Sanath Jayasuriya had the terrible luck to play cricket in the same era as Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. Because of this unfortunate timing, his magnificent career has been overlooked in favour of his more illustrious contemporaries.
It mattered not whether he was playing Test or one-dayers – attack was the only option'
When Sanath announced his retirement from Test cricket, it was largely overlooked in the global cricket media and, in doing so, a great disservice was done to a man who was as important to his country, and possibly world cricket, as any of the players named above. Like all left-handed batsmen, Jayasuriya batted with style and flair and there can be no better striker of the ball when on song – indeed only a very gifted few can claim to even be his equal. In the wake of his staggering innings in the 1996 World Cup final, he single-handedly altered the way that one-day cricket is played. There aren’t many players who can lay claim to having forever changed the game. His importance to the Sri Lankan side is also difficult to gauge. There can be no doubt Jayasuriya was a cornerstone to the Sri Lankan ascendancy from international easy-beats to a powerhouse side in world cricket. Again, however, he has been overshadowed by his rubber-wristed teammate Muttiah Muralitharan. Such has been the influence on Lankan and, indeed, world cricket that the efforts of Murali’s team-mates can often be overlooked. What is never in dispute is Sanath’s ability to be able destroy an opposition. His triple century against India was remarkable in that he proved that he could be as devastating in the long form as he could be in the short form of the game. And that is exactly how he batted; it mattered not whether he was playing Test or one-dayers – attack was the only option. Sadly, the same wonderful qualities that made Jayasuriya such an entertaining batsman has probably cost him a place amongst the best ever. The seeming inability to temper his aggression when the situation required it has cost him and his country dearly, but none who saw him in full flight would have given thought to the bigger picture issues. There would be little argument that the Sri Lankan Test side is weaker for having lost one of its stalwarts. More than that, cricket fans the world over will miss one of those rare players who, on the strength of their personal ability alone, drew punters through the gates. Thank goodness he’s still playing one-dayers and that we’ll have the chance to give him a farewell worthy of his contribution to the game. It’s the very least he deserves.