Samir Chopra September 2, 2009

The Duleep and Roy Show

A staggering display of flair and style from two batsmen in a Sri Lankan team that was still struggling to find a foothold in world cricket
31

One of the things I promised myself I would do when I started writing on Cricinfo was to point out cricketing achievements that didn't seem to have been noticed enough by the cricketing world. I'm not sure I've done that adequately yet, but thought I'd make a start by talking about two Sri Lankan batsmen who played two of the most amazing innings I've ever seen: Roy Dias and Duleep Mendis. And they did it in the same Test.

I saw Dias and Mendis bat - on television at least - for the first time during Sri Lanka's first official Test against India at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Madras, in September 1982. The monsoons had just ended in New Delhi but their traces remained: I was down with a viral fever. This meant I couldn't attend school, and would have to stay in bed. And be forced to watch Test cricket. Truly, it was a tragic time.

I knew enough about the Sri Lankans by then to know they weren't pushovers. They had handed India a crushing loss in the 1979 World Cup when they were (unfairly) regarded as minnows, and in their first ever Test, had put up a brave fight against England. Still, they were relative unknowns in my mind. I didn't know what to expect when the first day's play started.

To say that I was taken aback on the first day was an understatement. Mendis smashed 105 off 123 balls with 17 fours and a six. I could have sworn his square-cutting and driving was the fiercest I'd ever seen in my life. Indeed, I thought this short, burly man with bulging forearms would decapitate an Indian fielder or two by the time he was done. I had seen Viv Richards and Collis King batting in the 1979 World Cup final, but I was suddenly doubtful whether they hit the ball as hard as Mendis. Later that evening, when I was talking about the day's play with my uncles and brother, I struggled to explain just what a revelation his batting had been. The flair and style on display had been staggering.

The Sri Lankans might have been unknown, but they had suddenly created an indelible impression; they had rattled along on the first day, scoring 311 for 8, at a run-rate then unknown in Tests in India, before ending up with 346. India easily outstripped this relatively modest total and posted a 220-runs lead - they did have a strong batting line-up of their own.

Some time was lost to rain on the third day but the Lankans still faced a daunting task when they began their second innings on the fourth day. Matters quickly became worse as the first wicket fell with only six runs on the board. At this stage Dias walked out and launched into an amazing counterattack.

The best way to describe this innings is to mention one simple statistic, which I've never forgotten, and never will: when his score reached 61, Dias had hit 15 boundaries. I've never seen that percentage approached by any batsman in any class of cricket for a score of over fifty since. The boundary rate slowed down thereafter, as did Dias. Finally, when he was out - almost sparking tears in me - at 97, the score was 157. The Sri Lankan second innings continued on the fifth day, and amazingly, Mendis hit a second ton as they went on to make 394 at four an over. India needed 175 to win as time started to run out, but were thrown into a spin by Asantha De Mel who grabbed a five-for to reduce them to 130 for 7 before Gavaskar batted out the last few overs to ensure a draw.

Phew. What an impression to make in your first Test against the local big league. And how. Thanks Duleep. Thanks Roy. I'll never forget those innings.

PS: Wisden disputes my memory of the Dias innings in saying "Dias scattered the Indian attack, reaching his 50 in 53 minutes with twelve 4s." By that calculation, he would have had to make 62 to include 15 boundaries and not 61. But this is one occasion where I trust myself more than the Almanack. Part of the reason Dias' innings sticks out in my mind is that it was always 'fours plus one', and I kept waiting with bated breath to see when he would score his second non-boundary run. And the reason I remember 61 so clearly is that that's when it happened. So I'll back myself against the Almanack. Only the scorer's sheet can settle this dispute.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • lakmal on December 13, 2009, 18:00 GMT

    Thanks samir,I've heard of those big boys of our cricket team.Lots of people talk abot murali,sanath,mahela ,and sanga.But as a cricket crazy lankans,we must not forget those past legends that sparkled the lankan cricket history.We are in a respectable position due to their priceless efforts.Hat off Roy,Duleep,De mel,Wettimuny and co...

