Sri Lanka XI
ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time

Middle order

A problem of plenty

Who to pick - strokemakers or stodgy accumulators? Or keepers who can more than just get by with the bat?

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

March 2, 2010

Comments: 100 | Text size: A | A

Aravinda de Silva plays the flick, Kent v Sri Lanka, Canterbury, 27 April 2002
Aravinda de Silva: Mad Max turned batting genius Mike Finn Kelcey / © Getty Images
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In Sri Lanka's cricket history one area where they have never been short of talent is the middle-order batting. Sri Lanka have been blessed with some of the most exciting batsmen the game has ever seen.

From Mahadevan Sathasivam, regarded as the country's best batsman in the pre-Test era, to Aravinda de Silva, arguably the best in the Test age, Sri Lanka have produced an array of exciting stroke-makers the likes of whom cricket has been fortunate to witness.

Amaong those during the pre-Test years who could probably have made it to this shortlist were Frederick C de Saram, Sargo Jayawickrama, Michael Tissera, Anura Tennekoon, Ievers Gunasekara and Stanley Jayasinghe, whose cricketing talents were not fully exposed due to the lack of international competition. These players were unfortunate to belong to an era when Sri Lanka was still struggling to attain Test status. They played purely for the love of the game, in an age where cricket was accepted as a gentleman's game and was not influenced by money.

Those who missed out in the list in the Test era include Duleep Mendis, the dashing batsman and former captain who was nicknamed the "Moratuwa Mauler", and Russel Arnold, whose level-headed batting provided a calming influence to the middle-order.

If picking the openers is going to cause a headache to the selectors of this all-time XI, naming the middle-order is an even bigger task because of the abundance of talent on offer.

The contenders

Roy Dias
A slim, elegant and exceptionally gifted right-hand batsman with a marvellous sense of timing and a style slightly reminiscent of Rohan Kanhai. It is a tragedy that by the time Sri Lanka was granted Test status, Dias, who had played a major part of his career in the pre-Test era, was almost 30. He played in only 20 Tests and became the first Sri Lankan to make 1000 Test runs.

Arjuna Ranatunga
A street-fighting left-hand batsman. His Test batting average of 35.69 and four hundreds from 93 Tests hardly do justice to his precocious talent. Ranatunga was in charge of the team for 11 years from 1988 and was widely recognised as a master tactician, leading his team to victory in the World Cup final of 1996 against arch enemies Australia.

Aravinda de Silva
A strokemaker of the highest class, de Silva had the bit of genius in him that allowed him to hit good balls to the boundary, which made it hard for opposing captains to plan against it. During the early part of his career he was known as a dashing if inconsistent batsman and was given the name Mad Max, but one season with English county Kent marked the turning point of his career. He is best remembered for playing the key role in Sti Lanka winning the 1996 World Cup final against Australia: he contributed with a fine unbeaten century to go with his two catches and three wickets.

Kumar Sangakkara
Not blessed with natural talent like some of his team-mates and predecessors, through hard work and sacrifice Sangakkara has worked himself to the level of a top-class specialist batsman who could fit into any current world XI. His Test batting record has improved drastically since he gave up keeping in Tests, which enabled him to concentrate solely on his role as a No. 3. Batting has never looked like an effort to him. He has the ability to pick up the length quickly and plays the short ball very well. Equally good against spin, pace and swing.

Mahela Jayawardene
Impressively balanced at the crease, Jayawardene is quick on his feet, and once he gets a start he is capable of batting for long hours, as his 27 Test hundreds bear testimony. He ranks among the toughest batsmen in the game today. Jayawardene was the first Sri Lankan captain to score a Test triple-century, making 374 off 572 deliveries against South Africa in 2006, and sharing a world Test record partnership of 674 with Sangakkara.

Thilan Samaraweera
Primarily an offspinner, Samaraweera was quick to realise that as long as Muttiah Muralitharan was around there was no place in the side for another similar spinner, so he switched over to becoming a batsman. But it was not until 2001 that he got a break in Test cricket. Despite being dropped on a couple of occasions for poor form, Samaraweera has cemented a permanent spot in the middle order where in 2009 he started to contribute massive scores including back-to-back double-hundreds in Pakistan. Not an elegant batsman to watch, but very effective in his strokeplay.

