India’s bowlers may be a young bunch, but every member of their coaching staff, from Gary Kirsten to Robin Singh to Venkatesh Prasad has been at the wrong end of a Sanath Jayasuriya special at one time or another. The number of times the ageless left-hander has turned it on against India, especially when he was under a bit of pressure, is uncanny. Saturday was no exception.
From a brisk start to calculated acceleration, the tempo of Jayasuriya’s innings was inversely proportional to the morale of India’s bowlers. At 40, sport does not give you too many chances, and already the calls for a proper succession plan were gathering volume. The only person, it seems, who can’t hear the summons, is Jayasuriya. To put things in perspective, Kumar Dharmasena, an on-field umpire in this game, made his debut Test debut five years after Jayasuriya, and played his last game five years ago.
Some simple questions help clarify the current status quo of Jayasuriya continuing to figure in the ODI team. Is he fit? Some may have noticed a slight increase in the frequency with which he drops catches, but the manner in which he hares between the wickets, repeatedly pushing players half his age, make it clear that this is not an issue.
The second question anyone would ask is whether the extra leeway being given to Jayasuriya is holding the team back. While Sri Lanka’s results in ODIs have been up and down over the last few months, the single biggest contributor to this has been the inconsistency of their inexperienced batsmen. If anything, the team can use Jayasuriya’s services now more than ever.
The third question the selectors and the captain need to answer honestly is whether a quality young player is being denied chances because Jayasuriya’s career has now extended beyond two decades. The fact of the matter is that several young players have been given opportunities, and no-one has been able to seal a place in the team. Even Thilina Kandamby, who showed on Saturday just how efficient a finisher he can be, had managed just one substantial score from 15 matches prior to the game. Tharanga Paranavitana is making a name for himself in the world of cricket, but is possibly some way from replacing someone like Jayasuriya.
That then, leaves you with one final question. Just how long does Jayasuriya plan to go on? With his valuable 98, the marauder from Matara has bought himself some more time before he has to provide an answer.