One of the greatest batsmen produced by Lanka
Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer
Widely considered as one of the greatest batsmen ever produced by Sri Lanka Deshabandu Aravinda de Silva will be the chief guest at the 41st Observer/Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year awards night today.
De Silva, a former captain is renowned for helping Sri Lanka to win the 1996 Cricket World Cup and for bringing his country from underdog status to present day form. He has held various posts in Sri Lanka Cricket after his retirement in 2003.
De Silva is the only player to score a hundred and take three or more wickets in a World Cup final a feat which he performed at Lahore against Australia in 1996 when he scored a match-winning 107 not out and captured three wickets for 42 runs in addition to holding two catches. The performance won him the Man of the Match award.
His role in the final was recognised by Wisden in 2002 as the eight most significant batting performance in ODI cricket while his bowling was ranked 82nd in Wisden’s top 100 bowling chart.
De Silva made his Test match debut in 1984 at Lord’s against England. During the early part of his career he was known as a dashing but inconsistent batsman – he was given the nickname “Mad Max” for his tendency to get out to rash shots. He later commented on his aggressive batting style: “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.”
A season with English county Kent tightened his technique in batting and after that he was unstoppable scoring centuries at random.
De Silva’s other notable achievements include a masterly 66 off 47 balls against India in the World Cup semi-finals at Kolkata in 1996 – an innings rated by experts as better than his World Cup final hundred. Coming in at number four, de Silva led the Sri Lankan recovery that enabled Sri Lanka to set a target of 252 runs for India to chase. In response India collapsed to 120-8 and when the crowed vented their anger by throwing bottles on to the outfield and setting fire to the seating, match referee Clive Lloyd had to abandon the game and Sri Lanka won by default.
His other achievements were scoring a century in each innings of a Test match on two separate occasions (only bettered by India’s Sunil Gavaskar, Australia’s Ricky Ponting and David Warner, who each performed this feat three times). One of these doubles was 138 and 105, both unbeaten, against Pakistan at the SSC grounds in April 1997. This made him the first, and so far only, player to score two unbeaten centuries in the same Test match. As he had scored 168 in the second innings of the previous Test, he posted three hundreds in eight days. He finished the year with 1,220 runs at 76.25.
De Silva was selected as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1996 and one of the five Sri Lankan cricketers named on the prestigious list. The Wisden list of top 100 batting performances contains six entries for him, only one less than the West Indies batsman Viv Richards.
After his retirement De Silva has served cricket in many other capacities including the post of chairman of selectors and runs a program for unearthing young talent with the help of Coca Cola.