Sanath Jayasuriya has finally bowed out of cricket just three days short of his 70th birthday. He departed how he had thrived, with a ferocious cut shot.
Asked to reflect on his career, Jayasuriya may or may not have said:
“Eh? What? Speak up. Why does everybody mumble these days? Is it too much to ask that people speak clearly and audibly? You’re all too busy playing with your iTelephones and Sony PlayMachines to enunciate properly. What’s the world coming to? Bring back conscription, that’s what I say.”
At the age of 41.
Sam emailed to say:
“I might write something about how he’s really old and he’s like everyone’s uncle and he’s, like, properly old.”
We asked what he might conceivably add to that sentence.
Sam concluded that there was nothing to add.
Will Sanath Jayasuriya’s sublime piracy never end? He’s 40 in a few weeks time and yet here he is, playing in the World Twenty20, hitting 81 off 47 balls against the West Indies.
It’s early days for international Twenty20, but only five players have scored more runs than Jayasuriya’s 424. Of those, only two average more than his 35.33 (Misbah-ul-Haq 51.44 and Graeme Smith 36.25). Of those same five, none can match his strike rate of 154.18 runs per hundred balls.
But to dwell on statistics is to insult the true genius of Sanath Jayasuriya, which is of course the joyous ‘ha haaa’ scythe over the offside infield.
If Jayasuriya were English, they’d have discarded him after he made a duck against South Africa in a Test match in 2002. They’d have said that his eyes had gone and would have replaced him with some nervous posh kid with ‘bags of promise’.
Who needs promise when you’ve got the ‘ha haaa’ scythe?
Tell you what we like in cricket: we like people who made their names doing one spectactular thing in particular to do exactly that thing only at a slightly advanced age.
For example, you might say to a cricketing newcomer: “This is Sanath Jayasuriya. He’s famous for scoring runs ludicrously quickly at the start of one-day matches. He probably won’t do it now though, because he’s getting on a bit.”
But he does do it! Things are exactly the same!
No player deteriorates. Everything is exactly the same. The old, balding master is still infinitely more masterful than the trendy young kids.
Okay, so Benevolent Uncle Sanath’s 55-ball hundred was against Bangladesh, but we can go a bit overboard because it was his birthday (39) and he did carve up the IPL as well, don’t forget.
Test cricket is losing its pirate. Sanath Jayasuriya has boomed his last ‘ha-haaaa’ to the point boundary. He’s carrying on in one-day internationals, so it’s not the ‘end-end’. It’s just an end. A bit of a sad one.
It wasn’t sad watching him, though. He larruped every ball of one James Anderson over for four. ‘Ha-haaaa, take that!’ he said. ‘And that. And that. And, er, that. And that. Sod it – take that as well (might as well have the full set.)
His final Test innings was a rapid and crucial 78, which is a perfect Jayasuriya innings. Okay, he hit 340 once (Sri Lanka 952-6 declared v India) but the quickfire fifty was more his thing.
We’ll remember Jayasuriya for the occasions when we first saw a Sri Lankan score when he was already out. ‘Eh? That can’t be right, can it?’ we’d think, before a commentator would enlighten us by saying that our baldy pirate had hit 55 off 20 balls before anyone realised the match had started.
We propose that a scything cut be renamed ‘a Sanath’ in his honour. ‘Michael Clarke played a searing Sanath over the point fielder’s head to reach his fifty.’
Sri Lanka v England, day three of the first Test at Kandy
Sri Lanka 188 all out (Kumar Sangakkara 92, Prasanna Jayawardene 51, Matthew Hoggard 4-29, Monty Panesar 3-46)
England 281 (Ian Bell 83, Muttiah Muralitharan 6-55)
Sri Lanka 167-2 (Benevolent Uncle Sanath 78)