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Invincible smasher in the middle

Last updated: 27 December, 2009
Madhu Jawali, New Delhi, Dec 26, DHNS: 1:35 IST

The man who redefined the approach to batting in the shorter version of the game thirteen years ago completed 20 years of international cricket on Saturday.

Jayasuriya is expected to click on Sunday. Yes, we are referring to Sanath Jayasuriya, the fearsome hitter who in the company of that little Romesh Kaluwitharana altered the whole approach to opening an innings in the One-Day version of the game in the 1996 World Cup.

It hardly mattered to the soft-spoken ‘Matara Butcher,’ who made a quiet debut against Australia on December 26, 1989 as a lower middle order batsman, whether he played in flannel or in coloured clothing. His approach has been uncomplicated-cut bowling to ribbons.

He lofted bowlers over the cover with power, dismissed them to mid-wicket fence with his trademark short-arm pull, and smashed them with ferocious power down the ground. Yes, the left-hander was a never-ending nightmare for bowlers.

His very presence has been intimidating to bowlers, many of whom saw their career come to an abrupt end.

Probably on his last tour of India now, Jayasuriya is no longer the force that he has been for a decade since 1996. Age might have slowed him down, but even today the very sight of Jayasuriya walking out to bat, in the middle order these days, could chill the spine. “He creates an atmosphere as long as he is in the middle that we are invincible,” Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara noted.

The fact that he is the second highest run-getter in one-dayers-13,397 from 443 matches-only behind Tendulkar speaks volumes of his longevity and effectiveness. At 40, he is the older player in the game.

For Indian bowlers, Jayasuriya has also been the eternal tormentor and it is not surprising to hear former paceman Venkatesh Prasad singling him out as the most “difficult batsman” he had to bowl to.

“Sometimes we would go with not just plan A and B, but C, D, so on, and he would have an answer for everything. His power, his swiftness and his stamina stood him apart. I mean even today he is so quick between the wickets,” he marvelled.

On Sunday, will he, one last time, unfurl one of those violent classics at the Feroze Shah Kotla, the venue where he had first hammered the Indian bowlers in 1996, when Sri Lanka plays the last ODI of the current series?

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