Indian cricket fans who grew up in the 90s would dread the sight of some foreign batsmen of the era who took a special liking for Indian bowlers. Right on top of that list would be the ‘Matara Mauler’ – Deshabandu Sanath Teran Jayasuriya due to many of his exploits since the mid 90s. As the batsman turns 50 on 30 June 2019, let us take a look at his career.
Jayasuriya along with his opening partner, the diminutive wicketkeeper-batsman Romesh Kaluwitharana, in a way, revolutionised batting in the first 15 overs in one -dayers by attacking the bowlers to take advantage of the field restrictions.
World Cup 1996: The First Act
The duo’s pyrotechnics were in display for the first time in the 1996 World Cup, which eventually Sri Lanka went on to win.
At the mention of the ‘96 World Cup, most Indian fans would woefully look back at the semifinal played at Kolkata, but the script for that evening was written a few weeks ago in a league match at New Delhi.
India batted first in that match and put up 271 runs in 50 overs, which seemed like a formidable total.
Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana though, had other plans.
Up against Sanath was Manoj Prabhakar, a man who had given him enough trouble early in his career. “He was one of the most difficult bowlers I faced early in my career because of the swing he could get,” Jayasuriya reminisces in his biography.
In the first two overs that Prabhakar bowled that day, he got plundered for 33 runs, as the Lankans raced to 50 in four overs and then completed the chase with considerable ease.
Prabhakar was packed off, only to return later to bowl two more overs for 14 runs, only this time he was bowling off-spin! What more, English pacer Philip DeFreitas was also reduced to a similar sorry state due to Jayasuriya’s fireworks.
How Jayasuriya Spooked India In Semifinal
Jayasuriya’s assault on Prabhakar not only ended his career, but set the tone of the semifinals too – the rematch between India and Sri Lanka.
Jayasuriya’s biography quotes Sanjay Manjrekar as saying that ahead of the match, the team meeting discussed at length on how to restrict the Lankan openers.
As history has it, even as India managed to pick up Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana early, they were out of wits on how to tackle the threat from the middle-order legend Aravinda de Silva, who eventually played a match-winning knock.
"Imagine our surprise, then, when we got both out in the first over in the semi-final. Now we didn’t know what to do. Like Abhimanyu in Mahabharata, we had trained ourselves to get to the target in the ‘chakravyuh’ but didn’t prepare ourselves about getting out of it," Manjrekar said.
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