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

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

  • testli5504537 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...

  • testli5504537 on October 4, 2009, 8:15 GMT

    cool blog

  • testli5504537 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..

  • testli5504537 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

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 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

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 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!

  • No featured comments at the moment.