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10,000 runs for the Matara Marauder
by Venu Palaparthi
Aug 11, 2005
If you like your batsmen trustworthy and solid in technique, then this short, bald, and extremely humble 36 year old is not for you. But if you like ludicrous run-scoring feats and prefer someone who would rather die than defend, then the Matara Marauder Sanath is your kinda cricketer.

That Sanath is God in Sri Lanka is an understatement! On May 8, 1998, the day that he married Sumudu, a former Air Lanka airhostess, his female fans went berserk! One 42 year old woman wrote to a Sinhala newspaper “it is the saddest day of my life, the day I will commit suicide…he has no idea how much I love him.”



Pure adrenaline

“No one has ever driven the ball so hard, so high, and so often in so many directions,” C.B. Fry once said about Gilbert Jessop who had scored 157 runs in one hour for Gloucestershire against West Indies. The year was 1901. If you are a Buddhist and believe in rebirth, then you should know that Jessop was reborn in Sri Lanka 36 years ago.

Watching Sanath Jayasuriya belt out fours and sixes is like experiencing the adrenaline rush of an F1 cockpit. He belongs in a league of extraordinary cricketers who can take a hitherto confident bowler and totally wreck his spirit in the space of 6 balls. It is a devil-may-care attitude that few cricketers possess. Other members of this league are Afridi, Viv Richards and maybe Sehwag. Everyone else is, well, in a different league.



Reaching 10,000 in style - Defensive batting is for wusses!

Most cricketers find themselves in knots when in close range of personal milestones like 100 and 200 runs. Such scoreboard demons don’t seem to bother Sanath one bit. After all, Sanath is the first cricketer ever to complete his hundred and double hundred in the same innings with sixes (in Faisalabad versus Pakistan in his spectacular innings of 253).

Why break that tradition now? 36 year old Sanath, playing in his 337th match, reached the 10,000 mark with a four – he pulled fast bowler Irfan Pathan to the boundary in the fifth over of the final match to reach the milestone. He was only the fourth cricketer to reach 10,000 in ODIs. But he is hands-down the most ‘explosive’ of the four.

I chose that word ‘explosive’ very carefully. Sanath's stats look impressive alright - 337 matches, 328 innings, avg of 32.13 and strike rate of 88.54. But the story of the explosive force does not come through in stats. Especially since, in his first 89 innings, Sanath managed just 1669 runs at a pathetic average of 19.64.

Making his ODI debut in 1989, Jayasuriya's career seemed to be going nowhere fast. Temperamentally, a shy and quiet fellow, Sanath was biding his time as an understated sort of left-arm spinner, batting quietly at number seven.



Breaking records in 1996!

The fuse on Sanath’s willow came off in 1996 and he has been offending bowling statistics ever since. Things started happening when he was moved up from the middle order. His job was to serve as an opening pinch-hitter to take advantage of new laws which forced more fielders into attacking positions for the first 15 overs.

In effect, he began to bat the first two overs of every match as if these were the last two overs. The runs were beginning to really flow by April of that year. He rewrote the record books on April 2, 1996 when he became the fastest scorer of an ODI hundred with his 48 ball effort. During the course of his innings he belted 11 sixes - the most by any batsman in an innings in ODI. A record he shares to this day with Afridi.

(Side note: Strangely enough, when Afridi overtook Sanath with the fastest 100 in 37 balls, he scored 11 sixes too and 41 of his runs came from Sanath’s bowling!).

Sanath also came close to upsetting Sir Viv’s record for the most boundaries in an ODI. Sanath’s 134 not out off 65 balls contained 11 fours and 11 sixes. That is 110 out of 134 runs came from boundaries. Sir Viv had previously belted 23 boundaries (3 sixes and 20 fours) when he scored 149 runs versus India in Jamshedpur.

A few days later after that fastest century, Sanath did it again. Playing Pakistan in Padang (Singapore), he got 50 off just 17 balls! His score for the day was 72 and it contained 6 sixes and 8 fours!

This record for the fastest 50 still stands despite some valiant attempts by Afridi.



It is all about the strike rate!

All said, post 1996, Sanath has been rampant in his run-making with 8331 runs in 241 innings at 36.65. It was this accelerated scoring that gave added importance to the batsman's strike rate. Jayasuriya's is very impressive at 88.54.

There is simply nothing to be gained from comparing Sanath with the other occupants of Club 10K. Sachin, Inzy or Saurav are all different in their approaches to the game. Sachin got there double-quick in only 259 innings (266 matches) and did so with an average of 42.63 and a strike rate of 82.60. He was just 28 years of age.

With 13,642 runs against his name now, and a lot of cricket still left, Sachin is the Mt. Everest – how can one touch his record of 69 50s and 38 100s in ODIs?

Inzy, who reached 10,000 runs as a 34 year old in 2004, did so in 322 matches and 298 innings with a 38.92 average. Saurav scaled the landmark on August 3rd in 272 matches.

But none of them, not even Sachin can match Sanath’s strike rate (88.54) and his ability to win matches.

Even though Sanath has just 18 centuries (less than half of what Sachin has), in 17 of the 18, Sanath’s score was responsible for Sri Lanka’s win. Sanath occupies the second spot in the man of the match category having won such an award 36 times (compared to Sachin’s 50). Not bad for someone who really only discovered himself in 1996!



And that is not all....

The 36-year-old has also been extremely effective with his left-arm spin bowling bagging 267 wickets in ODIs. In fact, only the wizard off-spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, has taken more one-day wickets for Sri Lanka.

Sanath’s 189 off 161 balls is also the second highest score in ODIs (against India in October 2000), just five less than the world record score of 194 by Saeed Anwar.

In tests too, Sanath’s records are unique! As mentioned earlier, he is the first to reach both his 100 and 200 with a six. Also, Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama are alone in having batted throughout two complete and consecutive days of a Test, their partnership of 579 in 753 minutes being the highest and longest at Test level.

If Sanath pays some attention to fitness, he may still be around for 2007 World Cup. God knows the cricket circus in West Indies needs him! And those of us in North America who have waited very long to watch World Cup action live, the wait will be worthwhile if we can catch some of those Sanath's fireworks.

 
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