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Tuesday 30 June 2020
At 20 years 6 months and one day of age, Sanath Jayasuriya made his international debut for Sri Lanka against Australia at Melbourne in 1989. When he played his last ODI against England at the Oval in June 2011, he was just two days short of turning 42.
If marks were allotted to cricketers with weightage to longevity, Sanath Jayasuriya would be among the first in the pile, if not the top-most.
The trajectory of his international career was in some ways similar to Steve Smith. The Matara-born started off his career as a slow left-arm orthodox bowler who could bat a bit. In his early days in international cricket, he used to bat lower down in the middle order.
However, like with Smith, the Sri Lankan gradually found his true calling in batting, which then became his stronger suit. The batting promotion first came in the Hero Cup against India in 1993. By the time the 1996 World Cup arrived, he was ready for the role.
Jayasuriya might have averaged an ordinary 36.3 in the tournament, but with a strike rate of 131.55, he pulverized bowling attacks in the powerplay which was hitherto treated with respect and caution by the batsmen. The opener thus became the trend setter that many teams went on to follow.
Towards the end of the 20th century, his Test game also came to the fore. After making his debut against New Zealand in 1991, the batsman scored his first century five years later in 1996 against Australia in Adelaide. Another one followed against Pakistan the next year.
Jayasuriya missed out on a double century against India at Colombo in 1997 but he more than made up for it with his career best of 340. This is the game in which Sri Lanka posted the world record total of 952, declaring for the loss of 6 wickets as the game was obviously drawn.
Jayasuriya retired from Test cricket in 2007, but went on to play his last ODI just two days short of his 42nd birthday. The all-rounder even managed to earn a place in Sri Lanka's squad of 30 for the 2011 World Cup but missed out on the 15-member list.
His technique, which was reliant on hand-eye coordination, sat well with his mindset, "My philosophy was simple, If I saw a ball early in my innings that I thought I could hit the ball to the boundary I would go after it. It did not matter whether it was the first ball of a Test match or the last ball of the day. I wanted to intimidate bowlers, to dominate the opposition bowlers," says the batsman.
Jayasuriya sits proudly at the 4th spot in the list of highest run-scorers in ODI cricket just behind Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakkara and Ricky Ponting. His 13,430 ODI runs came at a strike rate of 91.20 which left the opposition bowlers scratching their heads. He is also the cricketer to have played the third-highest ODIs with 445 ODI caps to his name.
The batting giant that he was, it is easy to forget his 440 international wickets. In fact, he is the fourth-highest ODI wicket-taker for Sri Lanka behind Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga with 323 ODI wickets at a brilliant economy of 4.78.
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