was evident when he continued to play cricket in the IPL even when he had been elected as MP from his home constituency Matara. He will be inspired to make his last outing for Sri Lanka a memorable one. One can be sure to expect another cracker of an innings from the ‘Matara Mauler’.
Sanath Jayasuriya’s International Record:
Tests — Matches: 110| Innings: 188| Not Out: 14| Runs: 6973| HS: 340| Average: 40.07| 100s: 14| 40s: 31| 4s: 910| 6s: 78
ODIs — Matches: 444| Innings: 432| Not Out: 18| Runs: 13428| HS: 189| Average: 32.48| Strike rate: 91.22| 100s: 28| 50s: 68| 4s: 1500| 6s:270
T20Is — Matches: 31| Innings: 30| Not Out: 3| Runs: 629| HS: 88| Average: 23.29| Strike rate: 129.15| 50s: 4| 4s: 76| 6s: 23
Tests — Matches: 110| Innings: 140| Balls: 8188| Runs: 3366| Wickets: 98| BBI: 5/34| BBM: 9/74| Average: 34.34| Economy rate: 2.46| Strike rate: 83.5
ODIs — Matches: 444| Innings: 367| Balls: 14838| Runs: 11825| Wickets: 322| BBI: 6/29| Average: 36.72| Economy rate: 4.78| Strike rate: 46.0
T20Is — Matches: 31| Innings: 24| Balls: 371| Runs: 456| Wickets: 19| BBI: 3/21| Average: 24.00| Economy rate: 7.37| Strike rate: 19.5