  • Roberto on October 4, 2009, 8:15 GMT

    cool blog

  • Brian Thomas on September 24, 2009, 4:55 GMT

    Samir, Thank you for your kind gesture..As media manager of Sri Lanka Cricket, i feel very proud of Roy and Dulip who have been my close associates for decades.Dulip works with me at Sri Lanka Cricket. I just told him about your article.I also made mention, of he being a very poweful with his cut shot,and cover drive..He smiled and in modesty simply said i had the advantage of an eagle eye. Yes i know Dulla as he's fondly known for a long time.I played against him in our house matches at college.He kept things simple.He had a natural flair,un orthodxed,but very effective..

  • terrance on September 17, 2009, 13:43 GMT

    Hi Samir, Sri Lanka has produced 4 great batsman who are different to each other. M.Sadasivam, Roy Dias, Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasurya.. each one has its quality and style that has not been matched so far.

    When it comes to Art of stroke play it has to be Sadasivam and Roy Dias. but One man who took the world bowling attack in Test and one day was Aravinda and the All time greatest one day player will be Sanath Jayasuriya

  • Vajira on September 17, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    I very well remember the Chepauk test and at lunch SL were around 120 odd for two even after starting the match about 45 min late for overnight shower. That match was sadly the last match of the legendary late Anura Ranasighe the SL middle order batsman who would have walked into any modern T20 team by his sheer attacking style and feilding. he scored a brisk 77 in the 2nd innings of that match and was punished with 25 year cricket ban for touring then apartheid South Africa subsequetly with a team led by then Captain Bandula warnapura. Anura Ranasinghe died as a poor man in his 40s.

  • Nick on September 15, 2009, 13:11 GMT

    Samir,I have to mention onemore thing about Roy Dias. He was also one of the greatest extra cover and point fielders of alltime which is a known fact that might everybody does not know.I believe he should be rated to the category of Jonty Rhode

  • dhileep on September 12, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    Samir, I remember that innings as a school boy as well and I remember Dias more than Mendis because of the boundaries.I used to score innings' listening to the radio commentary- I was that mad- and I remember tyhe 12 boundaries in his 50. Dhileep.

  • hareesh on September 8, 2009, 7:47 GMT

    Great piece Samir.I request you to write an article about Sathasivam another sri lankan great who was very highly rated by Gary Sobers but who did not play test cricket as SL was not a full fledged test side.

  • Ariz on September 4, 2009, 22:33 GMT

    Just to add spice to this test match special, this test holds a place in the record book. Mendis's twin 105 are the highest identical scores made by a batsman in a test. Next highest is by Alvin Kallicharran who made 80 in each innings of a test.

  • Malik Mendis on September 4, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    To me, Roy Dias, was one of the greatest batsmen Sri Lanka cricket has ever seen. I knew Roy personally, being class-mates at St. Peter's College. I closely followed his cricket from U-14 days and saw almost every innings for the college 1st XI from the third term games in 1967 (as a 15 year old) until he played is last inning for College in 1972. I saw him scoring 36 for Sri Lanka schools against the Australians in '72 which included 6 cover driven boundries from 2 overs off Tom Gillogly. The Daily News called it the greatest exhibition of cover driving ever seen at the Colombo Oval. Thereafter, I watched him bat every week in the premier division club tournament for Colombo Colts. I never failed to watch him play for Sri Lanka and derived immense pleasure every time I did so, irrespective of how much he scored. In 1984, during the B & H Tri-series in Australia, Vic Richards and Greg Chappel called him the Best batsmen in the world at the moment. Thanks for the great memories Roy!

  • lakmal on December 13, 2009, 18:00 GMT

    Thanks samir,I've heard of those big boys of our cricket team.Lots of people talk abot murali,sanath,mahela ,and sanga.But as a cricket crazy lankans,we must not forget those past legends that sparkled the lankan cricket history.We are in a respectable position due to their priceless efforts.Hat off Roy,Duleep,De mel,Wettimuny and co...

