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P Epasinghe: Master batsman Aravinda is a pride to the nation (28 Jul 1998)

28 July 1998

Master batsman Aravinda is a pride to the nation

by Premasara Epasinghe

Aravinda de Silva is the world's greatest batsman today. He has been ranked number one batsman by Wisden - the world's most accepted cricket rankings.

To become a good batsman, fast footwork, unerring judgement or brilliant eye sight is necessary. Aravinda de Silva possesses all. But there is one faculty which made him superior to others and extra-special. He can judge the ball almost as soon as the ball leaves the bowler's hand.

Aravinda who plays for the NCC is blessed with a quicker brain and quicker judgement than any other batsman in the world today. Undoubtedly, the whole country is proud of him. His innings at Lord's recently representing the World XI was a rare gem. We were fortunate to see Sachin Tendulkar (125) and Aravinda de Silva (82) building that mammoth partnership. Cricket, undoubtedly was at its best at the Mecca of Cricket - Lords that day. It was a proud moment for Sri Lanka. Master batsman Aravinda is one cricketer who puts country before self and brought credit and honour to Sri Lanka.

Aravinda de Silva has become the darling of every spectator. He came into the limelight in 1985 during the Pakistan tour, with three centuries to his credit. I was very fortunate to commentate throughout this tour. I still remember on his 20th birthday (17-10-1985) how young Aravinda smashed the reputed Imran Khan, practically off his length, to a towering six on the leg side to reach the three figure mark. At this young age, he showed class and within years, he became a superb matured player.

I saw from the commentary box at Lahore in the World Cup finals, how Aravinda de Silva and Asanka Gurusinha playing under tremendous pressure made a determined innings of character and showed how, in a difficult situation the scoring rate could be accelerated. Gurusinha played a sheet anchor role. They laid a 125-run solid foundation and when Gurusinha departed with a solid half a century, skipper Arjuna Ranatunga joined Aravinda, who was at his brilliant best. De Silva scored an unbeaten (107 n.o. - 124 balls - 13 x 4) century and Arjuna was undefeated with 47 runs (37 balls - 4 x 4 - 1 x 6). This was De Silva's 5th ODI hundred in his 18th match. He thus became the most hundred maker for Sri Lanka. De Silva also claimed three wickets in Australia's innings in the final. He became the fourth allrounder in ODI history after Vivian Richards, Deve Callaghan, and Chris Cairns and first in the World Cup history to score a hundred and claim three wickets and held two brilliant catches in the same match. Further, De Silva won his fourth "Man of the Match Award". This is a new record of most man of match awards in a single World Cup. Earlier, he was level with Graham Gooch and Mark Waugh who were awarded three man of the match awards in 1987 and 1996.

When interviewed after receiving the "Man of the Match Award", Aravinda said that he reserved the best for the last. He certainly meant every word he said with that stupendous historical allround performance.

Another of his great achievements that come to mind is his stint with Kent in the English county championships in the year 1996. Being the first Sri Lankan Test cricketer to represent an English county, he made it both record-breaking and memorable one and kept the country's flag flying high. In that season, he was the first batsman in the tournament to score 1000 runs. He almost single handedly took his county Kent into the final of the Premier One Day Tournament, the Benson and Hedges Cup. On the day of the finals he lit up Lords with a majestic hundred bringing victory to Kent after many years.

Former Prime Minister John Major, who was a keen spectator was amazed at Aravinda's batting prowess and showered praise on our little master's batting display.

It was at the age of 10 years Abu Fuard and the late K. M. T. Perera spotted, this tiny, little boy. Aravinda was playing tennis ball cricket in the back garden with his father Sam de Silva. They informed W. A. N. Silva, who was coaching D. S. Senanayake MV Juniors to keep an eye on this boy. As a junior cricketer, this naturally gifted player for the first time at practices, got an auspicious start sending the first ball he faced from an elder fast bowler over the roof of the D. S. Senanayake College building. His Teacher, guide and philosopher is Mr. R. I. T. Alles founder Principal of D. S. Senanayake MV. The present Cricket Manager, Ranjith Fernando, contributed immensely to guide Aravinda in his cricketing career watching his every more very closely.

The late Mr. Gamini Dissanayake too was a great inspiration to Aravinda who took to playing club cricket at the tender age of 15.

A great quality of Aravinda, is that he never lost his balance. In the vapourings of flattery, Aravinda never allowed his head to expand. He always respects his teachers. Soft-spoken Aravinda, a Buddhist, meditates and this may be one reason for him to improve his power of concentration. Although he moves about in flashy cars, he is unassuming, gentle and polite. He gets involved in social service activities too. On his last birthday he gifted a cricket pitch to school for the blind.

Consistency is a hall mark of a champion. There are many records that Aravinda can boast of. One notable record is that he became the first and only Test cricketer in the world to notch twin unbeaten centuries in a Test match. This he did on April 30, 1997, at the SSC grounds when he scored 138 not out in the first innings and 103 not in the second innings against Pakistan. Later in the Test match played against India (9th to 13th August 1997) Aravinda scored 146 and 120 respectively. SSC and Lords (where he scored a scintillating hundred for Kent) seems to be pet hunting grounds for Aravinda.

From the commentary box on a number of occasions, I have noticed the first sight of him as he emerged from the pavilion was sufficient to send the whole ground into ecstasy. As a champion batsman of the world Aravinda de Silva is a batting artist who has given happiness and enjoyment to many.

Keep it up Aravinda! Sri Lanka is proud of you!

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