Sri Lanka achieved Test Cricket status in 1981 becoming the eighth Test cricket playing nation. It has since achieved considerable success particularly beginning in the 1990s, rising from minnow status to becoming one of the world’s most admired cricket nations. It won the Cricket World Cup under the remarkable captaincy of Arjuna Ranatunga in 1996. Following this trail blazing achievement by a relatively new entrant to international cricket, Sri Lanka has catapulted to be reckoned as a force in world cricket. Sri Lanka reached the finals of the 2007 and 2011 Cricket World Cups consecutively though ending being runners up on both occasions. The spectacular batting of gifted and talented cricketers like Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara with a huge backing given by the bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and the unorthodox Lasith Malinga, among a number of other young talented cricketers, ensured the successes of our national cricket team in the world arena in the last two decades.
Its list of achievements has made Sri Lanka the envy of the cricket world. Sri Lanka has won the Cricket World Cup in 1996, the ICC Champions Trophy in 2002 (co-champions with India), has been consecutive runners up in the 2007 and 2011 Cricket World Cups, and has been runners up in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009 and 2012. The Sri Lankan cricket team currently holds several world records, including world records for highest team totals in all three forms of the game, Test, ODI and Twenty20. By any definition this is no mean feat.
In addition, Sri Lanka can also claim credit for evolving innovations associated with cricket though some of these ingenious contributions have yet to receive due acknowledgement from officialdom in both Sri Lanka and the rest of the cricket world. It is time we consolidate and champion the marvels that our star c ricketers and cricket thinkers have introduced over the years both within and beyond the boundary line.
Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS)
We start off with the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) also called the DRS for which the composer Senaka Weeraratna is still to be internationally and locally acknowledged for authorship while his brain child the unique ‘Player Referral’ concept, which was conceived and advocated by him through a series of letters and articles published the world over since 1997 is being widely used not only in cricket but in other sports as well. Introduced into Test Cricket in 2009, UDRS has brought about a rich dividend in increasing the percentage of accurate decision making by Umpires from 91% to 97% and also resulted in less rancor between the opposing teams due to mistakes of on – field umpires.
It is now well over 16 years since lawyer Senaka Weeraratna put forward his revolutionary idea that changed the face of international cricket adjudication and made claim to its authorship and we question on what grounds the credit for authorship of ‘Player Referral’ being the lynch pin of UDRS evades acknowledgement by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Storming the Bowling by an opening pair
Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana became the most breathtaking and innovative pair of opening batsmen to walk across to the crease. They changed the one day format upside down and all teams followed that fashion after the 1996 World Cup title became Sri Lanka’s. They became the 1st pair to accelerate the run rate within the first 15 overs and ODI scoring rate saw a paradigm change thereafter.
The strategy adopted was to make maximum use of the fielding restrictions placed in the first fifteen overs of the game through an aggressive batting approach by hitting the opening bowlers to all parts of the cricket ground, particularly by lofting their deliveries over the mandatory infielders, rather than follow the standard established pattern of gradually building up momentum and reserve the onslaught on the bowling to the last ten overs in a 50 over ODI match.
This was a novel but potentially match-winning strategy conceived and adopted by Sri Lanka, and Sri L anka, which had previously never made it even to the semi – finals, went on to win the World Cup without a single defeat. Sri Lanka’s innovative game plan has now been embraced by others and it has become the standard opening batting strategy in limited overs cricket in the modern era. Glenn McGrath, the legendary Australian fast bowler, included Sanath Jayasuriya in his XI of toughest batsmen, noting “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 innings.”
Both Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana revolutionized the one day game by adopting tactics that the opposing teams were least prepared for and thereby blazed a trail in one day cricket.
Muttiah Muralitharan – Doosra
Muttiah Muralitharan – is the first wrist-spinning off-spinner in the history of the game but his inimitable doosra earned him fame for the manner in which he could deliver a surprise to the batsman from leg to off with no easily discernible change of action.
Muralitharan was rated the greatest Test match bowler ever by Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack in 2002. He retired from Test cricket in 2010, registering his 800th and final wicket on 22 July 2010 from his final ball in his last Test match. It was a fairy tale ending to a Test cricket career of an unique and exceptional cricketer that has won the hearts of not only the people of Sri Lanka but the cricket lovers of the world.
Tillakaratne Dilshan– Dilscoop
The Dilscoop is a batting stroke innovated by opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan and first displayed during the ICC World Twenty20 held during June 2009 in England. The basis of the stroke is to go on one knee to a good length or slightly short of length delivery off a fast or medium paced bowler and ‘scoop’ the ball over the head of the wicket keeper and in the direction of either the boundary behind the wicket keeper or fine-leg assuring runs to tick on the score board.
There has been some controversy on whether the Dilscoop is identical to the Marillier or Paddle scoop. However according to former Australian captain Ian Chappell who was a commentator in the aforesaid ICC World Twenty 20, he had never seen any batsman play the ball straight over the wicket keeper’s head as Dilshan clearly do es, thus its originality.
Mahendra Mapagunaratne – a Sri Lanka born lawyer and cricket connoisseur resident in Toronto, Canada is reputed to have given the name ‘Dilscoop’ as well as coined the term ‘Carrom Ball’.
Ajantha Mendis – Carrom Ball
It was Ajantha Mendis who reintroduced the Carrom Ball technique to mainstream cricket in the late 2000s which had been originally used by Australians Jack Iverson and John Gleeson in the 1940s and 1960s but never called ‘carrom ball’. The ball is held between the thumb, index finger and the middle finger and released with a strong flick of the fingers similar to how a player flicks the carrom – thus the name. Its unconventional release mesmerizes batsmen making it im possible for them to handle such confusing spin bowling.
It is without a doubt that a host of Sri Lankans have given the contemporary cricket world some magic to remember. Their innovations have entered cricket’s history books with the exception of the far reaching mechanism ‘player – referral of the UDRS’, a truly Sri Lankan product, which the ICC cannot escape from making further comment and acknowledgement of.
Taken together the formidable Sri Lankan innovations and unique contributions to modern day cricket needs to be properly acknowledged both locally and internationally in the spirit of fair play and true sportsmanship.
We may be a small nation but we have produced and continue to produce talented individuals not only in sports but through all realms of society. Their contributions must surely be felicitated nationally for in so doing we encourage others thus bringing our nation to formidable heights of esteem internationally.