  • Roberto on October 4, 2009, 8:15 GMT

    cool blog

  • Brian Thomas on September 24, 2009, 4:55 GMT

    Samir, Thank you for your kind gesture..As media manager of Sri Lanka Cricket, i feel very proud of Roy and Dulip who have been my close associates for decades.Dulip works with me at Sri Lanka Cricket. I just told him about your article.I also made mention, of he being a very poweful with his cut shot,and cover drive..He smiled and in modesty simply said i had the advantage of an eagle eye. Yes i know Dulla as he's fondly known for a long time.I played against him in our house matches at college.He kept things simple.He had a natural flair,un orthodxed,but very effective..

  • terrance on September 17, 2009, 13:43 GMT

    Hi Samir, Sri Lanka has produced 4 great batsman who are different to each other. M.Sadasivam, Roy Dias, Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasurya.. each one has its quality and style that has not been matched so far.

    When it comes to Art of stroke play it has to be Sadasivam and Roy Dias. but One man who took the world bowling attack in Test and one day was Aravinda and the All time greatest one day player will be Sanath Jayasuriya

  • Vajira on September 17, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    I very well remember the Chepauk test and at lunch SL were around 120 odd for two even after starting the match about 45 min late for overnight shower. That match was sadly the last match of the legendary late Anura Ranasighe the SL middle order batsman who would have walked into any modern T20 team by his sheer attacking style and feilding. he scored a brisk 77 in the 2nd innings of that match and was punished with 25 year cricket ban for touring then apartheid South Africa subsequetly with a team led by then Captain Bandula warnapura. Anura Ranasinghe died as a poor man in his 40s.

  • Nick on September 15, 2009, 13:11 GMT

    Samir,I have to mention onemore thing about Roy Dias. He was also one of the greatest extra cover and point fielders of alltime which is a known fact that might everybody does not know.I believe he should be rated to the category of Jonty Rhode

  • dhileep on September 12, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    Samir, I remember that innings as a school boy as well and I remember Dias more than Mendis because of the boundaries.I used to score innings' listening to the radio commentary- I was that mad- and I remember tyhe 12 boundaries in his 50. Dhileep.

  • hareesh on September 8, 2009, 7:47 GMT

    Great piece Samir.I request you to write an article about Sathasivam another sri lankan great who was very highly rated by Gary Sobers but who did not play test cricket as SL was not a full fledged test side.

  • Ariz on September 4, 2009, 22:33 GMT

    Just to add spice to this test match special, this test holds a place in the record book. Mendis's twin 105 are the highest identical scores made by a batsman in a test. Next highest is by Alvin Kallicharran who made 80 in each innings of a test.

  • Malik Mendis on September 4, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    To me, Roy Dias, was one of the greatest batsmen Sri Lanka cricket has ever seen. I knew Roy personally, being class-mates at St. Peter's College. I closely followed his cricket from U-14 days and saw almost every innings for the college 1st XI from the third term games in 1967 (as a 15 year old) until he played is last inning for College in 1972. I saw him scoring 36 for Sri Lanka schools against the Australians in '72 which included 6 cover driven boundries from 2 overs off Tom Gillogly. The Daily News called it the greatest exhibition of cover driving ever seen at the Colombo Oval. Thereafter, I watched him bat every week in the premier division club tournament for Colombo Colts. I never failed to watch him play for Sri Lanka and derived immense pleasure every time I did so, irrespective of how much he scored. In 1984, during the B & H Tri-series in Australia, Vic Richards and Greg Chappel called him the Best batsmen in the world at the moment. Thanks for the great memories Roy!

  • Chanaka on September 4, 2009, 3:07 GMT

    Aarrgh... Those were the days.. It makes me so nostalgic. I still rate Great Roy Dias the master craftsman of off side play. His cover drives and square cuts were so elegant and flawless. And Duleep used his short height to the max to tame any fast bowler trying to intimidate him by pulling them over the fence.

    Sri Lankan cricket has much to thank to these stalwarts of the game.

    Samir you are a legend to bring back these cherished memories in so vividly.

    Thanks mate..