Hashan Tillakaratne
Like Sangakkara, Tillakaratne came into the Test side as a wicketkeeper-batsman but later shed his gloves to become a durable middle-order batsman who could wear the opposition down with his defensive play. He was not an exiciting batsman to watch but played several match-saving innings and was a prolific run-getter in Tests.

Asanka Gurusinha
Few ever mention the name of Gurusinha when Sri Lanka's World Cup victory is spoken of, but he it was who provided the base for strokemakers like de Silva and Ranatunga to play their natural game. A tall and compact left-hander who made his Test debut as a keeper, Gurusinha took on the mantle of Sri Lanka's No. 3, a position he fulfilled for many years before his rather premature exit after the World Cup.

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

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Posted by Cannuck on (March 5, 2010, 21:24 GMT)

Waste of time is posting 3-4 comments at a time, just to force's one's opinion others... I stand by my comments & HILANGL can keep believing that in a team with De Silva & Sathasivam, Roy Dias can't make it, yet Ravi Rathnayake can make it.. as an all time all rounder? Really??? Over people like Russel Arnold, Kumar Dharmasena or even late Anura Ranasinghe, one of the guttiest cricketers to have played the game.. ? Say what? Anura didn't play much test cricket? Well I guess then Satahsivam must have played more tests than Anura eh..? I have no doubt Sathasivam is an all time great & I would rank him in the top, along with Thissera & Stanley Jayasinghe. But if he was picked for his performance against visiting greats, then how come Dr. H.I.K Fernando wasn't? After all Don Bradman him self had once told that it was a pity H.I.K was not born in Australia, for he would have surely made the National team for his glove work behind the stumps. Now that's potential, seen by the DON him self!

Posted by   on (March 5, 2010, 19:48 GMT)

I did not prepare this list. The list is prepared by "Reliance Mobile ICC Rankings The Official Rankings for International Cricket!". As I understand that this list is prepared through statistical analysis of the players with all the aspects, including the opposition they play. If anybody is not happy with the list they can submit a complaint, feedback, or an alternative list, or an alternative method to rank on the following link.

http://www.reliancemobileiccrankings.com/contactus.php

Yes at the first glance it is difficult to comprehend why Tendulkar, Lara, or Headley are so far below the list, however when you look at the players above them (May be in a different era) then you understand why they are at their place.

"Players make the all-time list by sustaining excellent form over a prolonged period. The ratings shown are the highest points totals these players have attained and no player is allowed to appear on the list more than once."

Posted by HLANGL on (March 5, 2010, 18:59 GMT)

My all-time SL XI ... This would be my last comment here. Yet I sincerely hope some ppl like Cannuck would be having some ample improvements ... 1. Sanath Jayasuriya (Capt. & the one to intimidate the opponents at the top), 2. Marvan Atapattu (sheet anchor role for partnering J'suriya), 3. Mahadevan Sathasivam (indispensable in all time SL XI), 4. Aravinda De Silva (class act, very good at counterattacking & passing the pressure to the opponents), 5. Kumar Sangakkara (wk & a solid bat), 6. Dulip Mendis ( an arrogant bat down the order ), 7. Ravi Rathnayaka (all rounder), 8. Chaminda Vaas (bowling all rounder), 9. D.S.De Silva or Romesh Rathnayake (given the pitch) 10. Dilhara Fernando or Lasith Malinga (to add some pace & teeth to the otherwise very medium attack), 11. Muththaiah M'tharan (no guess). Note: In a team having both De Silva & Sathasivam at the top, pretty hard to find a place for Roy Dias. Dulip Mendis had some other qualities which would make him blend with this lineup.

Posted by HLANGL on (March 5, 2010, 18:57 GMT)

My all-time SL XI ... This would be my last comment here. Yet I sincerely hope some ppl like Cannuck would be having some ample improvements ... 1. Sanath Jayasuriya (Capt. & the one to intimidate the opponents at the top), 2. Marvan Atapattu (sheet anchor role for partnering J'suriya), 3. Mahadevan Sathasivam (indispensable in all time SL XI), 4. Aravinda De Silva (class act, very good at counterattacking & passing the pressure to the opponents), 5. Kumar Sangakkara (wk & a solid bat), 6. Dulip Mendis ( an arrogant bat down the order ), 7. Ravi Rathnayaka (all rounder), 8. Chaminda Vaas (bowling all rounder), 9. D.S.De Silva or Romesh Rathnayake (given the pitch) 10. Dilhara Fernando or Lasith Malinga (to add some pace & teeth to the otherwise very medium attack), 11. Muththaiah M'tharan (no guess). Note: In a team having both De Silva & Sathasivam at the top, pretty hard to find a place for Roy Dias. Dulip Mendis had some other qualities which would make him blend with this lineup.

