Home > Features >

Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene setting the tone for Sri Lanka’s future

Kumar Sangakkara (left) and Mahela Jayawardene ©
Kumar Sangakkara (left) and Mahela Jayawardene have been prolific run-getters for Sri Lanka over the years © AFP

By R Vishal 

Batting has been Sri Lanka’s strength and world cricket has truly been privileged to witness a huge influx of unorthodox, classy, belligerent, and stroke-making mavericks. At the same time, they can be old-school technicians who accumulate runs with copybook technique and a straight bat.

Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are two such batsmen belonging to the last of the aforementioned category. The two have manned, nurtured and propelled Sri Lanka through their batting and captaincy, which both batsmen led their countries with the highest distinction before relinquishing their duties. Now, they have taken on the mantle of mentors and leading by example behind the scenes for the next great batch of batsmen to come through and take off from the foundation built by the two stalwarts.

‘Building from the bat’ is an ethos that was set much before two greats entered the scene. It was in fact former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who shuffled the batting order after taking over captaincy duties to allot designated roles for each of the batsman during their memorable rise to the pinnacle of the world in 1996.

After the powers of the trusted veterans soon started to wane, Sri Lanka unearthed a Jayawardene in 1997 and in 2000, found Sangakkara, solving the puzzle of wicketkeeper and the heirs to the thrones of Aravinda de Silva and Ranatunga. The two men have together and separately led to glory anew, innumerable partnerships, centuries, the monumental 374 by Jayawardene in their record-shattering 624 run-stand against South Africa and now Sangakkara’s magnificent 319 against a hapless Bangladesh attack.

The veteran duo is cut from the same silky cloth and has made batting a delight to watch with their nimble footwork and their clinical leg-side play. Well-educated and natural leaders have learnt the trade through their illustrious seniors and have inspired a generation of kids who have grown up watching these greats.

Not so long ago, with Lasith Malinga prematurely retiring from Test cricket and the spinning legend Muttaiah Muralitharan pulling down the curtains after scalping the most Test wickets, Sri Lanka were left bereft of match winners with the ball and had to rely on Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan to produce the goods to win games.

It was a transitional phase and the Sri Lankans saw through it with the resilience that the people of the country have been fed with from a young age. They are after all people who braved a civil war in the country for 26-long years and survived a bomb attack in 2009 on their team bus — an incident in which the players and team management saw death staring in front of their eyes.

Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne revived the hopes of the middle-order in the war-torn country and looked able successors to the two giants of Sri Lankan cricket. Since the turn of 2013, Sri Lanka has seen a huge influx of batsmen ready to take their place and if recent performances are anything to go by, have all the right aptitude for Test cricket.

Meanwhile, Angelo Mathews has been elevated to captaincy, a role that he was groomed for since his teens and the other Jayawardene; Prasanna has taken the role of a keeper after waiting in the wings for a very long time.

Starting out as a classic all-rounder Mathews has gone from strength-to-strength as a batsman, as witnessed recently against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with his bowling duties taking a minor setback.

At the top of the order, Sri Lanka might have unearthed their successor to the matara maurader, Sanath Jayasuriya in Kusal Perera and with Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne, they have two young reliable openers who have both shown potential at the highest level.

With Thirimanne out of the picture, 22-year old Kithuruwan Vithanage has displayed immense talent coming down the order if his domestic cricket report is anything to go by; the young man is tipped for great things.

What’s more, there is 23-year old Angelo Perera waiting in the wings and has been in phenomenal domestic form, recently hitting a 244 of 204 balls for his side Nondescripts Cricket Club and earned a call-up to the Sri Lankan Twenty20 International (T20I) side to play in Bangladesh. The batting depth of the country has run so deep that Denesh Chandimal’s place in the team is questioned by some quarters.

Ashan Priyanjan has also acquitted well in International cricket but the strength in depth of the current line-up means he will have to wait longer to get an opportunity to cement his place.

The need of the hour to make their next big leap is to compete and win in alien conditions, which has continued to been a nightmare ever since Sri Lanka’s elevation to Test cricket.

The seeds sown by Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have reaped rich dividends, impressing aspiring batsmen across the country along and with the heroes of 1996.

Their bowling attack continues to be a work-in-progress but Sri Lanka can take a leaf out of Ranatunga’s book by relying on their traditional strength of batting to cover up their deficiencies.

(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Live Cricket Score Duleep Trophy Central Zone vs South Zone, final at Delhi Day 3: Central Zone 68/0 at Lunch; trail by 35 runs

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test at Abu Dhabi Day 2

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

Jesse Ryder claims he still has the passion to represent New Zealand in the ICC World Cup 2015

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Allan Border claims Michael Clarke’s field setting ‘against spirit of cricket’

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: David Warner to keep wickets after Brad Haddin injures shoulder

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: Ali Murtaza, Piyush Chawla restrict South Zone to 379; Central trail by 35 runs at lunch

Jesse Ryder gets World Cup 2015 lifeline; picked for New Zealand A squad to tour UAE

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Mythbusting — the claim that playing for a weaker batting side handicaps a batsman has no basis

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

India A vs Sri Lanka: Fringe players look to impress

NGOs pursue education for all

Dance Basanti from Ungli: Put on your dancing shoes and practice the Basanti move!

Weight Loss Tip #59: Eat oranges to lose weight

Sensex surges 150 points in early trade to regain 27,000-mark

PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Google to offer business solutions to clients

Google X Lab working on nanoparticles to help detect diseases early

Priyanka Chopra has the best no make-up selfie on Instagram, think fans!

Lisa Haydon: I slept off midway while watching the original Shaukeen!

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here