In the '96 World Cup, the Lankan opening pair of Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana totally annihilated the bowlers of almost all the teams with their explosive batting, taking advantage of the fielding restrictions. If either of the two openers got out, there was no respite for the opposition as Gurusinha, who often came in at No 3, carried on the good work.
If there was one opening pair which remains etched in our memory even now, then it is the combo of Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana, the pioneers of explosive batting at the top of the order.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
How are you feeling after your return to Sri Lanka following so many years?
It's great to be back after a long time and be a part of such a young team. Supporting this young team to get to the next level is the reason I am here. I am hoping I can do that.
The Lankans are currently in transition after the retirements of stalwarts like Muttiah Muralitharan, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. How is the team holding up at the moment?
It is a young team. It’s a good team. I am just trying to help them to understand few things which will help them to enter into the next level. Because teams can get into the semi-finals but if you want to win a final, then you need an extra effort. Our goal is to get them into that level, to train them hard and understand their talent, skills.
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Gurusinha parades around the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, alongside the then captain Arjuna Ranatunga after winning the 1996 World Cup final against Australia INTERNET
Can you share some memories from the '96 World Cup winning campaign?
That memory will always be with us. That great team. We are in the 21st year since that historic World Cup win. We actually celebrated the 20th anniversary of that last year. We played a charity cricket match in Colombo and I brought the team to Melbourne to play two more charity games which (took place) in Melbourne and Sydney. And there, Aravinda de Silva played very well. He is still batting well (smiles).
Look, we still remember every thing that happened. But I think the biggest thing is that we were very relaxed (in) that game, and even before the game. We knew what we (had) to do. Each player knew what he had to do. And we actually executed the plan very well.
You went into early retirement. Any regrets?
No. I believe I left my (game in the) right time. We were not professional cricketers at that time. We all had other jobs. I don’t have regrets. (Spent) 21 years in Australia. I think I had a great time. It's great.
You have completed Level 3 coaching course in Australia. Any ambitions of becoming a coach in future?
I don’t know. Currently, I am in an administration job. I will be helping the batsmen, as well as working with Graham Ford (head coach) about the strategy and everything. So it's a little bit of that (coaching). Will I be fully involved in coaching? Only time will tell.
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Sanath Jayasuriya was one half of Sri Lanka's successful opening batting pair INTERNET
Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana's power hitting in the first 15 overs forever changed the way the teams approached the start of an ODI innings. As a top order batsman, did you receive the same instructions?
The team plan was that we gave license to Sanath and Kalu to go after the bowling from the very first ball. They were given the license. At that time, team management said to Kalu and Sanath, “Even if you get out first ball, we will not drop you” . So if we get a start of 100 runs (in) 15 overs, in those days, then we were on top of anything. But my job was different. My job was to bat 50 overs. Because we had plenty of strokemakers in our batting line up. We had Aravinda, Arjuna, Roshan [Mahanama]. So we had plenty of strokemakers in the middle part. So my job was to bat 50 overs. Because they said, if you bat 50 overs, then we could score 250. (In) those days 250 was a winning score.
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Romesh Kaluwitharana was like a pocket dynamite, thanks to his power hitting INTERNET
Cricket has changed drastically, thanks to the intervention of T20s. In the current context, what are the things required to become a good Test side?
I think it comes down to understanding Test cricket properly. And batting longer periods. Lots of teams are struggling in these areas in recent years as they are used to T20s and ODIs a lot. (They) carry the same style of play into Tests. If the wickets are good and if you are playing in the subcontinent then you can play strokes. But when you go to England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, then there the sides struggle because the balls are seaming and bouncing and you have three or four slips. So you have to understand Test cricket first.
Any suggestions for the youngsters?
I think they need to play first-class cricket more. Even when they are young, whenever they are batting they need to bat long. When I say long, it means even it is a 30-over game, try to bat 30 overs. That’s how you can start programming your brain to bat long. And that's the best way to go forward.