We always talked about the hitters like Virender Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden or Brendon McCullum who have changed the body language of batsmen with their brand of cricket termed as whirlwind batting. Be it a test cricket or odi cricket, these players have the same approach the played cricket in his career. Even somewhere I thought earlier that these are the players who have started the attacking cricket with their surreal hand-eye coordination. But No Way! Before these great players, there was the pearl in the early days of Sri Lanka Cricket History who is the official trendsetter of the whirlwind batting that we witnessed in cricket these days.
It was the 1996 World Cup, when the former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga had decided to experiment his thought attacking cricket in the first hour of innings. Earlier Sanath Jayasuriya was used to bat at the lower order with his pinch hitting abilities but Arjuna Ranatunga this time sent Sanath Jayasuriya alongside Romesh Kaluwitharana to open the innings for Sri Lanka in the tournament which was the successful move and helped Sri Lanka to won the World Cup in the end too. Earlier this move was brought by the New Zealand in 1992 World Cup when Mark Greatbatch turned out to be effective for New Zealand in some absolute surreal starts over the course of the tournament.
But with the World Cup ended this idea was in the memories of fans as nobody thought we will ever be going to witness such attacking cricket again ever. I remember I started watching cricket in the early 2000 era when Sanath Jayasuriya had established himself as the successful opener for Sri Lanka across the formats. Around that time World Cricket had quality players like Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, Nathan Astle and Saeed Anwar whose cricket playing abilities were booming alongside Sanath Jayasuriya. But most of us forget when all these players who either did not debut or were struggling like Mathew Hayden in the first half of his career. The dashing left handed batsman Sanath Jayasuriya had rocket launched the cricket with the storm of Whirlwind batting straight through the 1996 World Cup after which he had been the regular opening batsman for Sri Lanka in the next one decade alongside various Sri Lanka openers.
Sanath Jayasuriya had the pinch hitting abilities which when combined with his gifted hand-eye coordination turned out to be the nightmare for any opposition in world cricket back then. Bowlers like Brett Lee, Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath and Shoiab Akhtar were at the backfoot when Jayasuriya had his day and in the span of just a few overs he took the game away from opposition completely. In the White-ball Cricket Sanath Jayasuriya scored 13,430 runs in 445 games which featured 28 centuries 68 half-centuries with the highest score of 189 runs. Apart from the batting, Jayasuriya was an effective bowler alongside Muthaih Muralitharan to help Sri Lanka in many victories in ODI cricket where he took 323 wickets and is the third highest wicket taker in the limited overs cricket for Sri Lanka Cricket History. Talking about his test career, Sanath Jayasuriya scored 6973 runs in 110 tests which featured 14 centuries and 31 half-centuries with the highest score of 340 runs which he created against India in 1997– the record before Mahela Jayawardene surpassed it in 2006.
"Others may have had better records, but few were more dangerous. It is always a massive compliment to someone to say they changed the game, and his storming innings in the 1996 World Cup changed everyone's thinking about how to start one-day innings. Sanath Jayasuriya great natural flair," said McGrath.
It is definitely not easy to receive such a big compliment from one of the best bowlers of this era and if he said so it means the batsman was special in many ways. Sanath Jayasuriya had turned Sri Lanka team to world beaters with his whirlwind batting after the 1996 World Cup.