26 February 2019

It’s all about partnerships

Adjectives fall over themselves and none, separately or together, can sum up Kusal Janith Perera’s epic 4th innings knock that secured for Sri Lanka an improbable victory over the Proteas in the first cricket test in Durban last week.

Cricket enthusiast Hemantha Jay Edirisooriya need not have said ‘remember this day Kusal’ for it is to be unforgettable for just one person that has to be the player and not spectator. Still, my friend’s ‘call to remember’ is relevant to all of us (even though it’s addressed to Kusal).

‘They asked you to keep wickets and then they dropped you for no apparent reason, they asked you to open then they dropped you, they asked you to bat 7, 6, 5 and 4, you did it without a complaint. When you got injured and were fighting to come back, they left you out. Every time you were left out for injuries or otherwise, you had to fight to get in, you were never guaranteed a place. Even in Australia despite your good record against pace, they left you out. I've been just reminded by a friend that you were also falsely accused of taking performance enhancing drugs, subjecting you to public ridicule and mental agony and taking away the opportunity to play in a world cup. But this, son, was your game, they can’t take away from you. A sheer masterclass of maturity, guts and courage, Remember this day Kusal Janith Perera!!’

It’s not just about cricketing prowess, obviously. Character matters. Little things can make a difference. For example, consider these brave and determined words from Vishwa Fernando, the No 11 batsman which Kusal mentioned after the game:

‘Vishwa told me, “Have no fear Kusal Aiya, I’ll hit the ball with my body if nothing else.’ I took a lot of strength from that.’  The accolades he showered on his partner add to Kusal’s stature for the words show a mature and humble man: ‘I took a lot of strength from that. Without any fear I took the single and gave the strike to him. He did a huge job. If he had got out, there wouldn't have been a point, because we would have been all out. I don't know how many balls he faced. Those are valuable, valuable balls. What he faced was worth more than my runs.’

More than his runs? In that epic and record-breaking 10th wicket partnership of 78 runs, there were  five extras, Kusal scored 67 and Vishwa’s contribution was just six, four of which were from overthrows. He faced 27 deliveries. That’s like a ton of deliveries considering he was facing the fearsome Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. Rabada has played in 36 tests and taken 171 wickets. It was Steyn’s 92nd text. He’s taken 439 wickets. IT was just Vishwa’s 4th test!

Obviously he was playing a supporting role, but as Kusal pointed out, that support was crucial because he was the last man. 

Partnership. That’s what it came down to. 

We all remember the record breaking partnership between Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama of 576 for the second wicket against India in 1997. We remember the 624 runs that Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena put together against South Africa in 2006. Some might remember the partnership between Muttiah Muralitharan and Mahela Jayawardena of 67 — that’s 67 catches taken by Mahela off Murali, the best bowler-fielder combine in Tests.  

The website Cricinfo commentary carried the following comment: ‘As good as KJP's innings has been, his rotation of strike with the tail enders has been so unexplainable, to say the least. He's got to learn that!’ This was at the end of the 73rd over. The pair would bat a further 12.3 overs. Towards the end, there was high praise for Kusal with regard to how he ‘managed the strike’.  That’s partnership too. The batsman at the other end, the bowler at the other end, the fielders around the bat — all ‘partners’. These partnerships count, even though the intangibles don’t get any mention in stats sheets.  

All partnerships count, though, and few demonstrate this fact as splendidly as that of Kusal and Vishwa.


malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com