Openers November 23, 2009

Destroyers and others

The candidates for the openers' slots are two firebrand attackers and three more conventional batsmen

Ask any selector and he will tell you that picking a pair of openers is one of the most difficult tasks. In their pre-Test years Sri Lanka (or All Ceylon as it was known then) had some famous pairs, among them MK Albert and LDS Gunasekera (who were called Sri Lanka's Hobbs and Sutcliffe), followed by Dr C Balakrishnan and Dr Nihal Gurusinghe, TCT Edwards and Mano Ponniah, and Sunil Wettimuny and Bandula Warnapura.

After the country's elevation to Test status in 1981, they initially struggled to find a suitable pair of openers who could provide a substantial platform for their array of middle-order stroke-makers to make capital use of. It was not until the nineties that Sri Lanka eventually found a reliable pair to provide good starts and enable the middle order to stabilise the innings, when Sanath Jayasuriya paired successfully with Marvan Atapattu. They have to date been the most successful pair of openers produced by the country in its short Test history, although individually there have been others who were impressive, but had to team up with several different partners.

Following closely in their footsteps is Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has taken modern cricket by storm with his improvised batting, which has fielding sides scratching their heads in search of answers to his mode of play.

The contenders

Marvan Atapattu
A technically correct batsman, his first six innings in Test cricket yielded five ducks and a 1. But those runs were made as a middle-order batsman. The full potential of Atapattu was realised when he was promoted to open the innings, from which position he reeled off 16 Test centuries, eight of them over the 150 mark. Atapattu also served as captain, and ended his career amid controversy, after he labelled the national selectors "a set of muppets headed by a joker", albeit as a successful batsman, with a Test career average of nearly 40.

Sanath Jayasuriya
With opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana, Jayasuriya revolutionised one-day-international batting, approaching the first 15 overs as one would the last 15. This mode of attack enabled Sri Lanka to win the World Cup in 1996, and went on to become the standard batting strategy in ODIs. Few thought Jayasuriya would be able to transfer that method to the longer game, but he proved his critics wrong, scoring a massive 340 against India in a partnership of 576 with Roshan Mahanama for the second wicket. Renowned for his powerful cuts and pulls and his trademark lofted cut over cover, he was the most destructive opening batsman produced by Sri Lanka. Jayasuriya ended his Test career averaging 40, and slightly more as an opener.

Roshan Mahanama
The tragedy of Mahanama was that through his international career he never held a permanent place in the batting order for long, which eventually led to him quitting the game rather prematurely. Primarily a top-order batsman, he served his country with distinction as an opener, scoring over 2000 runs in 41 Tests.

Sidath Wettimuny
A grafter of runs who scored his country's first Test century, a six-hour 157 in Faisalabad, and a monumental 190 in 11 hours on his first appearance at Lord's, which made him the first Sri Lankan to make it to Wisden' Five Cricketers of the Year. A strong off-side player, he never mastered home pitches, averaging a poor 18.19 in comparison with his batting average of 39.95 overseas.

Tillakaratne Dilshan
Not as destructive as Jayasuriya, Dilshan has more or less fit into the great man's position as opener after languishing in the middle order for more than half his career. Dilshan's promotion to opener, from the lower middle order, has brought many riches to the Sri Lanka side. Like Atapattu, his potential was not realised until he was pushed into the position, where he has established himself as a permanent fixture in all three formats of the game. It was in the last World Twenty20 that he carved a niche for himself with an improvised shot where he flicked the ball over the wicketkeeper's head.

We'll be publishing an all-time Sri Lanka XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your openers click here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kevin on February 25, 2010, 22:13 GMT

    sanath and attapatu opens. the middle order will be the challenge here.

  • Mithra on February 25, 2010, 21:57 GMT

    My TEST Team

    1.Marvan Attapattu, 2. Roy Dais, 3. Kumar Sangakkara,4. Aravinda De Silva, 5. Arjuna Ranatunga(C), 6.Mahela Jaywardena, 7&8 (Mahesh Gunatilaka.Ravi Ratnayake, DS De Silva, Asantha De Mell, or Lasith Malinga) 9.Chaminda Vass, 10.Rumesh Ratnayake 11. M Muralidharan 12th Man . Sanath Jayasuriya

    7 & * Depends on the wicked . If Mahesh Gunatilaka doesnt Play sangakkara shoud bat at no 5 and Arjuna Rantunga should bat at No 7 and Mahela be at No 6 : If Lasith Malinga should bat at No 10 and 9 & 10 - Up one place.

