Anonymous, In Island, 20 April 2020, with this title “Jayasuriya on missed World Records”
In the space of three years, Sanath Jayasuriya came agonizingly close to break the two most important batting records in cricket. The highest score in Test and ODI cricket was there for the left-hander’s taking but he missed out on both milestones by a whisker. In 1997 at RPS, Jayasuriya missed out on Brian Lara’s highest individual score of 375 in Test cricket and in 2000, now captain of Sri Lanka, he missed Saeed Anwar’s highest score in ODIs by just five runs in Sharjah. Both efforts were against his favourite opponents – India.
On day four of the Test match, Jayasuriya was on 326 not out at stumps needing another 50 runs to the milestone. Sensing what was on the cards on day five, the cricket board announced that entry for the final day’s play was free and the crowds, mostly schoolboys, turned up in their numbers.
Jayasuriya fell for 340 after a marathon 13 hours of batting. By then he had been involved in a 576 run partnership with Roshan Mahanama (225), a then World Record for any wicket in Test cricket. Sri Lanka went onto post a total of 952 for six, still a World Record in Tests.
Three years later, Sri Lanka won the tri-nation Champions Trophy tournament beating India in the final after Jayasuriya scored 189 runs. He had smashed the bowlers to all over the park and was dismissed by part-timer Sourav Ganguly – stumped off a wide delivery – with two overs still remaining in the innings.
“When you play the game, you seriously don’t think about it too much. But after all these years, when you sit back at home and watch highlights of the game, you feel that you missed out on some big milestones. The thing that I regret most was the way I got out. I had plenty of time at hand to get both those milestones. But then that’s destiny. Maybe that was something that was never meant to happen,” Jayasuriya told The Island.
“The funny thing was that both those knocks were against India. That was a time we started dominating India. We were very keen to play the Sri Lankan brand of cricket – which was to be positive from ball one. That helped us to put oppositions under pressure. You had to be positive against such a good attack possessing world class bowlers like Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath.”
“We tried to play with that positive mindset even in Test cricket. There was a time in Tests where we wanted to post 375 or 400 runs on day one if we opted to bat first. When you score those runs quickly, it put oppositions under pressure.”
Jayasuriya was so dominating that after his triple hundred, Indian skipper Sachin Tendulkar conceded, “I have not seen Don Bradman but I have seen Sanath Jayasuriya.”
“The Indian players may have been under pressure but they never showed it when we mingled. One thing was that they were very friendly with me. They come and take a look at the bats I use and talk about the brand of bats and stuff like that. They had a good rapport not only with me but all our players.”
Jayasuriya is adored in India even today. “Wherever I go, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or whatever the cricket playing country, I get lot of love and affection. But India is something totally different. Whether you are in the airport, taxi or wherever, it is an amazing feeling. I have not experienced that anywhere else in the world.”
Nine years after Jayasuriya posted his 340, Mahela Jayawardene established a new Sri Lankan record when he scored 375 against South Africa at SSC. But 20 years on, Jayasuriya’s 189 remains still the highest individual score by a Sri Lankan in ODIs.