The art of batting by and large is a mind game, and in true greats it is written all over them. In their body language that sets apart performance. It is opportune to say that Sri Lanka’s Aravinda de Silva, by all accounts, was one of the best manifestations of this fact. A world genius at that who puts to a backseat some of the international greats of his time despite the disparity of playing fewer matches due to the short itineraries that Sri Lanka received. That this find from D.S. Senanayake College, Colombo, rose to the highest statures in those limited resources and to this day is held in high esteem by the game’s topmost countries like Australia and England speaks volumes of Aravinda’s willow deeds. As the song goes, memories are made of this.
The brazen mannerism of the pint sized right hander batting Sri Lanka to that historic 1995 World Cup triumph over Australia in Lahore captures the beauty of the valor of that epic feat. This unique greatness is written in gold in the game’s record books of Aravinda de Silva the only batsman to score a world cup century chasing a target.
Ask Ari, as he is fondly refereed to about his approach to batting in his heyday and you have it from the horse’s mouth. He does not mince words when he says, “Batting is lot about the psychological aspect of how you play. Ninety per cent is mental than talent. I worked on that aspect. That’s part of the game. Always confidence is the psychological thing for you to understand.” Indeed, words of wisdom for today’s generation of cricketers to take a leaf from at a time it has lamentably becomes a miscomprehension.
Asked to comment on his epic knock, Aravinda’s response personifies the team man that he was where country came first than self. “More than the individual part, what mattered for me was the victory for my country. That was what was most valuable to me and I am pleased to have contributed towards that World Cup triumph,” he blurts in his customary unhurried low drawl.
“Your batting approach was clinical”, I say, and he drawls back, “If you don’t have that frame of mind, you wouldn’t perform. That’s why it’s a lot about the psychological aspect of how you play.”
Looking back on his career, Aravinda goes on to say, “It was a case of me wanting to play the way I thought cricket should be played. Coaches didn’t agree, but I never wanted to change.” Then again he reflects that ‘at times I realized the minuses of reckless batting. But over the years looking back I realized I took the right attitude to success. Modern cricket has proved that by out of the box shots.’
The only player to score not out centuries in both innings of a test – 138 and 103 in the second test against Pakistan in 1997, Aravinda says that he has only one regret in his career – Sri Lanka not beating Australia in a test match in Australia and the West Indies in the West Indies. “That is the one thing I regret in my career. Australia and the West Indies were two sides I always wanted to beat in a test match in their country. Not beating Australia is my biggest regret. Against the West Indies unfortunately it was only a few ODIs I was able to play against Clive Lloyd’s side,” he muses.
Since retirement, Aravinda has rendered a yeoman service to the game as a national youth coach, chairman of selectors and at administrative level with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). He is credited with having identified and fine tuned potential youngsters for the future.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-