By David Green
The 1996 World Cup was One-Day International cricket’s punk-rock moment. Up to that point, the role of the opener had been to steadily accumulate runs, whilst preserving his wicket to set up a mad dash in the later overs.
Enter Sri Lanka in the role of the Sex Pistols and Sanath Jayasuriya as the pivotal Johnny Rotten figure spreading anarchy amongst opposition captains.
The results were brutal, and even though Aravinda de Silva scored more runs in the tournament, it was Jayasuriya and his opening partner-in-crime Romesh Kaluwitharana who invariably set things up with blistering assaults on the opposing bowling attack.
The highlight of the tournament, for us here at The Reverse Sweep, was a double-edged sword - Jayasuriya’s pillaging 82 from 44 balls against a shell-shocked England in the quarter-final.
Thanks to Jayasuriya, the rule book had been ripped up and the role of the opener in ODIs and eventually Test cricket changed for ever.
As it turned out, Jayasuriya was much more than a pinch hitter. He averaged 40 in his 110 Tests with a highest score of 340 amongst his 13 centuries, even if the most memorable - another double-edged sword - was his astonishing 213 at The Oval in 1998.
However, it was ODI cricket where Jayasuriya shone brightest with just under 13,500 runs in his 444 matches at a phenomenal strike rate of 91.22 and with 28 bullet riddling hundreds. He also chipped in with the small matter of 322 wickets.
Like Rotten (later John Lydon), Jayasuriya was a pioneer in his field and inspired a legion of blade wielding opening batsmen like Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle and Adam Gilchrist who followed in his wake.
But unfortunately, also like Lydon, Jayasuriya marred his legacy by staying on too long. For Lydon it was cringe-worthy appearances in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and Country Life Butter Adverts, whilst for Jayasuriya it was an ill-advised appearance in the World T20 of 2010 at the age of 75.
But as the pain of that last sight of Jayasuriya dissipates, then we can once again declare him a Reverse Sweep hero.
(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)