Monday, September 22, 2008

FlashBack 1997 | Sanath Jayasuriya honoured by `Wisden' and Indian Cricket (15 May 1997)

No cricketer in recent times has revolutionised batting in the abbreviated form of the game more than Sanath Jayasuriya, the left-handed opener of World Cup champions Sri Lanka.

Jayasuriya with his lesser known partner Romesh Kaluwitharana are recognised as the trendsetters for getting the maximum runs in the first 15 overs.

Jayasuriya's exploits during the 1996 Wills World Cup, which played a major part in his country emerging champions have not gone unrecognised.


In fact it has earned him double recognition as one of the `Five Cricketers of the Year' in both the "Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1997'', widely recognised as the cricketer's `Bible' and, "Indian Cricket 1996'', considered the `Wisden of the East'.

No Sri Lankan has had the honour of being picked for such honours by two prestigious publications in one single year - 1996.

It was the year when Jayasuriya with his blazing approach made a mockery of the first 15 overs of a limited overs game that an exasperated England captain Michael Atherton made the comment that the authorities should seriously consider reframing the rules.


Atherton's comments were made shortly after Jayasuriya had blasted his men into submission and out of the World Cup with a marvellous knock of 82 off 44 balls.

`Wisden' commented: "Jayasuriya's assault on England's bowling in the quarter-final at Faisalabad was authentic, aggressive batting without insult to the coaching manual''.

In picking Jayasuriya as one of its five cricketers, `Wisden' comments: "Sanath Jayasuriya cannot yet be classified as a great player which makes his influence in 1996 all the more remarkable. His World Cup exploits in an unexpected Sri Lankan triumph did not just assure him of a lasting place in the game's history, but promised - indeed, for a few heady weeks, insisted - that the course of the game would change forever. None of The Greats have ever achieved that''.


`Wisden' also notes that it was Jayasuriya's combustible stroke-play that saw the term `pinch-hitter' being stolen from baseball to define an opening batsman specifically given the licence to adopt a high-risk approach in the opening overs.

Jayasuriya is in the exalted company of Pakistanis Saeed Anwar and Mushtaq Ahmed, Indian Sachin Tendulkar and West Indian Phil Simmons, who are the other cricketers of the year.

By picking Jayasuriya, the time-honoured publication stepped away from century old tradition to include a cricketer in its Hall of Fame who has not played a season of cricket in England.

"Jayasuriya's performances in the World Cup reverberated everywhere and earned him the right to be in our Hall of Fame'' wrote `Wisden' editor Matthew Engel.


Jayasuriya is only the third Sri Lankan to be honoured by this world acclaimed almanack which is in its 134th year of publication. The others were Sidath Wettimuny (1985) and Aravinda de Silva (1996).

`Indian Cricket' described Jayasuriya's batting as "a curious mix of science, magic and madness, based on quickness of hand and eye, and a willingness to do what is pretty dangerous - and dirty - work''.

That Jayasuriya won the `Most Valuable Player' award was due to a handful of runs and wickets that were worth their weight in the World Cup for sheer timing.

"It is timing which is the very essence of one-day cricket - coming good on the day, at the hour, in the mere minutes which decides which way a match is going to swing. The award had an altogether different ring to it and required different credentials. For the world champions, Jayasuriya was the magic trump who turned up everytime the Lankans sought something inspirational'' said the annual.


Jayasuriya is the seventh Sri Lankan to be honoured by `Indian Cricket' which is in its 50th year of publication.

Aravinda de Silva (1990), Ravi Ratnayeke (1987), Duleep Mendis (1983), Somachandra de Silva and David Heyn (both 1976), and Stanley Jayasinghe (1965) are those who have figured in the roll of honour previously.

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