From Basin Reserve to Aravinda, Sanga and A Homily

Rex Clementine, in Island, 16 December 2018, where the title reads “Two different Basin Reserve classics”

The Basin Reserve where the current Test match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand is in progress remains a special place for Sri Lankans in many ways. Generally the Sri Lankans have done well at this picturesque venue. The Basin as they call it is literally one of Wellington’s busiest roundabouts. It is the two mountains – Mount Cook and Mount Victoria in the backdrop that add to the beauty of this ground in New Zealand’s north island.

The first double hundred by a Sri Lankan overseas was scored at the Basin and the last double hundred by a Sri Lankan was also scored at the Basin. In fact after Kumar Sangakkara’s sensational effort in 2015, no Sri Lankan has scored a double hundred – home or away. Aravinda de Silva was the first Sri Lankan to score a double hundred overseas in 1991.

Arjuna Ranatunga once told us that there won’t be another Aravinda for another 50 years. When we asked him why, he told us this story. “I was batting with Aravinda at the Basin and was struggling to put bat to ball as there was quite a bit of seam movement. But Aravinda had no such issues and he was absolutely hitting everything from the middle of the bat. During the tea break, I took Aravinda’s bat and checked whether his was wider than that  of mine. He was making it look so easy,” Ranatunga said.

Aravinda himself related an interesting incident the day before he had scored the double hundred. Prior to the Basin Reserve Test, Sri Lanka had played an ODI in Auckland. Aravinda’s sister Araliya used to live in Auckland and he had visited her for dinner the day before the match. Araliya had ensured her little brother was back in the team hotel by 8:30pm as he had a match next day. The following day Aravinda was dismissed for a first ball duck.

So when the team went to Wellington, he wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes of Auckland and instead had a night out with friends.  (These days he will get into trouble). When he walked out to bat the next morning, the adrenalin was flowing and he ended up scoring 200 runs in one day. He went onto score 267, his career best score. It remained the highest individual score by a Sri Lankan until Sanath Jayasuriya broke it in 1997.

By contrast, Kumar Sangakkara, another player who came through NCC and remained there throughout his career like Aravinda, left no stone unturned when it came to preparation. His attention to detail was mind-boggling. Day in and day out, he was the first for training and last to leave. For the current Sri Lankan team he would have been a misfit for he took no off-days during a series.

The Wellington hundred was Sanga’s 11th and the last. On that occasion he batted expertly with the tail. It was his last Test match away from home as he retired from the game later that year.

Sanga’s stats speak for himself. His Test average of 57 puts him on a league of his own when put alongside with his contemporaries. Despite all that, you are still not sure what you miss most. Whether it’s Sanga’s batting or his press conferences.

The point we try to make is that both types of players will make an impact in their own way. Maybe there’s no point in taking a hard stance and insisting that everyone should stick to the same rules.

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Filed under Aravinda de Silva, child of empire, cricketing icons, memorable moments, performance, Rex Clementine, Sangakkara, Sri Lanka Cricket, tower of strength, unusual people

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