Legends August 29, 2009

Let's talk about Aravinda

He finished with an average of 42.97 from 93 Tests. It felt right. De Silva was a good batsman who played some great innings. He could have scored more runs, but he played too many strokes for his own good

This message landed in my Facebook message box: "How good are u as an editor I wonder? Why don't u ponder how really good the likes of Laxman and Sehwag are?"

I wouldn't say I am surprised by the feedback to my previous post. But a bit disappointed, yes, because the point I was trying to make seems to have been largely missed.

My intent was not to put Thilan Samaraweera, or Sri Lanka batsmen, down. I was trying to use Samaraweera to illustrate the devaluation of batting averages in the 21st century. I pointed out how reality has caught up with Mike Hussey too. Perhaps a lot of you have responded to the headline, which read: "How good is Samaraweera?" With hindsight, we could perhaps have used "The truth about batting averages".

Now let me use the example of another Sri Lankan batsman to further argue my case.

Aravinda de Silva played his Tests between 1984 and 2002. He was a breathtaking strokeplayer who came to be called Mad Max after he brought up his first Test hundred hooking Imran Khan for six. He scored another century in the same series, 105 out of a team score of 230. The second-highest score was 25. By then he had been promoted to No. 3; and his runs came against Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir.

His next century came in Australia, a quite brilliant 167 in Brisbane, in only his second Test in that country. In the following Test, in Hobart, he scored 147 (75 and 72). And his next hundred was 267 off 380 balls, in his first appearance in New Zealand.

He finished with an average of 42.97 from 93 Tests. It felt right. De Silva was a good batsman who played some great innings. He could have scored more runs, but he played too many strokes for his own good. He left a lot of memories, perhaps none better than the half-century and hundred in the semi-final and final of the 1996 World Cup.

In a few months we will be picking an all-time Test XI for Sri Lanka. I will bet that de Silva will be one of the first names on the shortlist. I am not so sure about Samaraweera.

VVS Laxman? He is perhaps a bit like de Silva: a good batsman with some great innings. But is he as good as GR Viswanath, who had a lower average? I love watching Laxman bat, but he wouldn't make my all-time Indian XI. Vishy would.

Sehwag is a different story. I don't think he would have averaged 50 in the 1990s. But wherever he has played and whoever he has played against, he has made runs. Big runs and in an emphatic manner. But is he as good as Sachin Tendulkar? Let's not even go there.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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