Posted by HLANGL on (March 5, 2010, 18:29 GMT)

I have to back one thing I strongly believe here, not sure some here would believe it or not, never mind. If you need to come up with a list for all-time XI for a particular nation, you need to consider all the players, the quality & the class associated with each player, the comments given on a particular player by his peer players who represented superior teams, the nature of the opponents he played against, the kind of game he played (to me, the way De Silva & Jayasuriya played was harder than what Sidath did & S'kara is doing), the matches he won on his own, the amount of burden carried by an individual, etc. Otherwise one can end up listing the ones he has seen, which won't make it any all-time best XI. I repeatedly say players like Sidath won't find a place in any better test XI at his time.Roy Dias was much better, true, but not there with De Silva, Jayasuriya or Sathasivam at their best. S'kara will find a place in the XI, so may be Mahela, but their averages are exaggerations.

Posted by HLANGL on (March 5, 2010, 18:24 GMT)

I have to back one thing I strongely belive here, not sure some here would believe it or not, never mind. If you need to come up with a list for all-time XI for a particular nation, you need to consider all the players, the quality & the class associated with each player, the comments given on a particular player by his peer players who represented superior teams, the nature of the opponents he played against, the kind of game he played (to me, the way De Silva & Jayasuriya played was harder than what Sidath did & S'kara is doing), the matches he won on his own, the amount of burden carrried by an idividual, etc. Otherwise one can endup listing the ones he has seen, which won't make it any all-time best XI. I repeatedly say players like Sidath won't find a place in any better test XI at his time. Roy Dias was much better, true, but not there with De Silva, Jayasuriya or Sathasivam at their best. S'kara will find a place in the XI, so may be Mahela, but their averages are exaggerations.

Posted by HLANGL on (March 5, 2010, 17:53 GMT)

@Cannuck ... Waste of time ... Keep believing your Sidath, Roy, S'kara, Mahela & co. would make all-time SL XI. S'kara is the gr8est of SL to-date, ... To Madura Perera, Yea, I had come across the list given in ur link. This list first appeared in Wisden nearly 1+ year back. The concern was that this list had been formulated based on the highest ratings mark earned by a player in his peak. This list is topped by Bradman which is very reasonable & beyond any doubt. But again the same list places both Lara, Tendulkar, the legendary WI George Headly at 20+ positions, which is questionable given the fact that few others like S'kara, Kalllis & co. hav been given far superior places. Even people like Mahela, Chanderpaul, co. within top 40, but both Clive Lyod & Gorden Greenidege coming after 60s. So the measuring criteria may not be that trustworthy. Not sure how many would place someone like Keith Stackpole at 99th in all-time 100 list given the nature of some far better ones missing here.

Posted by Cannuck on (March 5, 2010, 15:50 GMT)

HLANG! Happy belated birthday son! I take back that comment about your NONSENSE remark, as I wish to use it on YOU! All this time I was under the impression that you were praising someone that you'd seen perform with your own eyes, not of someone you "heard" from your daddy! Being in early 30s if you can't even remember Roy Dias, then how you comment on Sathasivam is beyond me! You just proved your own ignorance. Try to put together your own opinion instead of listening to others. My selections are based on my "opinion" not what I "heard" from my daddy. Although I know how good Sathasivam was, it wasn't us who seem to be exaggerating players, but it's YOU who haven't even seen many of them play. Your comment that "these players were not even the best in the world during their time" proves you ignorance even more, as this list is not about a WORLD XI, but a Sri Lankan XI. So I urge you to get your facts straight! No matter what you say from here onwards we will regard them as "here-say"

Posted by   on (March 5, 2010, 11:22 GMT)

No disrespect for the older players of SL. But the reason we did not have the test status at the time was because we were not good enough.

http://www.reliancemobileiccrankings.com/alltime/test/

In this list Sangakkara is number 6, Jayawardena is 36 and P.A. de Silva is 90. This is the all time list and fairly renowned names and you are in the club of 100 where Bradman is the Number 1.

