Home > Features > Moments in history >

Roy Dias: Gifted timer, glorious through the covers

Roy Dias gifted timer, glorious through the covers

Roy Dias … © Getty Images

Roy Dias, the first Sri Lankan batsman to stamp his class on the international arena, turns 60 (born on October 18, 1952) today.Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the career of the most gifted timer of the ball who was a pleasure to watch while in full flow.

The first Test

As they walked into the ground, taking their first apprehensive steps into the harsh world of Test cricket, the Sri Lankans could not have asked for a worse start. Captain Bandala Warnapura had opted to bat on a damp wicket at the Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo. After 35 minutes of struggle, he became the first Lankan batsman to be dismissed in Test cricket, edging one from Bob Willis. Two runs later, a severe blow was struck as Roy Dias walked back for a blob, caught by Geoff Cook off the same bowler.

Dias was acknowledged as the most stylish batsman of the island, with a fabulous gift of timing. With years of experience in First-class cricket already behind him, he was the man Sri Lanka looked at to add a dash of class to the inexperienced line-up. Three years ago, when they had pulled off a surprise win over India in the 1979 World Cup, Dias had been the batting hero with a patient half-century.

Sri Lanka fought back for a while through Ranjan Madugalle and a very young Arjuna Ranatunga, but then Derek Underwood started bowling over the wicket into the rough and ran through the batting line-up. The first innings of the new cricketing nation amounted to a measly 218.

Some thoughtful, enthusiastic bowling by Ashantha de Mel and Somachandra de Silva kept the English lead down to just five runs. And when Sri Lanka batted again, Dias displayed exactly why he was considered as a force to reckon with.

On a crumbling wicket, the experienced duo of Underwood and John Emburey were becoming unplayable, but Dias batted against them like a dream. His cover driving during the innings was exceptional, virtually flaw-less. The 77 that he scored under pressure and against all odds must rank with one of the best innings he ever played, and among the very best ever for a minnow nation just dipping their feet in the merciless pool of top grade cricket.

While he was at the wicket, at 140 for two, the match had been all but taken away from England. That was when Underwood induced him to snick one to Bob Taylor towards the end of the third day. On the fourth morning, Emburey bowled from round the wicket and the home side lost their last seven wickets for eight runs. Inexperience told heavily, and England survived the minor scare, winning easily in the end by seven wickets.

However, Sri Lanka’s debut had been impactful, and Roy Dias had been revealed to the world as a batsman of the top league.
Standing among ruins

It would be quite accurate to say that Dias started with a bang and continued in the same vein for a couple of years. Sri Lanka, though, did not progress as fruitfully.

After the inaugural Test, Dias toured Pakistan, scoring 53 in Karachi, 98 in Faisalabad and 109 in Lahore in the three Tests. Yet, Sri Lanka lost the series 0-2.

Moving to India, he hit 60 and 97 in the only Test at Chennai, and scored two centuries in the One-Day Internationals.

At this stage, he had played five Test matches, with at least a half century in each, having 529 runs to his credit at  52.90 with one century and five half centuries.

Watching him at the wicket was a delight, the compact technique and the fluent timing.His driving through the off-side was a special treat – where along with Zaheer Abbas and Dilip Vengsarkar he added a third dimension of subcontinental elegance. With Duleep Mendis, he formed the bulwark of the early Sri Lankan line-up around which the rest of the batting revolved.

The form dipped somewhat in the series that followed, but Dias did notch up yet another hundred against the visiting New Zealand side, standing solid against Richard Hadlee to deny them victory in the second Test.

His career reached its peak during the historic series against India in 1985. In the second Test at Colombo, he laid the foundations for the first Test match win of the nation by scoring 95 in the first innings and stroking a fluent 60 in the second. In the final Test at Kandy, Mendis joined him at 24 for three in the second innings, and they put on a match-saving 216. Batting over five hours, Dias scored 106 before being run out, denying the Indian bowlers the victory that they desperately strived for. The eventual draw ensured the first ever series win for Sri Lanka.

During this epic innings, Dias also became the first Sri Lankan to reach 1000 runs in Tests, in just 12 Tests at an average of over 46.

However, that was the last hurrah.

Sri Lanka as a team could not capitalise on the victory and continued to struggle, succumbing to humiliating defeats in Pakistan, India and at home. And Dias as a batsman could not keep up his exalted standards.

The last eight Tests of his career brought him a paltry 265 runs with just one fifty on a featherbed. His Test career hurtled to an abrupt end as incidents of terrorism around the country forced cancellation of two of the three Tests scheduled against New Zealand in 1987.

He did return for the Reliance World Cup six months later, and managed 80 against England in his last international appearance,  but like so many of his excellent efforts this innings too came in a losing cause.

Dias ended with 1285 runs from 20 Tests at a very healthy average of 36.71, figures that seem more impressive given the fragile team he had to represent all through.

We have been blessed with a gamut of serious batting talent from the beautiful country in recent years, from Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya to Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. But Roy Dias will be definitely remembered as the first Sri Lankan batsman to stamp his class and authority on international cricket.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Bengaluru

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Bengaluru

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

West Indies tour of India 2014, Practice match

Oct 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Mumbai

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 29, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 36 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Hobart Hurricanes won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 27, 2014  at Bengaluru

Chennai Super Kings won by 13 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 27, 2014  at Bengaluru

Lahore Lions won by 16 runs

Photos

Cricket on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Videos

Brian Lara speaks on the art of batting

Live Cricket Score Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers CLT20 2014 Match 19: Perth Scorchers win the toss and decide to field

CLT20 2014: Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 — Key Battles

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Have Manish Pandey’s T20 performances eclipsed his impressive First-Class record?

Perth Scorchers vs Lahore Lions, CLT20 2014 Match 19 at Bangalore: Perth Scorchers’ likely XI

Asian Games Asian Games 2014 Barbados Tridents Cape Cobras Champions League T20 2014 CLT20 CLT20 2014 Dolphins Incheon Asian Games 2014 India at Asian Games 2014 Kings XI Punjab Perth Scorchers

James Taylor eyeing England Test recall

Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers: Live streaming CLT20 2014 Match 19 at Bangalore

Sarfaraz Khan, Arman Jaffer named in Mumbai U-19 squad for Vinoo Mankad Trophy

Live Scorecard: Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers CLT20 2014 Match 19

South Africa announce ODI and T20 squads for Australia and New Zealand tours

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 CLT20 2014: Lahore likely XI

CLT20 2014: Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 — Key Battles

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Players scoring 50-plus in both innings of a Test match most number of times

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

671 Posts | 6 Fans

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab- Final Match Highlights from IPL 2014

Asian Games 2014: India in men’s hockey final with win over South Korea

सेब करता है मोटापा से संबंधित बीमारियों को दूर

Karbonn Titanium S20 affordable Android KitKat smartphone launched on Amazon India, priced at Rs 4,999

Shah Rukh Khan shows off his abs to prove they are not FAKE but REAL!

Orkut is shutting down today, here’s your last chance to safely export your data

Sushmita Sen and Hrithik Roshan to glam up Myntra Fashion Weekend

Post Yaan, Ravi K Chandran to work on a sex comedy!

Spiritual guru Dalai Lama: I’m not seeking separation from China

Sarfaraz Khan, Arman Jaffer named in Mumbai U-19 squad for Vinoo Mankad Trophy

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here