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Aravinda celebrates birthday with quiet resolution (17 October 1998)

17 October 1998

Aravinda celebrates birthday with quiet resolution

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

Aravinda wants to impart his knowledge to the next generation

Sri Lanka's master batsman Aravinda de Silva is preparing to transform his vast cricketing knowledge to the next generation of cricketers soon.

"The day I finish cricket I want to try and see that I transform the knowledge I've gained over the years onto the kids," said de Silva spelling out perhaps, his birthday resolution.

"I want to make sure the gap between a normal club player and a Test player will be filled. I have realised what we lacked when we were young cricketers. That is one thing I really look forward to giving the future generation.

"I have a fair idea of what exactly is required to reach the top level. I am having a few plans of setting up something on my own and to try and deliver the way I can afford. The mental toughness, the development of the physical, mental and technical side, the preparation. That is something which we should try and teach the kids from a younger age than wait till they join the national squad to do so, which may prove a bit too late.

"My idea is to give the kids a real professional approach from a younger age. I have a lot of ideas which I want to put into practice. It is something which I have to spend a lot of time on. I don't know how many years of cricket I have, but I want to see it through. That is my dream. The day I can achieve that, I would have fulfilled my ambitions," said de Silva.

Right now, the master craftsman's objective is to play in next year's World Cup in England and see his country retain the title of world champions which they so deservingly won at Lahore two years ago. He is also looking forward to possibly playing another Test series in South Africa and in Australia and achieving victory.

"But all that will depend on how things are going to work out in the next couple of years," said de Silva.

"The victory over England at the Oval, gave me a lot of confidence to carry on again. It has motivated me to train hard. You've got to find something to motivate yourself. To put in that much more effort. As long as I enjoy the game, motivate myself and feel confident that I can compete at this level, I will play," he said.

Speaking on Sri Lanka's chances at the World Cup in England next year, de Silva said: "A lot of things have got to go right. In a tournament like that we must all make sure we play to the best of our ability. It's a game where you got to be at your best at that particular moment. The most important thing is to give off your best and see what the outcome is. It is too far away to predict anything just yet.

"Going to Australia before the World Cup will help us. That is one tour which separates the men from the boys. I hope the Australian press keeps attacking us the same way they did the last time we were there. It made us more determined to succeed. It was the attitude of Australia that helped us become mentally tough. To have gone through such an ordeal was a new experience for us. It helped us win the World Cup," said de Silva, who played a stellar role carving out an unbeaten century against Australia in the final to win the 'Man of the Match' award.

"The recent tour to England was a good preparation for the World Cup. We wanted to see how the conditions were and we tried and worked out some new combinations. The way we played showed that it was a case of finding the right combination. There are one or two things we have realised which we hope to try and improve on before the tournament," said de Silva.

It was during that tour that de Silva became the first Sri Lankan batsman to cross the 5,000-run mark in Test cricket when he scored a classic 152 against England at the Oval. He Test career as a fledgling of 19 years was also launched in England at Lord's in 1984.

By the time his fifth Test came along, de Silva was scoring his maiden Test hundred at Faisalabad against a Pakistan attack comprising Imran, Akram, Jalal-ud-din, Qadir and Mudassar. Unbeaten on 93 at the close on his 20th birthday, de Silva moved to his maiden Test hundred the following morning with a six off Imran. Overall, he batted 510 minutes, hitting 17 fours and three sixes in a display which underlined his potential.

It is one of three knocks which de Silva rates as the best of his 17 Test hundreds. Sri Lanka were 165 for 5 when de Silva arrived at the crease, and were all out for 479.

In the same series, de Silva also took another fine century off the Pakistani bowling which apart from Imran, Akram and Mudassar, had spinners Tausif and Qadir. On a pitch described as "not easy for batsmen", de Silva coming to bat at 15 for 2, went onto make 105 to enable Sri Lanka recover to 230. The next highest score on that pitch was from Javed Miandad and Imran Khan who each made 63.

The other century which de Silva rates very highly is the 167 he took off Australia at Brisbane in 1989-90. Sri Lanka had lost three for 114, and Australia's four-pronged pace combination of Alderman, Lawson, Rackemann and Hughes were threatening to run through the rest of the batting, when de Silva launched a counter-attack to see his side reach 418.

"I rate these innings highly mainly because of the opposition, the situations and the conditions under which they were made. Those are the ones that matter when you score runs," said de Silva. Incidentally, they happen to be the first three centuries he made in his Test career.

What exactly does goes through de Silva's mind when he walks out to bat?

"I prepare myself according to the situation. I try to be my normal self and at the same time try to adapt to the situation, whatever the demands are. It annoys me if I get out early. But I think that is something which happens to everyone.

"It becomes hard when you don't play enough Test matches. We play so much one-day cricket that when you walk into a match it is like playing a club game. Experience matters a lot. Everytime I walk in, especially if it is in a crisis situation, I adapt to the conditions easily because most of the time I know what is required in a situation like that," said de Silva.

His most exasperating moment was when Sri Lanka lost a Test which they should have won to Australia by 16 runs at the SSC in 1992.

"That is a Test which I will always remember. We just had to get 181 and we were all out for 164. That was a great opportunity we had of beating Australia. I was blamed in some quarters for the defeat. But I am not the only one who can win a match. It is the whole team that is responsible for victory or defeat.

"We were too anxious for the victory. We wanted to get there as soon as possible. We have gone through similar situations like this before and lost matches after coming close to winning. That happens when you become too anxious. We have learnt from that defeat. It is something we realised in the World Cup final. We did not want to let it off until the last run was scored," said de Silva.

Milestones are hardly an inspiration to de Silva. It is only secondary to what he revels in most, which is the achievements he gains with the team. Since June this year, he has continued to be ranked no. 1 in the Wisden batting rankings. He enjoys a career batting average of 43.10, which makes him someone special.

Having served the country loyally for the past 14 years and given several followers of the game immense joy with his classic batsmanship, de Silva is in a position to comment on the transition the team had undergone since the time he made his debut.

"As a team we have done well in the last couple of years. Before that, on most occasions we were trying to bat to save a game rather than play to win. It's something to do with the team, rather than only myself.

"I have built up a confidence as everyone else. The confidence came after we won the World Cup. When it came to the crunch we delivered the goods. That is how we gained our confidence.

"A lot of things have changed from the time I started in 1983. I have seen the progress of the team and what we have really put in to achieve the changes. I have learnt basically, the process which you have to go through to be a successful player and, to make a successful side. I've learnt about 80 to 90 percent of how it happens," said de Silva.

"Playing for Kent gave me a lot of experience which really mattered for the development of my game. I think I have put in whatever I've learnt into practice with the team as well as for myself and seen the results," he said.

He has not given up the idea of another season of county cricket. But his first priority is the World Cup.

Source :: Daily News (http://www.lanka.net)