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A role model for Sri Lanka's next generation

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Aravinda_de_Silva_Sri_Lanka_cricketThe rise of Sri Lanka in World cricket is a classic example of ‘rags to riches’ story! From attaining Test status in 1982 to winning the World Cup in 1996, Sri Lanka quickly turned their fortunes around shrugging the underdog status in a space of just 14 years. However, Sri Lanka’s meteoric rise in World Cricket can be attributed to the hard work, grit and determination of many legends who became a role model for the next generation cricketers. Aravinda de Silva, Sri Lanka’s premier batsman during 1984-2003, was one of those legends!

It was on this day in 1965 that the World was blessed with the birth of this charismatic former Sri Lankan batsman and captain. The world has seen a lot of players who have transformed with maturity and even became better players; De Silva was no exception to them. De Silva, one of the most elegant right handed batsmen of his time, was known as “Mad Max” in his early international career due to his aggressive but inconsistent nature as a batsman. However, all the criticism for his reckless nature of batting didn’t bother him at all; he was confident of his abilities and knew that one won’t succeed if he tries to change his natural game.

 

“That’s my natural game-I don’t want to change because I feel confident playing that way. If someone is capable of dominating the bowling, they should do it. It’s the way I’ve been playing since I was a youngster”- De Silva had stated once on Speculations surrounding his batting.

Although De Silva became a complete player and a stalwart for the Sri Lankan middle order in the years following his international debut in 1982, he is widely remembered for his heroics in Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996. De Silva scored three centuries in that world cup-two in the group stage against Kenya and Zimbabwe and a memorable one on the night of the final against mighty Australia. It was his heroics on the night of the final; bowling figures of 3-42, an innings of 107* and two crucial catches, that helped Sri Lanka to clinch their first World Cup title. That one day and that one performance gave the Sri Lankan fans memories to cherish for a life time, a memory that they would pass on to the coming generations, an unexplainable experience that they wouldn’t get tired of explaining again and again!

In the days when the World was afraid to face Pakistan because of their deadly bowling attack comprising the lethal pace of Imran Khan, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram coupled with the tricky leg-spin of Abdul Qadir, De Silva turned out to be the tormentor of this bowling attack that gave nightmares to others. His tally of eight centuries against Pakistan, which is also the highest by any batsman against them, testify how good he was against the best bowling attack in the world. Although De Silva was a prolific batsman, he couldn’t repeat the same performance as a captain. Sri Lanka had a poor run in his captaincy in both ODIs and Tests. Out of the six Tests that he captained, Sri Lanka lost four and tied two whereas lost 12 and won only five in the 18 ODIs in which he lead his country.

It should be remembered that not every player is born with the ability to lead; sometimes they are better off just as players. The fact that De Silva won Seven ‘Man of the Series’ awards and 42 ‘Man of the Match awards in a career spanning 401 international matches for Sri Lanka, speaks for his influence on the game in each match for Sri Lanka. A real match winner for Sri Lanka on any day, he scored 15645 international runs in his whole career that also included 31 centuries and 86 half centuries. And when it came to bowling he picked up 145 wickets with his off breaks as well. His Test best of 267 against New Zealand at the basin reserve in 1991 is one of the most fluent innings that he ever played. That was not the only double century in his career as he ended his Test career on a high scoring another double ton in his final appearance against Bangladesh in 2002. Not only that, he also took a wicket of the last ball of his career to become one of the few players to achieve this feat.

De Silva finally bid adieu to international cricket playing his last ODI in the 2003 World Cup at Port Elizabeth against Australia. What he left was a legacy behind for the upcoming generation! Sri Lanka have got players like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakeratne Dilshan and others who have looked upto him as their role model and made Sri Lanka the super power that they are in World Cricket today. De Silva is now busy with his career off the field as he is the head of Sri Lanka’s National Selection Committee but yet involved with the game he loves and searching for budding superstars with his experienced vision. Happy Birthday Legend!

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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