Srilanka’s rise in world cricket during mid 90s was much to do with Jayasuriya’s resounding success as an opening batsman in both ODI and Test cricket. In similar lines with Tendulkar’s rise as an ODI opener for India, Jayasuriya’s promotion as an opener totally changed Srilanka’s fortunes. He was fantastic for Srilanka with his brutal batting in the powerplay in ODIs and soon he translated this success in test cricket too . 13430 runs at 32 average and 91 strike rate in 445 ODIs and 6973 runs at 40 average in 110 tests are enough to confirm his success. As if that is not enough, 323 ODI wickets and 98 test wickets with his flat left arm spin , breaking strong partnerships won Srilanka many close matches, not to forget the World cup semis 1996 at Kolkata where he had India in a tailspin on a deteriorating pitch.
Here we shall go to flashback mode and recall his blistering 79 vs India in the group match of 1996 World cup in New Delhi which took Lanka to quarterfinals. India batted first in the match and Tendulkar’s superb 137 took the home team to an imposing 271 in 50 overs . However ,the Indian bowlers were not ready for the onslaught they were subjected to by Jayasuriya and Kaluwitarna . Sanath came out all guns blazing launched into Manoj Prabhakar, creaming him for 33runs in his 2 overs with brutal strokes and Srilanka managed 42 runs in first 3 overs . The packed crowd was in stunned silence at the onslaught. From that rollicking start , Srilanka and Jayasuriya never looked back and runs kept coming thick and fast on a small ground as Indian score was now made to look like a paltry one. Jayasuriya with his trademark cuts , drives and hoicks on the onside put the Indians in total disarray with his 79 off 76 balls with 9 fours and two sixes as Srilanka cantered home to win by 6 wickets with 8 balls to spare. That innings of Jayasuriya actually went beyond that match and had a catalystic effect ,when India met Srilanka in the semis. Remembering Srilanka’s ability to chase down any score with Jayasuriya in opposition , India won the toss in the semis and fielded. Srilanka after early losses managed a modest 235 . The eden pitch started slowing down and deteriorated in 2nd half and Jayasuriya spun the ball miles to get crucial wickets including Tendulkar stumped for 65 as Srilanka were awarded the match which was not completed due to crowd disturbances. India by then were already in dumps having lost cluster of wickets . This goes on to show that India would have won that semi final game had they batted first but panicked due to Jayasuriya’s and other Srilankan batsmen’s ability and firepower to chase down any totals . Hence Jayasuriya’s 79 at Delhi not only won that group match for India , it had a negative effect on the mindset of Indian thinktank before the semis.
As Jayasuriya celebrates his 51st birthday today , cricview wishes him a happy and healthy life.