    Chanaka - Melbourne, Australia

  • Expatriate on September 4, 2009, 2:05 GMT

    I left Sri Lanka in the early 80s and so wasn't witness to their inaugural test matches. Reading your article fills me with wonder and amazement. I had known SL were a very good team but didn't know just how good they were. Thanks for putting all of this on record for people like me.

  • Longmemory on September 4, 2009, 0:00 GMT

    As a Madras-boy, I knew of Mendis, Dias and others long before the rest of India thanks to the Gopalan trophy matches between SL and Tamil Nadu. In the late 1970s, I watched Mendis live at Chepauk and thought exactly as you did: no one hits the ball harder through square-cover and this guy could easily decapitate a fielder. The SL teams were an incredible mixture of talent and freedom. Tennekoon, Heyn, Mendis, Dias, Wettimuny et al played with an abandon that was rare. In a lovely contrast to Dias' 60/61 in boundaries, my late uncle, a connoisseur of the game if ever there was one, rated a 40-odd by the legendary Sathasivam of Ceylon as the best knock he has ever seen: he would never tire of telling anyone who would listen that this amazing knock did not have a single boundary. Every shot was timed to perfection and gently placed into a gap to yield ones, twos and threes but no boundaries. And this uncle of mine had seen nearly every great Test batsman in his pomp! Great piece Samir.

  • Nikhil on September 3, 2009, 23:11 GMT

    Hi Samir, Sri Lanka have always been a thorn in our flesh. I have seen an unbelievable match in 1986 when we restricted them to a paltry 195, or so I thought. We were shot out for 78!!!! Then in the last match we scored 299 of 40 overs... Doesnt it put all the power plays to shame? But the Lankans almost pulled it off by scoring 289. Those were the days of home teams having their umpires as well so that might have been a factor. Also in the Australasia cup of 86, we were going well through Sunny and Krish and suddenly we lost our way only to sneak past in the end. Did our poor bowling in the 80's make up for their lack of experience? They wouldnt be able to compete against pak in the same manner in those times.

  • Philip Gnana on September 3, 2009, 22:16 GMT

    Nice piece this. It is so easy to dismiss the early days of SL test cricket. I remember Duleep as school boy. Watched him make a full blooded drive of the Aussie school boy paceman Tom Gillipgly(i hope i got his name right). He hit the ball straight at Rpbert Golding (skipper) fielding at cover. He held it and withdrew his hands. He never expected the ball to be hit that hard. Indeed a true "wallopper" of the ball. Dias was full of classy elegance. Gower type of drives oozed when he was in full flow. Duleeps hundred at Lords before lunch I believe was great too. Thanks Samir. Philip Gnana,New Malden, Surrey

  • Rohan Nissanka on September 3, 2009, 20:33 GMT

    Roy and Duip were unmachabe. The stylish Roy and aggressive Dulip wil never fade away from cricket lovers. And today we Sri Lankan's are enjoing the game on that solid foundation they built.Thanks Samir for bringing us little bit of history to our mind.

  • Ranil on September 3, 2009, 19:57 GMT

    I remember Mendis' twin tons (105 in both innings) in this game. And I still remember seing that picture in the Wisden maganize that my grandfather used to subscribe to. It was taken in the Inaugural SL- England test. Bob Taylor is the keeper and the SL captain Bandula Warnapura is the striker. Roy Dias went on to score 77 in that innings, which included 3 successive 4's off Ian Botham.

  • Ariz on September 3, 2009, 18:24 GMT

    Although Mendis made twin hundreds in the match, it was Dias whose graceful batting in both innings impressed me. But unfortunately he did not fully live upto my expectations. Also Wisden report is right as he had hit 14 boundaries in his first 59 runs (a score that is stuck in my mind, afterwards he slowed down a bit, I think only the ball-by-ball statistics of the match can resolve this). Another person, who impressed me was Ranatunga!. He played couple of cameos but was every stroke of his was gem. I think he hit as many as six 4s in his 25 in the first innings.

