Sri Lanka's greatest ODI matchwinner
Twenty years ago, Sanath Jayasuriya began his international career in pretty nondescript fashion. The stage was huge - the Melbourne Cricket Ground - but Jayasuriya's contribution was unexceptional: coming in at No.5 after Australia had scored 228, he scored 3 off 11 balls as Sri Lanka fell short by 30 runs. Jayasuriya has come a long way since that uncertain debut.
Over 20 years, he has progressed from an occasionally-hit, mostly-miss limited-overs batsman into a high-quality and consistent performer in all forms, capable of the quick blitzes and innings of long and sustained aggression in equal measure.
One-day internationals, though, remains his strongest suit. He has played more matches than any other player, and scored the second-highest number of runs. It wasn't all smooth sailing for him from the start, though. In his early days in one-day cricket he struggled to make an impact - his first half-century came in his 40th ODI, and after 55 his batting average was a miserable 13.87.
The change in fortunes thereafter was stunning. He began opening the innings regularly, and the 1996 World Cup heralded the new Jayasuriya - in his next 100 games (after the first 55), his average almost tripled, and the strike rate moved up to almost a run a ball. It's stayed around that mark ever since, even if his average has dipped in the last few matches.
|Matches||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|First 55 ODIs||652||13.87||68.63||0/ 2|
|ODI No.56 to 155||3505||37.28||97.95||7/ 23|
|ODI No.156 to 255||3189||32.87||85.81||4/ 23|
|ODI No.256 to 355||3179||34.18||88.77||8/ 11|
|ODI No.356 to 443||2872||35.02||101.02||9/ 9|
|Career (443 ODIs)||13,397||32.43||91.33||28/ 68|
Jayasuriya's Test stats have fewer peaks and troughs. The start wasn't anywhere near as horrific: in his first eight innings he had three half-centuries, and since then the average has stayed on the right side of 35 through most of his career. Each of his 14 Test centuries had their fair share of excitement, but a couple of innings stand out - his 340 against India in 1997 remained the highest score by a Sri Lankan for nine years, while his 213 against England at The Oval a year later was even more stunning for the sheer impact it had on the game - he got his runs so quickly it allowed Muttiah Muralitharan enough time to bowl England out cheaply in the second innings to give Sri Lanka their first Test win in England.
Even with a somewhat unorthodox technique, Jayasuriya still handled the rigours of opening the innings in Test cricket with plenty of success. With Marvan Atapattu he added 4469 runs for the first wicket - only two opening pairs have scored more. Jayasuriya has also scored the most runs of all Sri Lankan openers - his 5932 runs came at an average of 41.48, which is slightly higher than his overall Test average of 40.07.
|First 20 Tests||880||33.84||1/ 5|
|Test No.21 to 50||2289||45.78||5/ 10|
|Test No.51 to 80||1880||40.86||4/ 10|
|Test No.81 to 110||1924||37.00||4/ 6|
|Career (110 Tests)||6973||40.07||14/ 31|
That's only as far his batting is concerned, though. Jayasuriya brings to the table much more than that: his left-arm spin has given the Sri Lankan side plenty of balance over the last decade and a half, especially in one-day internationals, where his ability to bowl tight spells in the middle overs has allowed the team to play an extra batsman. He is the only player to score more than 10,000 runs and take more than 300 wickets in ODIs; even after easing the cut-off considerably - to 5000 runs and 200 wickets - only two more make the cut.
Jayasuriya the bowler is often underestimated, thanks to his sheer presence as a batsman, but he is among the most successful spinners in ODIs, especially in the subcontinent. He is the second-highest wicket-taker in Asia, with 225 scalps at a respectable average and economy rate, and is next only to the incomparable Muttiah Muralitharan. Jayasuriya's numbers compare pretty well with India's two frontline spinners, Anil Kumble and Habhajan Singh - the averages and economy rates for the Indians are only slightly better than Jayasuriya's stats.
The best conditions for him have usually been in his home country - in 128 ODIs in Sri Lanka, he has averaged 28.31 for his 119 wickets, and conceded 4.44 runs per over. His worst venue, on the other hand, is clearly Australia - in 51 matches he has only taken 19 wickets at an average exceeding 62. (His batting stats in the country are further proof of the fact that Australia didn't bring out the best in Jayasuriya.)
|Bowler||ODIs||Wickets||Average||Econ rate||Strike rate|
What also stands out about Jayasuriya is his ability to play fearlessly even when the stakes are high. His aggregate in the finals of ODI tournaments is next only to Tendulkar, while the average and strike rates are very impressive too. He is one of only eight batsmen to score 1000 or more runs in finals.
The team which has suffered the most at his hands in finals in India. His overall average against India is only 36.30, but in finals it shoots up to 56. Both his centuries have come against them.
|Batsman||ODIs||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|Sachin Tendulkar||39||1833||55.54||87.41||6/ 10|
|Sanath Jayasuriya||39||1613||42.44||98.35||2/ 13|
|Ricky Ponting||41||1345||38.42||82.21||2/ 7|
|Adam Gilchrist||33||1163||37.51||102.64||3/ 6|
|Dean Jones||30||1064||48.36||73.12||1/ 8|
|Allan Border||38||1057||36.44||73.30||1/ 4|
|Gary Kirsten||20||1019||67.93||74.16||3/ 7|
|Sourav Ganguly||31||1000||37.03||69.20||3/ 4|
Jayasuriya is also second in the all-time list of players who've won the most Man-of-the-Match awards in ODIs. He has 48 from 443 games, next only to Tendulkar's 60. Jayasuriya's powers are clearly on the wane, but hopefully he has enough left in the tank to turn in two more matchwinning performances, which will take him to the half-century mark that he so richly deserves.
|Aravinda de Silva||308||30|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo