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Sunday, 17 June 2012

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Mahela Jayawardene the role model

There were three outstanding achievements in Sri Lanka's 76-run win over Pakistan in the Second One-Day game under lights at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

The first was by Sri Lanka's charismatic 'Captain Marvellous' Mahela Jayawardene , who in blazing to 53, reached a milestone by reaching 22,000 runs in all forms of the game.

The second was wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara snapping up his 300th one-day international catch and all rounder Thisara Perera setting a new one-day bowling record when he captured 6 for 44, beating Sanath Jayasuriya's record against Pakistan.

Kilometers

In reaching that mark, how many more kilometers would Jayawardene have motored down the wicket running, not only his singles, twos and threes, but also when his partners pierced the field.

He would have spent tons of energy. But for this gallant cricketer, the sweat and toil would all have been for game and country, rather than for himself. He has always been a role model and a cricketing Ambassador for the game.

A stylish and technically correct batsman, he can be classed with the best batsmen that the game has produced here and abroad. Offering a straight bat while batting, and even in life, Jayawardene is an example and a pride to the game and country.

He is humble to a fault. When he had a batting slump, which every great batsman goes through - even the great Sir Donald Bradman suffered this trauma - his critics bayed for his removal as captain.

Threw in the towel

with the men who matter at that time, refusing to stand by him, he threw in the towel and relinquished the captaincy. Because for him, the game is the thing. But he continued to bat on and serve the game to the best of his ability.

When defeat after defeat brought cricket to its knees and when our game lost its appeal, Sri Lanka Cricket were frantic and looking for a captain who help them regain their lost esteem and glory.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. SLC had no other alternative but to ask Jayawardene to come back as captain and resurrect the game. Once bitten, twice shy goes the saying.

Short stint

But Jayawardene did not say no. No one would have faulted him had he said no. But he realized that his country needed him and heeded their request and in a short stint has helped the game regain its lost appeal and glory.

His batting is an example to the youngsters watching and taking to the game. He is technically correct always plays straight, when the Twenty20 game is spoiling the technique of most batmen and runs have come naturally to him.

His straight bat play is reminiscent of a Michael Tissera, Anura Tennekoon, Roy Dias, Marvan Atapattu and Sidath Wettimuny.

After the launch of the 100th day countdown to the Twenty20 World Cup at the Pallekele Stadium, when I congratulated and wished him another 22,000 runs, sporting that winsome smile he shrugged his shoulders, as if to say 'god willing'. He should be labelled a national treasure.

Sangakkara's 300th catch

Former Captain and wicket keeper Kumar Sangakkara also rewrote the record books when he grabbed his 300th ODI catch which is also a great thing to crow about.

Sangakkara as a wicket-keeper is indispensable in this form of game. There were moves to replace him with Dinesh Chandimal. But he has clung on to this position and excelled. To grab 300 catches and some of them stunning ones is incredible.

He has shed his gloves in the longer version of the game because there is a belief that if he continues it would affect his batting. That is good thinking and we are sure Sangakkara would not mind that.

ICC gets priorities wrong

The International Cricket Council was called a 'toothless tiger', because other than for meeting to discuss when to hold the next meeting they did sweet nothing for the game. The 'toothless tiger' term was slapped on them long before the 'casino' Twenty20 saw the light of the day. The ICC reps who come here are good singers and they sing the praises of the Twenty20 as if it was manna from heaven. They describe it as exciting, skilful and thrilling and at times run short of adjectives.

'Come or go, Chicago'

True this game is exciting. But it has no sense. It is a 'come or go Chicago' style of game and is a disgrace on the time honoured and traditional game of Test cricket.

Other than for filling the pockets of the people concerned, it does sweet nothing for the good of the participant or the game. Technique has gone with the wind. That is why today, the authorities in Sri Lanka have banned youngsters from taking to this style of nonsensical cricket. The authorities must be applauded for taking this bold step.

When I was on a tour of Australia with the Sri Lanka cricket team in 1987 with Ranjan Madugalle as Captain and Abu Fuard as Manager, I met former Australian leg spinning all rounder the great 'Tiger' Bill O'Reiley who was writing for the 'Sydney Morning Herald' in the Press Box and while talking cricket I asked him for his comments on the One-Day game.

O'Reiley's views

He got red in the face and immediately blurted out saying: 'I'd rather turn my chair and watch my back wall, than watch this silly cricket'. One can just imagine what he would have said about Twenty20 cricket. A pertinent question to ask the ICC is: What are you doing to make Test cricket, which is what the game is all about as attractive as the nonsensical One-Day and Twent20?. Whatever happened to the Test Championships that the ICC gloated about?

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