The dismal failures of Sanath Jayasuriya didn t deprive Sri Lanka of its share of fortunes in the concluding World Cup Twenty20. The country had after all advanced to the semi final quite handsomely, and though the inability to overcome England indomitable, really, on the day and secure a place in the final is cause for grief to finish among the top four isn t bad at all.
ayasuriya failed again on Thursday night, as did others in the top order. So in the wider scheme of things, it isn t unfair to say that the left hander s less-than-modest contributions didn t go to quite change the team s fortunes, one way or the other. Games were won despite him, and lost, not solely because of him.
Visibly, this wasn t the Jayasuriya we know, the one who won us matches single-handedly. It s out of gratitude for his past magnificence that the cricketing public, perhaps, does not protest the presence of the 40 year-old in the national side. Personally, though, the repeated failures can only hurt the reput ation of the legend. And that is sad seeing the man who in 1996 so gloriously redesigned the one-day game, now pitifully overwhelmed and seemingly helpless amidst the energetic youngsters.
Clearly, his famous deeds of old have now become the dreams he chase, a pursuit as futile as racing against his own shadow. He can t win, as his returns in the Caribbean tournament testify: 0 n.o (v. NZ) 3 n.o. (v. Zim.) 6 (v. WI), 5 (v. Aus.) 0 (v. India) and 1 (v. Eng) a princely tally of 15 in six innings that collectively lasted just 36 balls his 14-ball five versus the Australians, being the longest. His six overs, in four matches, conceded 52 runs, which left his nett contribution minus 38.
It s the sort of returns that can only desecrate what has so far been a memorable career. Memorable not just for the many dramatic achievements produced, but also for its touch of rags-to-riches romanticism the once simple village rustic s rise to international stardom and immense wealth. A story for the film makers, really.
If Sri Lanka were to look for a Bradman of its own to revere, not many might object the choice of Jayasuriya. The purists and classicists and his detractors of course, might disagree, but there can be little doubt that no other Sri Lankan batsman took the world by storm quite in the way he did: world cup hero, one-time scorer of the world s fastest ODI 50, triple centurion in tests and the opener who turned one-day cricket on its head. In his prime, Jayasuriya was the face of Sri Lankan batting. Dubbed the Matara Mauler , he made familiar to the world his sleepy Southern town few had heard of, until he had picked up a bat.
His many achievements speak of the wonderful contributions he made to enhance the country s international reputation as a top-rate cricketing nation a nation at war during his career. The part Jayasuriya played in the world cup triumph and his glorious deeds that followed, made the world stop and wonder if the island-nation is all about blood-letting alone that if the country is as violently chaotic as the world was made to believe, how can cricketers as fine as Jayasuriya be nurtured, the world pondered. The years of an unbearable war, were so made bearable.
To credit only Jayasuriya for uplifting the mood and spirit of a nation at war, of course, wouldn t be fair by our other prominent personnel (Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva and Muralidaran), but no batsman, in my book, is more closely identified with that glorious era than Jayasuriya beast and beauty rolled into one.
That is the way we love to remember him always not the sad figure vainly exerting to live in a world that a 40 year-old has no right to be in. There s one mitigating factor though, why he has overstayed his welcome: his past. That an international cricket field is no place for someone his age is commonsense, but for an anonymous village boy who found fame and fortune on the cricket field, departure from it is, well, to extract molars might be a more agreeable proposition.
Obviously, he can t reconcile to a life without international cricket which is why, rather than retire, he chose to recede step by step from the international cricket scene. He quit test in 2007 and last year, when his ODI place was in jeopardy, he announced he d confine himself to just the shortest form.
A recent news report, however, speaks of his desire to prolong his playing days until the 2011 World Cup eloquent evidence of his unwillingness to walk away from the game, its fame and fortune. That his form had more than once hit the floor and was rejected by selectors, but yet battled out of the pits, and to acceptance probably makes him believe that his last hurrah is still a year away.
One remembers his exclusion from the 2006 test series in England, only to be flown out to join the team in the middle of tour reportedly through political intervention. If that initial rejection suggested his end was coming, such thoughts were blasted into oblivion by two brutally-made centuries in Sri Lanka s 5/0 ODI whitewash of England.
He wasn t a candidate for the 2008 Asia Cup either, but was included after a succession of sterling knocks for Mumbai in the inaugural IPL, and went on to make a century in the final against India in Lahore. And who forgets his thrashing 100 against the powerful Australians in Sydney in the 2006 V B Series, just hours after getting off the plane to join the team in the fifth of 15 tri-nation matches?
He was then in his mid-30s, not too old for comebacks. Trying to do the same a month shy of turning 41 however, is pretty much climbing Everest on crutches. He ll hobble through given his addiction to the game, but to no gain to him, the team and the game s future.
It is popularly believed that previous attempts to remove him were prevented by powerful politicians, which questions the credibility of the selectors, especially Chairman, Ashantha de Mel, whose connections with politicians isn t exactly a secret.
Jayasuriya is now a politician himself, and in Sri Lanka, politics book of logic can mean he gets what he wants, even a place in the cricket team. Don t be that way Sana, walk away now so that we may remember you in the way you should be: the man from Matara who took the cricketing world by storm.