  • S.Hussain on September 3, 2009, 17:17 GMT

    It was fantastic reading personally know Duleep he is as nice as his knock with the bat is it possible to get a video of that infamous partnership.Great great memories

  • S.Hussain on September 3, 2009, 17:17 GMT

    It was fantastic reading personally know Duleep he is as nice as his knock with the bat is it possible to get a video of that infamous partnership.Great great memories

  • Randika Dissnayake on September 3, 2009, 16:05 GMT

    Thanks Samir for this article, it fills us Sri Lankans with nostalgia to be reminded of these greats. a year before this event Mendis has struck three consecutive sixes off Botham as Lords! And in the first test in English soil Sidath Wettamuni scored 183 which almost won the game for Sri Lanka, English managed to save the test but this new revelation was a breath of fresh air to the cricketing world and Sri Lanka have since transformed the manners in which the game was played!

  • Aftab on September 3, 2009, 14:54 GMT

    This brings back memories of the 3rd test in 1985 played in Kandy between India & Sri lanka. It's etched in my memory for the brilliant centuries of Roy Dias (106) and Duleep Mendis (124)in the second innings that saved the match for Sri Lanka. I watched that game and what a master-class of batting display, caution with aggression. Thanks Samir for taking me years back down memory lane. I love to see these two bat any day, whether it be ODI or Test, because they are a class unto themselves in both forms of the game.

  • P.N.Sudarshan on September 3, 2009, 14:14 GMT

    Samir, I think I agree with you both on the statistical piece as well as the quality of batting. It was a silken, amazing innings by Roy Dias. I still believe that India would have won the match if Sandeep Patil hadnt got run out in the 2nd innings.

  • Sandeep on September 3, 2009, 13:43 GMT

    Hi Samir- I watched that match. I was only 9 then- I remember Dias and Mendis hitting one boundary after the other, and Gavaskar batting out the last few overs to save India from a humiliating defeat. Can't remember the 15 fours in 61 for Dias, though- but won't be surprised if your memory is right, for he seemed to hit a four at will, that day

  • amit on September 3, 2009, 12:23 GMT

    Hi Samir, Thanks for bringing back the memories. It all came back. Do you remember the Roy and Mendis show - part II? This was the 3rd test in eary 80's in sri lanka. India was supposed to steamroll SL, but they dominated the first two tests and were leading 1-0. In the 3rd test the ordered was restored - until the end of day 4. SL was set about 360 or so and had to survive a day plus an hour on the 4th day. India started well with SL about 30-3 at the end of day 4 and on track to level the series. Then Roy and Mendis got to work on the 5th day wicket. Instead of trying to save the test and hunkering down, the went on and on and on and kept scoring. They were together at tea with score at around 240, with both having scored centuries. India was on the defense now trying to save the test and not go down 2-0. In the end SL ended with 330-7 or so going for a win. Certainly one of the most frustration series for me as an indian fan! Roy and Mendis sent a clear message to the cricket world that: win or loose, SL would always entertain and play the game in style.

  • Michael Jeh on September 3, 2009, 11:55 GMT

    Nice piece Samir. I could be mistaken but I think Mendis reached his century in both innings with a six. Considering it was his first Test century, that's pretty gutsy to take on the boundary fielder instead of just pushing for singles. I remember one of those sixes being down the ground at long-on.

  • arijit on September 3, 2009, 11:03 GMT

    When Dias hit his 15th boundary, his score reached 63, not 61 or 62. He hit three more and had 18 boundaries in his 97. Absolutely certain.

  • Piyal on September 3, 2009, 9:45 GMT

    Thaks. Greate work. Good for the people who have been loving cricket since '70s where there was no T-20s. Nowadays, nobody will remember what happened last year.

  • Muhammad on September 3, 2009, 9:33 GMT

    Thank you Samir on a brilliant blog. I am Sri Lankan and am 23 years old. Therefore I wasn't even born when this match took place. It was such a delight to hear such a story about Sri Lanka cricket. I am truly touched.. And inspired. even tears welled my eyes.. Thank you Samir once again and may God bless you.. P.S. I back you over the Almanack too! ;)

  • Ahdil on September 3, 2009, 9:30 GMT

    Sounds like good times. Sri Lanka were minows in the early 1980s, somehow they've become excellent since.

