There was a time in ODI cricket when teams looked for a decent start with the bat. Yes, just the decent start. Keeping wickets in hand and playing defensively was the trend.
In the middle of the 90s, though, this trend went for a toss. Why? Because Sanath Jayasuriya had arrived. Jayasuriya played his first ODI match in 1989 but the 90s saw him becoming a nightmare for the bowlers. He, along with his opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana, started the new trend in ODI cricket – to score as many runs in the first 15 overs as possible. The first 15 overs were the unofficial power-plays in that phase, in which just two players from the fielding side remain outside the 30-yard circle. Jayasuriya and Kalu took advantage of what was considered a boon for the bowlers. Together, they changed the whole game.
Jayasuriya’s greatness lies in the fact that, even after 7 years of his retirement, Sri Lanka have not been able to find his suitable replacement. There were many left-handed batsmen who came and went but nobody could match the charm of Sanath Jayasuriya.
The former Sri Lankan great, who celebrates his birthday on 30th June, has played some of the most inspiring knocks during his playing days. In the 1996 World Cup, he played a blistering knock of 82 runs off just 44 balls against England in the quarter-finals. That same winter, against Pakistan in Singapore, he smashed 134 off only 65 balls, and later a 17-ball 50.
His best ODI innings though came against India in the Sharjah Cup in 2000. Jayasuriya looked in great touch from the start in that innings. The early onslaught from his willow saw Venkatesh Prasad and Zaheer Khan losing the line and length.
Ganguly was frustrated of making field changes as Jayasuriya would find the gap even between the two legs that day. The stylish left-handed bat played all the shots in the textbook to reach another ODI century. After thrashing all the Indian bowlers all over the ground, Jayasuriya, on 189, fell to the ordinary bowling of Sourav Ganguly, just 11 runs short of a double ton and 5 runs short of the highest individual score in ODIs at that time.