Sanath JayasuriyaUpdated: Jan 29, 2003 23:51 IST
Born and brought up in a humble background in a small town in Sri Lanka, Sanath Jayasuriya rose on to become the country's national captain in 1999 (after the World Cup), arising new hopes for the thousands of rural lads who believe him to be the role model.
He is considered an aggressive opening batsman and is capable of hitting a wide range of strokes and can always be relied on to give a quick start to his side. Apart from his batting and bowling abilities he is also a good fielder. In fact, Jayasuriya was crowned Player of the tournament in the 1996 World Cup. Born in Matara on June 30, 1969, Jayasuriya had no background in cricket. His father, Dunstan, worked in the Urban Council in Dondra while his brother Chandana works with the Fisheries Department.
None had any interest in the game. To a certain extent, the credit for Jayasuriya's rise goes to his principal G.L. Galappathy at St Servatius College, Matara. Galappathy and Jayasuriya's first coach Lionel Wagasinghe helped Jayasuriya flourish in his formative years. When, Jayasuriya couldn't afford the exorbitant cricket equipments during the early days, his coach and the school principal supported him. He was captain of his school team and was in the under-19 squad which went to Australia for the Youth World Cup.
Later, he was selected in the Sri Lanka B team for the Pakistan tour. His unbeaten double century during the Pakistan tour brought him in league with the top international players. His performance ensured him a berth in the national team for the tour to Australia in 1989, and has ever since remained there.
He first opened the bat for his side in 1995-96 against Australia when Roshan Mahanama got injured. He scored a hundred and then a fifty, and ever since has remained an opener. With opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana, Jayasuriya, for the first time, introduced a game plan where the first 15 overs were used as the last 15 to achieve a staggering total. Jayasuriya was voted the 'Most Valuable Player' in the World Cup.
The Wisden Cricketers' Almanack broke tradition (only players who have performed in England are eligible) named him as one of their Five Cricketers of the Year in 1997. Jayasuriya batted for more than 13 hours to make the fourth highest score in Test cricket (340) against India at the R. Premadasa Stadium. He followed this with 199 in the same series, and 213 against England at Oval.
At the moment he is going through a dry patch, and in a humble gesture dropped himself down in the batting order in the Test match against England. But batsmen like Jayasuriya cannot remain out of form for long. In the tri-series he is bound to be Sri Lanka's anchor. As the captain he will also be desperate for a win for his country.
First Published: Jan 24, 2003 18:41 IST