Posted by HLANGL on (March 5, 2010, 8:52 GMT)

At Rosh1, "Did you know that the Aussie cricketers have branded peterson and Kumar the 2 of the toughest players to bowl at and that too ommitting Sachin."... where did you see they respect these 2 better than Sachin?. As I'd know, if they would be given the option to select 2 batsmen from rest of the world, it would be Sachin Tendulkar & Brian Charles Lara. I'm a Sri Lankan, but I have watched many many mathces, have seen many many players, so I can safely say [Lara, Tendulkar & Ponting] are the 3 most complete batsmen in recent times after the age of Viv Richards & co. Our own De Silva may not be quite there, though he had loads of tallent he didn't really utilize all his tallent during the initial phase of his career. Players like S'kara & Peterson are very determined characters, I know quite hard to dislodge, but that won't say they are the best if you take all aspects of batting. Do you still believe S'kara is potentially better matchwinner for SL than De Silva & Jayasuriya ???

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Sri Lanka Jury

Ranil Abeynaike
Former left-arm spinner and middle-order batsman. Captained Sri Lanka A against Australia in 1983. Former curator at the SSC in Colombo and national curator and school coach. Currently a commentator.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva, Ranatunga, Somachandra de Silva, de Mel, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Russel Arnold
Russel Arnold
Played 44 Tests and 180 ODIs for Sri Lanka between 1997 and 2007 as an opener, lower middle-order batsman and offbreak bowler. Now a commentator and columnist.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Dias, Sangakkara, Aravinda De Silva, Jayawardene, Ranatunga, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan, Malinga
Ranjit Fernando
Ranjit Fernando
Played ODIs for Sri Lanka in the 1975 World Cup. After retirement, has served as an administrator, national coach, selector and manager. Currently a commentator.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Dias, Aravinda De Silva, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Vaas, Somachandra de Silva, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Ranjan Madugalle
Ranjan Madugalle
Played 21 Tests (in two of which he captained) and 63 ODIs between 1979 and 1988. Was appointed an ICC match referee in 1993, and in 2001 was appointed the first chief referee.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Dias, Aravinda De Silva, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ravi Ratnayeke, Somachandra de Silva, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Palitha Perera
Palitha Perera
Journalist and cricket commentator since 1963; widely held to be Sri Lanka's first to commentate in Sinhala.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Jayawardene, Gurusinha, Ranatunga, Vass, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan, Ajit de Silva
Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts
Author-compiler of the anthology, Essaying Cricket: Sri Lanka and Beyond. Historian and former teacher at Peradeniya University and Adelaide University.
XI: Wettimuny, Dilshan, Dias, Aravinda de Silva, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Rumesh Ratnayake, de Mel, Ajit de Silva, Muralitharan
Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Among Sri Lanka's most senior sports journalists. Has covered over 125 Test matches played by Sri Lanka, including all their home Tests. Presently sports editor of the Nation newspaper.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Jayawardene, Ranatunga, Goonatilleke, Vaas, de Mel, Muralitharan, Malinga
Sidath Wettimuny
Sidath Wettimuny
Scored Sri Lanka's first Test century, against Pakistan. Served as a match referee after retirement and also as Sri Lanka's chairman of selectors.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Dias, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Goonatilleke, Vaas, de Mel, Ajit de Silva, Muralitharan
Mahinda Wijesinghe
Mahinda Wijesinghe
Journalist. Author of Sri Lanka Cricket - At the High Table. Helped develop a device used in experiments to prove the legality of Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Dias, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Ravi Ratnayeke, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Daminda Wijesuriya
Daminda Wijesuriya
Professional sportswriter for the last 20 years. Has covered more than 90 Test matches and over 200 ODIs in Sri Lanka and overseas. Sports editor of a leading national daily newspaper in Sri Lanka for the last 15 years.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva, Ranatunga, Vaas, de Mel, Rumesh Ratnayake, Mendis, Muralitharan

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