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 balls scythed over the leg side: a man who could score briskly in every form of the game and 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, Jayasuriya would produce another innings of supreme power. The slow left-arm bowling, always canny and relying more on variations in pace than on sharp turn, became the support act, though 440 international wickets will tell you that he was pretty adept at what he did.
Jayasuriya, who had trawled the lower reaches of the middle order till then, had his first stint as ODI opener during the Hero Cup in India in 1993, and established himself in the role during a home series against Pakistan the following year. By the time the World Cup rolled around in 1996 he had already chalked up his first century in Tests, a frenetic stroke-filled effort in Adelaide.
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 Muthiah Muralidaran and friends had ample time to work their way through opposition batters.
Jayasuriya had 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, finally walking off the Test stage 18 months later, after a typically cavalier 78 in Kandy.
In one-dayers, he 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 IPL 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 sign that time had finally caught up.
Jayasuriya's election as a member of parliament in April 2010 and his subsequent failure at the T20 World Cup suggested his international career might have ended, but he made the longlist for the 30-man squad for the 2011 World Cup, though he didn't play in the tournament. His last ODI and T20I came weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, in England later that year.
Batting & Fielding