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

Fast bowlers

A slinger and some swingers

Five to pick from, among them the country's most successful quick, one who broke teeth and one who took four in four

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

March 18, 2010

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

Chaminda Vaas dismissed Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in quick time, Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, Galle, 1st day, July 31, 2008
Chaminda Vaas: Sri Lanka's leading fast bowler, with 355 Test wickets and 400 ODI wickets © AFP
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Sri Lanka's cricket history is replete with fast bowlers, both in the pre-Test era and after, but they have never produced anyone of genuine pace, although many believe DS Jayasundera, a right-arm fast bowler in the 1930s and 40s, was genuinely sharp, and there have been none faster since.

In the post-war years Sri Lanka was blessed with fast-medium bowlers like Tita Nathanielsz; Tikiri Banda Kehelgamuwa, who claims to have bowled Geoff Boycott with a brute of a delivery that the batsman hardly spotted; Darrell Lieversz and Norton Fredrick, who played in Sri Lanka's first unofficial "Test" victory over India, in Ahmedabad in 1965; Tony Opatha, who played in the first two World Cups; and Mevan Pieris, who played in the 1975 World Cup and was referred to as the "king of swing" because of his ability to move the ball both ways. These fast bowlers mastered the art of swing and cut down on pace to get their wickets on the flat pitches of Sri Lanka.

Among those unlucky to miss out on selection are Graeme Labrooy, a quality swing bowler, whose career was sporadic due to the political climate in the country at the time; Pramodya Wickramasinghe, a bowler of gentle but accurate pace, who once took all 10 in a first-class match in 1992 and played in 40 Tests; and Nuwan Zoysa, a tall, promising lanky left-arm seam bowler, who is one of the few players in history to take a hat-trick in his first over in a Test, but whose career has been plagued by injury.

The contenders

Ravi Ratnayeke
A tall right-arm medium-fast bowler who could bowl at a lively pace and move the ball under favourable conditions. He took 8 for 83 in Sialkot in 1985 and 5 for 37 in Sri Lanka's second Test victory, in 1986 against Pakistan in Colombo. Ratnayeke was highly rated by Sir Garfield Sobers, Sri Lanka's one-time coach.

Chaminda Vaas
Regarded as the best fast bowler produced by Sri Lanka in the post-Test era. An accurate left-arm swing bowler, Vaas was Sri Lanka's flag-bearer for many years, operating alone from one end on unresponsive subcontinental pitches. He had an indipper and a well-disguised offcutter in his arsenal, to which he later added reverse-swing, which made him a consistent wicket-taker even on dead pitches. With spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, Vaas led Sri Lanka to several memorable Test and ODI victories. He is the country's second most successful bowler after Murali, with 355 Test and 400 ODI wickets.

Rumesh Ratnayake
A wiry right-arm fast-medium bowler who could generate a lot of pace with a slinging action similar to Jeff Thomson. Ratnayake's proudest moment was taking nine wickets in Sri Lanka's maiden Test victory, over India in 1985. In helpful conditions he could swing the ball and bowl at a lively pace, as he proved against New Zealand, when he broke John Wright's nose with a bouncer, and against West Indies, when he hit Larry Gomes in the face and broke his teeth during a match in Australia.

Ashantha de Mel
De Mel was the best Sri Lankan fast bowler of his generation. He was fast-medium rather than genuinely quick and he made his mark in the country's inaugural Test, against England in 1982, by taking 4 for 70 in the first innings. De Mel had a good high-arm action and an effective outswinger. He had a successful 1983 World Cup, where he finished with 17 wickets, one fewer than the leading wicket-taker, India's Roger Binny. A knee injury cut de Mel's career short in 1987.

Lasith Malinga
Malinga has developed into Sri Lanka's fastest Test bowler, with am unorthodox technique: he delivers the ball with a side-arm action learnt from playing softball cricket during his childhood. The coaches, thankfully, did not try to alter his unorthodoxy and he continued to confuse batsmen with his slinging deliveries. He took six wickets on his debut, against Australia in Darwin in 2004. Malinga has a reputation for troubling batsmen with his lively pace, well-directed bouncers and toe-crushing yorkers bowled at speeds of 140-150kph. He became the first bowler to take four in four consecutive balls, against South Africa in a 2007 World Cup match.

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

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Posted by dasunnirmala on (March 21, 2010, 14:53 GMT)

No Argument Vass is the best fast bowler Sri Llanka has ever seen......he has proven it yet again in the IPL 2010. Second choice should be Malinga. He is the fastest bowler in SL. He bowls Yorker and slow bouncer very well...