    50 Over Team 1. Sanath J 2. TM Dilshan 3. Kumar S(WK) 4. Aravinda De 5. Mahela Ja 6. Arjuna R(C) 7 & 8. Russel A/Kumara D/R Kaluwithana/Rumesh R/De S Se Silva (WK) 9 Chaminda Vass 10 Lasith Malinga 11 M Muralitharan 7 & 8 - Depends on the wicket : Rumesh K will Keep if selected

    20 Over Team 1. Santh 2. Dilshan 3.Sanga 4. Aravinda 5. Mahela 6 Arjuna (C) 7. Romesh K(WK) 8. Matthews 9. Rumesh R 10. Malinga 11. Murali/ De S 12th Russel A/K Weeraratne

  • Jayanath on February 25, 2010, 16:00 GMT

    my all team sri lanka Marvan,Sidath Wettimuny,Roy Dias , Sanga (WK), Aravinda, Mahela (C), Ranatunga , Ravi Rathnayke, Vass, Rumesh Rathnayke, Murali, D S de Silva and 12th Man Mahanama

  • Roshun on February 25, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    For God's sake people... we are discussing about OPENERS for TEST cricket and not the TEAM nor the OTHER FORMS of cricket. So please hold your breath and be patient without junmping into conclusion and predicting your own teams. Lets wait till the nominations are announced for the other positions.

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2010, 18:57 GMT

    any time sanath jayasurya.

  • sarath on February 24, 2010, 10:31 GMT



    T20 {it can make few ever............!} 1.SANATH 2.DILSHAN 3.MAHELA 4.ARAVINDA 5.[cap, wk]SANGA 6.ARNOLD 7.MATHIEVS 8.VASS 9.VASS 10.MALINGA L. 11.MURALI

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2010, 9:53 GMT

    Jayasuriya ! yes definitely. But a close call between Dilshan and Atapattu. To be frank, the timing of the survey is tricky and it would be premature to pick Dilshan ahead of Atapattu at this stage, when you are talking about only TEST team. Dilshan is destructive, but at this stage he does not have the big double hundreds under his name to prove that he is the best (in test matches). Atapattu on the other hand, loved to make those big hundreds and was a very sound technician on bouncy wickets. So Jayasuriya and Atapattu at this stage, but who knows in 5 years time, when the same list is made, Dilshan might figure in that. I am sure most of the Srilankans would agree with me.

  • Kasun on February 24, 2010, 9:16 GMT

    From Below 14 players Sri LAnka can select a team depending on the conditions.

    1.Sanath,2.Dilshan,3.Marvan,4.Aravinda,5.Mahela (C),6.Sangakkara(W),7.Vass, 8.Somachandra de silva,9.Rumesh Rathnayake,10.Ashantha de Mel, 11.Muralidhren reserves. 12.Lasith Malinga,13.Ajith De Silva,14.Mahesh Gunathilaka

  • Arosha on February 24, 2010, 8:16 GMT

    This article is just for the openers, Jayasuriya should be an ultimate pick.The next would be Atapattu though he's not quite there to be rated as a great but in my openion was good enough to partner Jayasuriya in all time SL XI, especially in the longer format.If you consider the complete XI, Aravinda De Silva would come into the side without any doubt.The other unanimous choice would be Mahadevan Sathasivam who unfortunately had to play an era where SL didn't have the full membership in ICC.Yet, he's the king of SL batsmen before De Silva came to prominence in 1990s.Sathasivam may still be the potentially best conventional batsmen produced by SL, so I'd rate [Sathasivam, Jayasuriya & De Silva] are the special thresome in SL batting given both the amount of runs they scored & the manner in which they took the opponents.No insult to S'kara & Mahela, but they are behind. Both have gathered seemingly better stats by mainly accumulating runs.CI Gunasekara & FC De Seram were quite good too.

  • Theena on February 24, 2010, 8:04 GMT

    I think it's fairly ridiculous to consider Dilshan in the opening slot. We forget that before he was reborn as a dashing opener, he was a pretty inconsistent middle order batsman. And, as good as he has been in the opening slot thus far, he's only been doing it for a year or so - too short a period, in my opinion, for proper perspective on his place in Sri Lanka XI. I will probably end up disagreeing with this list as a whole (see my XI below). Where, for instance, does Sangakkara come in if Aravinda and Mahela take up the number 3 and 4 batting slots respectively as they inevitably should? Sangakkara is too good a batsman to waste in the lower middle order which is why I'd have him open the batting along with Sanath, handing over wicket-keeping duties to Hashan Thilakaratne. As it stands though I'll choose Sanath and Marvan to open.

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