Take a bow, Aravinda

Published on Mar 14, 2003 01:28 PM IST

Cricket will lose one of its most charming batsmen after the World Cup when Aravinda De Silva quits the scene after two decades of glorious service to Sri Lanka.

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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, Johannesburg

Cricket will lose one of its most charming batsmen after the World Cup when Aravinda De Silva quits the scene after two decades of glorious service to Sri Lanka.

The 37-year-old may, or may not, realise his dream of winning the title for his country, as he had done in 1996, but he goes out a contented man having proved to the selectors they treated him shabbily.

Sri Lanka's hopes of making the semi-finals rest on India defeating New Zealand at Centurion later on Friday. A Kiwi win will knock De Silva's team out of the reckoning.

De Silva has not forgotten the bleak period three years ago when the selectors dropped him from the Sri Lankan team saying he was overweight and unfit for international cricket.

"I think I was at my peak then and to be treated so badly really hurt," De Silva recalled.

"I could have called it quits then but I am not a person to give in so easily. I worked hard on my fitness, lost 12 kilos and scored a lot of runs so that the selectors had to call me back.

"It will be a disappointment if we do not win the World Cup a second time," said the stylish middle-order batsman who hit 73 against South Africa and 92 in a lost cause against Australia.

De Silva is already the third most successful batsman in one-day history with 9,248 runs from 306 matches with 11 centuries before Saturday's last Super Sixes game against Zimbabwe.

This was in addition to the 6,361 runs he has in 93 Tests, studded with 20 centuries including a career-best 267 against New Zealand at Wellington in 1990-91.

De Silva is also a very useful off-spinner with 29 Test wickets and 103 in one-dayers.

"I am very satisfied with what I have done and want to be remembered as someone who has contributed to the cause of Sri Lankan cricket," he said.

"I may not be playing after this World Cup but am available to serve the game in the country in any way."

The pocket-sized dynamo scored a match-winning 107 not out and took three wickets in the World Cup final against Australia in Lahore in March 1996 which remains the high point of his career.

"That was the ultimate," he said. "To have contributed to Sri Lankan cricket's greatest moment is something I will cherish all my life."

De Silva won four man of the match awards in the the tournament, including the semi-final against India and the final.

"Our bowling was experienced in 1996 but that is something the side lacks at the moment and it is an area we have to focus really hard."

De Silva, who made his international debut in 1983, was known then more for his cavalier approach to batting than the accummulator he later became.

Former Pakistani captain Imran Khan realised the potential in the young man then and predicted he would become one of the greats if he concentrated in building his innings.

It's advice De Silva took seriously as his game sharpened with a stint with English county Kent in 1995.

De Silva rates New Zealand's Richard Hadlee and Wasim Akram of Pakistan as the two best fast bowlers he has faced and Australian Shane Warne and Pakistan's Abdul Qadir as the leading spinners.

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