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Who says nice guys don't win?

M Jayawardene, one of the nicest in business, is the perfect ambassador for cricket, writes Atul Sondhi.

cricket Updated: Apr 26, 2007 12:09 IST

Recall any other captain who may have figured in a World Cup win or final. Clive Lloyd, Ian Chappell, Arjuna Ranatunga, Kapil Dev, Allan Border, Mike Gatting, Steve Waugh - they all looked hard-nosed ruthless pros ever ready to take their teams to bigger and better goals.

Contrast this with the gentle persona of Jayawardene. Ever smiling - the man can floor even the most bitter of rivals with a most innocent looking face.

Jayawardene's pleasing personality ensures perfect unity in the team which is integral to a successful campaign.

Sri Lanka's World Cup quest has already been a great success -- even if they do not make it past the final hurdle. Is not our own Ganguly, a hardcore professional who managed to get the best out of his players in early 2000s, eulogized for taking his team to the final in South Africa?

What explains his feminine charm? Is it Mahela in his name, so much similar to Mahila in Hindi. If it indeed is, then it probably is the fittest inclusion in a marathon name 'Denagamage Proboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene'!

So much authority and awe his pleasing personality generates that the former Captain Atapattu, who will miss playing a single game in this World Cup barring some injury to a key player in the next two days, has never come out
with a single word protesting his exclusion. Feeling of sadness is there, but no traces of bitterness or discontent.

Just think, Atapattu did not get to play any game in the 1996 World Cup as well! If Sri Lanka win one more match, he will be the first player not to have figured in any game of his country's two World Cup wins.

Skipper Jayawardene's skills are beyond doubt. But more than that is the temperament of this 29-year-old Gemini, which has memerised people all over the world. His 374 against South Africa at Colombo and a first class record of 624 for the third wicket with Kumar Sangakkara, scored last year, tell their own tale.

Even Tuesday's encounter was as much a test of his skill as of his temperament. For his first ten runs, Jayawardene's strike rate was just about 25 to 30. It was important to ''save one end'' with Sri Lanka losing wickets regularly. But when the skipper exploded, he exploded with a full range of strokes. In hindsight, New Zealand were batted out of the match by the sheer genius of this man.

It needs courage to bat first in a World Cup Semifinal against an attack spearheaded by Shane Bond. One of our most lethal bowlers, Javagal Srinath wrote few days ago that in this tournament, ‘’fast bowlers have delivered telling blows in the first couple of hours, sealing the fate of matches’’. So Jayawardene certainly cannot be accused of lacking courage when it comes to a crunch situation.

Soft exterior but tremendous grit. It Sri Lanka are to win their second World Cup, this man will be the key. After all, it is not easy to captain a team as experienced as Sri Lanka, which has the likes of Vaas, Murali and Jayasuriya, the men who had won the Cup when Jayawardene had not even debuted. But the way he has taken along everybody around him is admirable.

But you can’t just lead by charm alone. By scoring 529 runs from his ten matches in the Cup, 125 more than the next highest Jayasuriya, he has ensured that his leadership is respected. Skipper’s average in the Cup, at 66, is exactly the double of his career average of 33. Jayawardene does deliver in big games, big tournaments.

Right now, Jayawardene’s one target will be to take his 529 past 600 at least. If he manages a big score, it should definitely give his team a
decisive edge in the most important match of his career.

If Jayawardene does manage to hold the Cup on the 28th, it will be a perfect tribute to the gentler side of the humanity.