The Fantastico Duo of Sri Lankans who I grew up adoring! - Part I
Sri Lanka are a team that endeared me in the late 1990's after I watched them play a special brand of attacking cricket right through the 1996 World Cup. They were also the underdogs which meant that as a kid I was naturally attracted towards them. Watching the small nation script a fairy tale run during that World Cup left a deep impact on my mind and they are still the team that I support vehemently after India. In this part I will speak about two batsmen who are credited with revolutionizing the way that ODI cricket was played with their belligerent batting styles and an all-out attacking mind-set.
He was another attacking batsman, perhaps light years ahead of his time and he is credited having revolutionizing the ODI game along with Kaluwitharana as the duo went after the bowling right from ball one.
Sanath had forearms as strong as an Ox and his hand eye co-ordination was amongst the best. His short arm flicks landed way beyond the boundary over the mid-wicket region and his cuts often went whole way as well. He played several match winning knocks for the Lankans and single-handedly won the game for them on most occasions. He is perhaps the most complete ODI player ever to play the game with over 13000 runs and 300 wickets to his name.
He was also a splendid slow left arm spin bowler who took more than 300 wickets along with being one of the best fielders that the game has seen. He once held the record for the fastest 50, fastest hundred and the fastest 150 in ODI cricket!!
He also excelled in the longest format of the game, his 340 against the Indian side displaying his hunger for runs and supreme powers of concentration. He finished with an average of over 40 in test matches.
The diminutive Sri Lankan wicket-keeper was the partner in crime with Sanath Jayasuriya and together they went about terrorising about every opposition bowler. He started with a fine 132 on his test debut but failed to live up to the high expectations since then. Fierce cut shots and mighty pulls and hooks were his trademark and he made a name for himself in the ODI setup when he played several glowering innings in Australia just prior to the 1996 World Cup. That made Ranatunga shove him and Sanath into the pinch hitting opening role.
His wicket-keeping skills were also quite exceptional and he was a very acrobatic and fast behind the stumps. He affected 75 stumpings in only 189 ODI matches and also took 132 catches. Known as ‘Little Kalu’, he never did full justice to the immense talent that he had averaging only in the 20’s in both forms of the game.