Many of us thought that Sanath Jayasuriya s international career at the age of 38 was over after he was dropped from the side for Sri Lanka s tour of the West Indies in April after a string of poor scores in the Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia. But it took him just two hours to earn a recall to the national side. The selectors had already picked the side when he went to bat against Chennai Super Kings representing Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League tournament on Wednesday and he unleashed his fury in typical fashion scoring 114 in just 48 balls that included nine boundaries and 11 massive sixes. The whole nation was overjoyed and the Minister of Sport s Gamini Lokuge, whose ratification is needed for all teams selected to represent the country, sent for the cricket selectors next morning for an emergency meeting and asked the four member panel to consider recalling the former captain.
So clean and impeccable was his hitting on that day at Mumbai that the selectors had no option but to recall the veteran at the expense of out of touch Upul Tharanga. Jayasuriya has been named in the 15 man squad picked to play in the Asia Cup tournament in Pakistan.
Issuing a statement on Friday, Sri Lanka Cricket announced that the veteran has been recalled for the tournament in Pakistan and he celebrated his recall making an unbeaten 48 in 17 balls with six fours and three sixes against Kolkata Knight Riders the same day.
Only last Sunday, Jayasuriya spoke about his ambition of playing for the country again and it took him just a couple of days to make his presence felt. `I was dropped for the West Indies series, but I will fight back. I played domestic cricket and was pleased with my efforts. Currently I am involved in the Indian Premier League Tournament for Mumbai Indians and my target is to play the series against India or the Asia Cup,` country s highest run getter in ODIs said.
It s nothing new for Jayasuriya. When all seems to be lost he could lift his game and like last Wednesday he has resurrected his career on previous occasions from hopeless situations. But this time around, the highest capped player in ODI cricket will probably have to fight forces within the team as well.
Selection sources tell us that not all selectors were in favour of dropping the veteran. The push to get him out of the side actually came from captain Mahela Jayawardene at a heated selection committee meeting when the side was picked for the West Indies.
A certain selector also wanted Jayasuriya to be entirely forgotten and proceed with a youth policy. But others including the chairman Ashantha de Mel argued that a legend of Jayasuriya s caliber should be allowed to go on his own terms.
De Mel knows all too well what Jayasuriya is capable of. When he took over as the Chairman of Cricket Selectors in May 2006, his predecessors had forced Jayasuriya to retire from Test cricket. But he convinced him to come out of retirement and sent him in time for the third and final Test Match against England in Nottingham and having played a winning hand in the series leveling final Test at Trent Bridge, he unleashed one of his famous attacks on England bowlers helping Sri Lanka to clean sweep England 5-0.
The selectors and the team management may have differences of opinion on Jayasuriya s form, but one thing that they all agree on is his fitness. Despite his age, Jayasuriya is considered one of the fittest players in the team.
Jayasuriya will turn 39 next month and by the time the next World Cup comes he ll be nearing 42 and many doubt whether he ll be around.
The Sri Lankan board also has launched a youth policy and has called the selectors to persist with younger players. But the public opinion after his latest assault on some of world s best bowlers including his own teammate Muttiah Muralitharan is back with Jayasuriya and if he keeps on producing magical moments like on Wednesday and a repetition on Friday, there s no doubt why he shouldn t be around for a few more seasons.