Posts Tagged ‘mahela jayawardene’

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 4 September 2011

On Saturday, Mahela Jayawardene scored his 29th Test hundred to draw level with Donald Bradman. It was a spiteful pitch and runs were hard to come by. It was an innings in a losing cause against a team that no longer is the best going around. Yet, runs against Australia don’t come easy at the best of times. Ricky Ponting turned the ball square on this wicket and Mahela himself would have fancied his chances bowling spin on a wicket that had more turn in it than all the head turns a pretty girl would manage in a lifetime. It was Mahela at his best – playing late, with soft hands and precise footwork and impeccable judgment.

Mahela has drawn level with Bradman on 29 Test hundreds

Often, Aravinda de Silva from the emerald isle is talked up as its best batsman. Sanath Jayasuriya is the darling of the masses in the shorter format. Kumar Sangakkara, a contemporary, is widely regarded as Sri Lanka’s best batsman recently. Even with all the runs Mahela has conjured up wafting his bat like a wizard would his wand, he has churned close to ten thousand Test runs in a remarkable career. He must be the most stylish right-hander in the game even as the world is obsessed with Ian Bell and VVS Laxman.

Often his record at the SSC is held against him. Even otherwise, he would be the modern day giant that he is. He averages over 50 in the 4th innings. They say 20 of his 29 hundreds have come in Sri Lanka. In a career spanning over 14 years he has played only 4 Tests in Australia (1 hundred, ave: 34.25), 4 Tests in New Zealand (1 hundred, ave: 27.71), 4 Tests in West Indies (1 hundred, ave: 42.00), 5 Tests in South Africa (highest: 98, ave: 31.40). In a similar time frame, VVS Laxman has played 11 Tests in Australia, 5 in New Zealand, 10 in South Africa and 16 in West Indies! It is a shame that such a remarkable talent has had to play so less in these countries. Agreed his record isn’t the best there, but he has hardly been a failure. He has Test hundreds in all Test playing countries barring South Africa. He cannot be faulted for not being given more opportunities to better his performances. If scoring hundreds across the world is the barometer for judging batting greatness, he is up there with the best.

The disadvantage of coming from a smaller Test playing nation is the lack of deserved recognition a player should get. If he were an Australian or an Englishman, he would be constantly referred to as a modern day great. Chanderpaul, Mohammed Yousuf and Kallis have suffered the same fate over the years. But more important than the media space and public opinion, it is the respect of fellow players and opposition that counts. No cricketer or sane cricket scribe would have less than the highest regard for Mahela.

Mahela’s all round game makes him truly remarkable. He reinvented himself as a limited overs player after pushing himself to open the innings in T20 cricket. He is a player in the classical mould, but he has come to the realization that he can now paint modern art too. There is as much colour in his cover drive as there is in his imagination that can pull out a scoop to a fast bowler. He is the writer who has not only mastered long hand writing but someone who can tell an epic in a tweet. He has got it all. He is the master who not only knows all the tunes, but knows when to play them. He is Sri Lanka’s finest batsman. He’s done it with tremendous grace and dignity.

Goutham Chakravarthi

13 February 2011


World cup brings with it many things. Inevitably each edition plays host one last time to a group of great cricketers performing on cricket’s biggest stage in the hope of going out on a high. Expectations, invariably, sky-rocket from loyal supporters. Heroes are made of performing stars and winning teams are immortalized. Inglorious exits are met with wrath and burning effigies. Heads roll and scars linger till the next significant victory is achieved. Only a blessed few get to go out as world champs. Others walk into sunset alone and hurt.

When a player should retire is his own business. Image: Deccan Chronicle

It is a strange thing this retirement. Young men in the prime of their life otherwise are asked to leave just because a younger and stronger cricketer promises to deliver. A performer of grandeur, excellence and one of mass adulation and worship is replaced with the tone of a has-been. A retiring rock star on the other hand perhaps goes on a world tour for a couple of months one last time. Yes, Test retirements sometimes are on that scale (Steve Waugh, anyone?), but how many of the great theatre artists or pop-singers are asked to terminate their profession abruptly?

Still world cups are different. Passions reach fever pitch and average ex-cricketers find the temerity to question colossal giants. Media fuel exits with the same exaggerated care they would a triumph with inane debates and over-the-top obituaries. Fans and media move on with the next game and the next victory but a great career is ended.

Cricket, with its changing fortunes and the many twists and turns, the highs and the lows, heart burns and unbridled joy – often in the same match – is rightly compared to life and its vicissitudes. Retirement is anything but life like. A routine retirement is an occasion where friends and family collate to celebrate the career. Contributions are acknowledged by grateful peers and bosses. In cricket, retirement is often demanded following a high profile exit. Whilst selection is merit oriented and at the discretion of the cricket board, retirement is the individual’s choice. Often, cricketers are pushed into it. Some give in and some retire only to be back very soon after. And some others retire in installments. Whatever the means, it is best left unto the individual.

As with this world cup, this will be the last time truly modern day giants like Tendulkar, Kallis, Muralitharan, Ponting, Jayawardene, Chanderpaul will play in a world cup. All of them would want to go out as world beaters and nothing less. As it might turn out, none of them might be around when it is the finals time on April 2nd. It would hardly count as failure as it is players like them who make cricket invigorating and such a pleasure that you and I worship every minute of it. Their biggest contribution is in leaving the game having inspired millions of others to take to it.

As the world cup gears itself perhaps for its own future in a few days’ time, these great set of players will put on their best performances in the hope of scaling the summit one last time. Cricket will go on with or without them as it should and invariably will. Some won’t get picked after this world cup and selectors and captains are entitled to their judgment. But retirement should be left unto the players themselves. May be, some might announce it a year later from their last competitive game like Sampras did. May be, some won’t. In either case, it is none of our business.