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Coming good of stalwarts adds flavour

Shoaib and Jayasuriya are as good as their teams are but the difference between them and most of their teammates is, they can change the game single-handedly, reports A Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: May 16, 2008 16:46 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

One was absent and the other was struggling to do what he is known for — hitting the ball over the top with alarming regularity. With the IPL past the halfway stage, Shoaib Akhtar and Sanath Jayasuriya have arrived, literally. On consecutive evenings, one hurled the ball at a fearsome pace with telling effect and the other kept hitting it.

In the days when it’s fashionable to highlight battles within a battle, this is one worth talking about even though there may be no winner, as this game is 11 versus 11 and not one versus one. Shoaib and Jayasuriya are as good as their teams are but the difference between them and most of their teammates is, they can change the game single-handedly.

When Shoaib lands those fireballs on target, he is a weapon of mass destruction. True, this format doesn't allow one more than four overs, which is too less to make an impact for minds trained by the longer versions of the game. But on Tuesday at Eden Gardens, he proved how deadly he could be in mere three overs, which decided the course of the match.

Cricket, not just Twenty20, is largely a batsman's game, especially on the flat tracks of the sub-continent. In popular perception, bowlers in the shortest version are needed because for a game to take place, someone has to bowl. In just three overs, Shoaib showed this isn't a rule when he is around.

A tried and tested nightmare for bowlers, Jayasuriya needs no introduction. Having redefined one-day batting in a sense, he has been firing for many years without paying any heed to the notion that human beings tend to slow down as they grow old. He was conspicuously off-colour in this competition, but on Wednesday, showed in no uncertain terms what a menace he can still be.

When Jayasuriya plays like that, even 50-over matches become one-sided. So it’s not difficult to understand, as the Chennai bowlers will testify, which way the match would go when he gets going. Full or short, on the legs or outside off, he can hit almost everything and when he does that, they stay hit.

This competition was lacking something all these days and it was the lack of meaningful contribution from the proven stalwarts of the game. Things have started changing and that's good for those who own the teams and those who watch.

It’s a funny game and Shoaib or Jayasuriya can have an off day on Thursday, but before the match starts, many if not all eyes will be on them.