Sanath Teran Jayasuriya
June 30, 1969, Matara
Left hand bat
Slow left arm orthodox
It's hard to imagine that for the first half-decade of his career, Sanath Jayasuriya was considered a bowler who could bat a bit. Think of him now and you think of forearms straight out of a smithy, shots hammered through point and cover and scythes over the leg side. You recall a man who could score equally briskly in every form of the game, who slashed and burned his way through bowling attacks. As with anyone who relied so much on extraordinary hand-eye coordination, there were troughs and lean times, but just as the obit writers got busy, he would produce another innings of supreme power. The bowling, always canny and relying more on variations in pace than sharp turn, became the supporting act, though 440 international wickets should tell you that he was pretty adept at what he did.
Following Mark Greatbatch's success at the 1992 World Cup, most teams were rethinking the way they approached the one-day game and Jayasuriya, who had trawled the lower reaches of the middle order till then, had his first stint as opener during the Hero Cup in India in 1993. It was only during a home series against Pakistan the following year that he established himself in the role and by the time the World Cup rolled around 18 months later, he had already chalked up his first century in whites, a frenetic stroke-filled effort in Adelaide.
The years that followed were both prolific and successful. People remember Aravinda de Silva's magical innings from the semi-final and final of the 1996 World Cup but it was Jayasuriya's withering assaults that deflated India in Delhi and England in the last eight. Soon after, he began to exact as heavy a toll on Test attacks, scoring at such a pace that Muttiah Muralitharan and friends had ample time to work their way through opposition batsmen.
After Arjuna Ranatunga's ouster, there was a four-year stint as captain that ended with a semi-final appearance at the 2003 World Cup, and just as the whispers grew about diminishing returns with the bat, he had one of his most successful years in 2004. There was a retirement announcement in 2006, but he was back within weeks, and the walk off the Test stage came only 18 months later, after a typically cavalier innings in Kandy.
The one-day flame continued to burn bright, and took Sri Lanka to another World Cup final in 2007, and he was instrumental in the Asia Cup win of 2008, a couple of months after it had seemed that the selectors' axe had fallen for the final time. The Indian Premier League gave him a new platform to showcase his big-hitting talent, but failure to replicate the success of the first season in subsequent campaigns was the surest sign that time had finally caught up with a man who was still pounding out one-day hundreds at the age of 39.
His election as a Member of Parliament in April 2010 and his subsequent failure at the World Twenty20 suggested that his international career may be at an end, but he made the longlist for the 30-man squad for the 2011 World Cup, before being recalled to the one-day side for the series in England two weeks shy of his 42nd birthday.
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