Today being a Monday it is time for our ‘all time XI’ cricket themed series to look at an international set up. Today it is Sri Lanka in the spotlight.
SRI LANKA IN MY TIME
- Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spin bowler. At his best he was absolutely magnificent – in a recent post I covered his 213 at The Oval in 1998, and he was the player of the 1996 World Cup.
- Marvan Atapattu – right handed opening batter. A test average of under 40 raises an instant question, but the explanation is that his test career consisted of three installments. After the first two of those he had played 14 innings at the highest level and amassed 108 runs at 7.71. The third and main installment of his test career yielded 5394 runs at 42.47, including five double centuries.
- Mahela Jayawardene – right handed batter. He holds the record test score for a Sri Lanakn, and the record test score for any right handed batter – 374 versus South Africa. He has numerous other huge scores to his credit.
- Kumar Sangakkara – right handed batter, wicket keeper. One of the greatest ever in his role, and he and Jayawardene shared a number of fine partnerships, including 624 against South Africa, a first class record for any wicket.
- Aravinda De Silva – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. His highest test score was 267. He demonstrated his flair for the big occasion in the 1996 World Cup when he scored an amazing 66 to rescue Sri Lanka in the semi-final, and then in the final he made undefeated century as Sri Lanka comfortably beat Australia in spite of losing both openers cheaply.
- *Arjuna Ranatunga – left handed batter, captain. There are quite a few whose batting records appear to give them a superior claim to this place but I rate his captaincy so high that I am prepared to lose a few runs an innings an exchange for it.
- Angelo Matthews – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. His bowling record does not really qualify him as an all rounder, but his batting record is good enough tat I am prepared to compromise.
- Chaminda Vaas – left arm fast medium bowler, useful left handed lower order batter. The list of Sri Lankan pace bowlers with really good records is a short one, and this man is the best such they have ever had.
- Rangana Herath – left arm orthodox spinner. His country’s all time second leading test wicket taker.
- Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. The only bowler to have taken 800 test wickets, claimed at an average rate of six wickets per game. First name on the team sheet.
- Lasith Malinga – right arm fast bowler. ‘Malinga the slinger’, possessor of the lowest bowling arm in 21st century cricket. He is the fastest his country has ever produced, and is especially well suited to being Vaas’ new ball partner (sorry, Chaminda, you’re going into the wind).
This team has a splendid top seven, including one of the greatest of all keeper batters and a master of the art of captaincy, and four superbly varied bowlers.
COMPLETING THE ALL TIME XI
There are plenty of honourable mentions to come, but the only player from before my time as a cricket fan to get in is Mahadevan Sathasivam, a man whose brief first class career saw him average 41, and who is regarded as one of the finest batters his country ever produced. He displaces Marvan Atapattu, giving a Sri Lanka all-time order of Jayasuriya, Sathasivam, Jayawardene, +Sangakkara, De Silva, *Ranatunga, Mathews, Vaas, Herath, Muralitharan, Malinga.
I shall work through these in sequence, starting with:
- Opening batters – Chamari Atapattu played the finest innings I have personally ever witnessed from a Sri Lankan, her 178 not out vs Australia being a Bannermanesque proportion of her team’s score. Sadly however it has to be considered a flash in the pan – her overall record is only moderate. Among other opening batters Tillakaratne Dilshan came close while Michael Vandort, Upul Tharanga, Roshan Mahanama, Brendan Kuruppu and Sidath Wettimuny all had moments in the sun without establishing really good records.
- Middle order batters – historically a strong area for Sri Lanka, with Hashan Tillakaratne, Russel Arnold and Thilan Samaraweera all had records that put them on the cusp of inclusion. Duleep Mendis, the first Sri Lankan to hit twin tons in a test match, was a rival to Ranatunga for the captain’s berth. Roy Dias, scorer of the first two ODI hundreds by a Sri Lankan, did not quite have the overall record to be a genuine challenger. Also acknowledgements are due to two guys who had decent records in the County Championship long before their country was considered for top table international status – Clive Inman and Laddie Outschoorn.
- Spin bowling options: There were not many to merit consideration, but I regretted the absence of a leg spinner. However, the only such to come close to meriting inclusion was Upul Chandana whose record definitely falls short. Don Anurasiri bowled a hugely long spell at Lord’s in 1991, but the wickets column told its own sad story about that effort.
- Pace bowling options – Sri Lanka have never been spoilt for choice in this department, and other than my chosen duo Nuwan Zoysa and Dilhara Fernando were the only two to merit serious consideration. Rumesh Ratnayake had talent but hus overall record ended up being pretty modest, and Ravi Ratnayeke also fell short. Graeme Labrooy showed promise at one time but again his record does not stack up.
- Wicket keepers – the presence of Sangakkara overshadowed all other potential claimants to the gauntlets.
Our cricketing tour of the island that under one of its previous names, Serendib or Serendip (from the Voyages of Sindbad The Sailor in “The Thousand and One Nights”), gave us the word serendipity is at an end. There was an embarrassment of batting riches, but not a lot of competition for bowling slots. Nevertheless I think our team would give a good account of itself.
Since I wrote a bit about the Cummings scandal yesterday things have moved on. The number of Tory MPs to have publicly spoken out against Cummings now numbers at least twenty, and is still increasing as the people concerned check their inboxes and realize just how badly Johnson and Cummings misjudged the public mood. Johnson appeared for a press briefing yesterday and was arrogant, out of touch, off hand and lazy in his conduct of it – his ‘effort’ was the equivalent of showing up for a fire fighting assignment with several barrels of petrol and flinging the contents onto the flames. Apparently Cummings will be putting in a public appearance today, but he can say nothing to save himself – his least bad option would be a brief statement confirming that his political career is over and finally, belatedly admitting his guilt. I also believe that yesterday’s performance rendered Johnson’s position untenable – it is very hard to see how he could possibly have believed that it would be considered acceptable. Not only is Mr Johnson unfit for the office he holds, as far as I am concerned he has brought that office into gross disrepute and he too should publicly abandon his political career, standing down not just as PM but as MP, and publicly confirming that he will not take a seat in the House of Lords. I used Write to Them to contact my own MP, former Johnson advisor James Wild, and my letter can be seen below, as the start of my usual sign off…
Just one of many such letters that MPs will have been receiving today.