Posted by DwightR on (March 20, 2010, 23:16 GMT)

to SLfan- its cause the sl selectors are truly idiots, the sign of a true legend is their ability to adapt to change and comeback from adversity..and that is excatly what Vaas is doing, i was so happy to see him bowl sanga for a duck (the man who dropped him from the squad) in his last IPL game..selectors please bring back the legend to the national side at least for the 2011 world cup and let sanath, murali and vaas retire together!

Posted by waspsting on (March 20, 2010, 17:57 GMT)

getting a bit ahead of whats in front of us - I disagree with the basic chemistry of this side. 3 pace bowlers and two spinners, at the expense of a batsmen doesn't make sense to me when the bowlers aren't of particularly high quality. I would have six batsmen instead. as for bowling - apart from Murali, none of the bowlers, either pace or spi,n are particularly penetrative (its a surprise when they take 10 wickets in a match). all in all then, better to have 3 pace bowlers and Murali then 2 pace, 2 spin. Back up spin is provided by Jayasuriya, Aravinda De Silva (who are sure to be in the side), and I'd also have Dilshan (who's not a certain pick, but I'd go with him) taking into consideration his bowling abilities. 6 batsmen makes batting strong - keeper and Vaas are useful bats too. bowling centered on Murali and 3 pacers. The three pacers will be rested enough to be at their best when needed, Murali is Murali, and back up spinners to be used when pitch favorable

Posted by SLfan on (March 20, 2010, 15:01 GMT)

I would choose Rumesh Ratnayake, Chaminda Vaas & Ravi Ratnayeke....I believe that selecters have done a big mistake by not selecting Vaasy for 30 men T20 world cup squad. Let's say....that's ok, anyone can make mistakes! But the best thing is to take necessary actions to correct the mistake, after realizing the mistake. Earlier they had ignore Jeewantha Kulatunga from the squad, despite he was named as the 'Player of the recently concluded domestic T20 series'. Later they corrected the mistake by naming him for the squad. Why won't they do the samething for Vaas??... Still I'm hoping that they'll name Vaas for the squad, taking in to consideration his excellent form in IPL !

Posted by mrick on (March 19, 2010, 22:22 GMT)

I think there should be the option of picking only 2 fast bowlers and then picking 2 spinners, given the quality of sri lankan fast bowlers over their history has not been fantastic. I think Malinga, while he has been very good at times, has not played consistently for long enough to be considered part of an all-time best eleven.

Posted by dineshp97 on (March 19, 2010, 15:52 GMT)

Rumesh Ratnayake, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga

Posted by AZY99 on (March 19, 2010, 8:01 GMT)

I dont think picking the best fast bowling line up should be a test at all. Shri lanka has been trying to add that element of pace for so long. Finally we got that in Malinga. No Lankan fast bowler troubled the Aussie the way Malinga did in 2004, the way he shook up the New Zealand team with seering pace was never achieved before and even in England it was Malinga's telling presence that helped Lanka secure a draw in the series. So for all those people who are being emotionally retrospest, I call on for logic and reality. Vaas, Rumesh/Ratnayake, and Malinga would Shri lanka's best crop to charge into the Australian, English and Kiwi all time greats.

Posted by Sampath_KCS on (March 19, 2010, 7:15 GMT)

I'm amazed that Champaka Ramanayake's name is no where.How can we forget him ? I can remember in 92 Aussie tour he was at his peak & Tom Moodys stumps were shattered by one super in swinger. Later in the day Moody came with mark Taylor & requested for a video tape of that delivery. He was a master of swing bowling. Other notable omit ions from the honorable mention list are Saliya Ahangama, Dulip Liyanage & Ravindra Pushpakumara(his bowling action was similar to Great Waqar Yunis) , who played for considerable time & were some promising fast bowlers. My best three would be Rumesh, Vassi & Malinga.( I should say if we play Vassi for another 3 years it will not do any harm to SL cricket. We really missed him in flat indian wickets.)

Posted by Vasum on (March 18, 2010, 22:35 GMT)

We are missing D.L.S de Silva here, very good fast bowler, Unfortunately he met an accident and died. My team will be Sidath & Sanath to open Roy Dias at No 3, Mahela at No 4, Aravinda at No. 5, Sanga at No. 6, Aruna Ranasinghe at No. 7, Vass at No. 8, D.S. de Silva at No. 9, Murali at No.10 & D.L.S.de Silva at No. 11.

Posted by Rake1 on (March 18, 2010, 19:41 GMT)

I think Sanga should only be in the SL team as batter, as it appears he was reluctant keeper. Talkings of keepers Kalu should be in SL best ODI squad as opener as he was one of the pioneers of pinch hitting.

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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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