  • yadav on September 3, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    Hi Samir, Great to hear of the innings that we haven't witnessed. I haven't seen past players much. All I know about Roy dias is that he was a good batsman from Sri Lanka who currently coaches Nepali cricket team. Evaluating his contribution to the Nepali cricket team I can not do anything but wholeheartedly believe what you have written.

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  • yadav on September 3, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    Hi Samir, Great to hear of the innings that we haven't witnessed. I haven't seen past players much. All I know about Roy dias is that he was a good batsman from Sri Lanka who currently coaches Nepali cricket team. Evaluating his contribution to the Nepali cricket team I can not do anything but wholeheartedly believe what you have written.

  • Ahdil on September 3, 2009, 9:30 GMT

    Sounds like good times. Sri Lanka were minows in the early 1980s, somehow they've become excellent since.

  • Muhammad on September 3, 2009, 9:33 GMT

    Thank you Samir on a brilliant blog. I am Sri Lankan and am 23 years old. Therefore I wasn't even born when this match took place. It was such a delight to hear such a story about Sri Lanka cricket. I am truly touched.. And inspired. even tears welled my eyes.. Thank you Samir once again and may God bless you.. P.S. I back you over the Almanack too! ;)

  • Piyal on September 3, 2009, 9:45 GMT

    Thaks. Greate work. Good for the people who have been loving cricket since '70s where there was no T-20s. Nowadays, nobody will remember what happened last year.

  • arijit on September 3, 2009, 11:03 GMT

    When Dias hit his 15th boundary, his score reached 63, not 61 or 62. He hit three more and had 18 boundaries in his 97. Absolutely certain.

  • Michael Jeh on September 3, 2009, 11:55 GMT

    Nice piece Samir. I could be mistaken but I think Mendis reached his century in both innings with a six. Considering it was his first Test century, that's pretty gutsy to take on the boundary fielder instead of just pushing for singles. I remember one of those sixes being down the ground at long-on.

  • amit on September 3, 2009, 12:23 GMT

    Hi Samir, Thanks for bringing back the memories. It all came back. Do you remember the Roy and Mendis show - part II? This was the 3rd test in eary 80's in sri lanka. India was supposed to steamroll SL, but they dominated the first two tests and were leading 1-0. In the 3rd test the ordered was restored - until the end of day 4. SL was set about 360 or so and had to survive a day plus an hour on the 4th day. India started well with SL about 30-3 at the end of day 4 and on track to level the series. Then Roy and Mendis got to work on the 5th day wicket. Instead of trying to save the test and hunkering down, the went on and on and on and kept scoring. They were together at tea with score at around 240, with both having scored centuries. India was on the defense now trying to save the test and not go down 2-0. In the end SL ended with 330-7 or so going for a win. Certainly one of the most frustration series for me as an indian fan! Roy and Mendis sent a clear message to the cricket world that: win or loose, SL would always entertain and play the game in style.

  • Sandeep on September 3, 2009, 13:43 GMT

    Hi Samir- I watched that match. I was only 9 then- I remember Dias and Mendis hitting one boundary after the other, and Gavaskar batting out the last few overs to save India from a humiliating defeat. Can't remember the 15 fours in 61 for Dias, though- but won't be surprised if your memory is right, for he seemed to hit a four at will, that day

  • P.N.Sudarshan on September 3, 2009, 14:14 GMT

    Samir, I think I agree with you both on the statistical piece as well as the quality of batting. It was a silken, amazing innings by Roy Dias. I still believe that India would have won the match if Sandeep Patil hadnt got run out in the 2nd innings.

  • Aftab on September 3, 2009, 14:54 GMT

    This brings back memories of the 3rd test in 1985 played in Kandy between India & Sri lanka. It's etched in my memory for the brilliant centuries of Roy Dias (106) and Duleep Mendis (124)in the second innings that saved the match for Sri Lanka. I watched that game and what a master-class of batting display, caution with aggression. Thanks Samir for taking me years back down memory lane. I love to see these two bat any day, whether it be ODI or Test, because they are a class unto themselves in both forms of the game.