Jayasuriya up for one last blast

Sri Lankan who turbo-charged cricket in 1996 World Cup wants swansong in 2011 as he urges calm over Pakistan fix claims.

Bat out of Hell: Jayasuriya wants to take his quickfire style into the 2011 World Cup before retirement [GALLO/GETTY]

Modern cricket owes a lot to Sanath Jayasuriya.

The arrival of Twenty20 and the Indian Premier League has put a premium on scoring big runs in double-time.

And a good portion of the sixes being smashed out of grounds from Dambulla to Durban today can trace their ancestry to the bat of Sri Lanka’s 20-year veteran.

It was at the 1996 World Cup in India that the man from Matara, a city on the southern tip of Sri Lanka that was hit hard by the tsunami of Christmas 2004, stamped his authority on the sport.

Promoted up the batting order by captain Arjuna Ranatunga, Jayasuriya stunned bowlers by attacking from the first over, amassing big totals to give Sri Lanka’s own bowlers time to pick off opposition batsmen.  

The “pinch-hitting” method was soon adopted across the one-day game.

And it may have been one of the reasons why Twenty20’s inventors came up with the idea of doing away with the final 30 overs altogether.

Up front

“It was my natural style of playing at number seven, but the captain and the management realised they needed something up front in the first 10 or 15 overs,” Jayasuriya, 41, told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview from Colombo.

“They put me up the order so myself and Kalu (Romesh Kaluwitharana) could get some runs on the board.

“Every batsman goes through a rough time every two years or so. In Twenty20 and 50 overs I was going through a lean patch, but I want to come back”

Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka all-rounder

“We could just go and play our natural game and it was very successful.”

That success translated to the Test arena, where Jayasuriya hit 6,973 runs at an average of just over 40 in 110 matches – and claimed 98 wickets as a bowler.

While he retired from the five-day format in December 2007, the bald-pated talisman is gunning for one last crack at the World Cup, which will be played partially on home soil in February next year.

He has already been included in a training squad for a tour of Australia starting in October, and is hoping to make it to the finals being held jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, despite being dropped following a difficult time at the crease.

“The World Cup in 1996 changed my whole life and my whole career,” he said.

“I performed well and it was an amazing feeling.

“Every batsman goes through a rough time every two years or so. In Twenty20 and 50 overs I was going through a lean patch, but I want to come back.”

Jayasuriya may be quick to pull the trigger when he gets a red or white sphere of cork in his sights, but he is keen to put the brakes on any judgement of the scandals currently besieging cricket.

Too quick

Speaking as Pakistan were beating England in the fourth one-day international at Lord’s, the Sri Lankan said that commentators were too quick to assume guilt on the part of Pakistan players accused of aiding betting scams during matches.

“It’s too early for people to think like that,” he said, following the suspension of Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir over claims in a British newspaper last month.

Jayasuriya has embarked on a political career as an MP in his home town [GALLO/GETTY]

“You never go to the conclusion without any consultation or enquiry. Then we can come to a conclusion.”

Jayasuriya understandably professes to loving the quickfire Twenty20 form of the game, the arrival of which probably helped take the sting out of being trapped lbw by England’s Matthew Hoggard in his final Test match, 22 short of a century.

“I was 70-odd something not out so I wanted to finish it with a hundred, but getting 70 was really good so I was happy with the way I finished my Test career,” he said.

“You play very, very hard for 17, 18 years, and being from Matara I know how hard I worked to get in the side.

“You don’t know how to explain that it’s very, very rare that someone from outside Colombo gets a chance in Sri Lankan cricket.”

Jayasuriya won a seat as Matara’s member of parliament for Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s UPFA party in January this year.

If he can get to the World Cup, Jayasuriya could be bringing a last trophy home to people who are now relying on him for much more than entertainment.

“The biggest challenge at the moment is that the people don’t have many jobs,” he said.

“The pressure is completely different – the people in my home town need lots of help and they need someone they can trust.

“I’m trying to give them that trust. Some politicians have been letting them down very badly and I don’t want that.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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