Published on March 7th, 2013 | by Siddharth Chhaya0
People who keep wickets (Part – II)
“Like in 1992 world cup Martin Crowe’s innovative idea of giving the opening over to Deepak Patel nearly helped New Zealanders to win their first world cup ever, Ranatunga made lower order but a hard hitting batsman Sanath Jayasuriya an opener and along with him his short height wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana also walked in to open the innings.” Writes Siddharth Chhaya
We concluded the last article by thanking Arjuna Ranatunga, the wily captain of Sri Lanka. Ranatunga masterminded Sri Lanka’s successful 1996 World Cup campaign. Sri Lanka surprised pundits and fans alike with their brave approach. Perhaps the only person who wasn’t surprised by Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning performance was Ranatunga himself. Once Ranatunga knew that the 1996 World Cup would be played on the sub-continent, he immediately set out to devise a winning strategy. At the heart of his plan was a little ‘pocket rocket’ who also happened to be Sri Lanka’s wicket keeper…Romesh Kaluwitharana.
Like in 1992 World Cup Martin Crowe’s innovative idea of giving the opening over to Deepak Patel nearly helped the Kiwis to win their first world cup ever, Ranatunga made lower order but a hard hitting batsman Sanath Jayasuriya an opener and along with him his short height wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana also walked in to open the innings.
But what Arjuna made different than Crowe that he opened this trump card of his way before the world cup started, because he wanted to give these two fellows to settle and feel comfortable at this alien position before the actual world cup gets started. When Sri Lanka toured Australia for 1995-1996 series, in ODI tri-series, their regular opener Roshan Mahanama was struggling a lot, Arjuna even used Hathurasinghe for one match as an opener, but failed. So in the 9th match of the tri-series he promoted Kaluwitharana to open the innings with Sanath Jayasuriya and bang! Though Jayasuriya couldn’t do much to help his team crossing good total of 213 made by Australians, Romesh Kaluwitharana took over and he made 77 runs in just 75 balls with 12 boundaries!! Result ? Sri Lanka won the match by 3 wickets and with few balls to spare.
The formula was simple, which was to use 15-over field limitations effectively. Though this was yet another invention by Martin Crowe for 1992 World Cup by using Mark Greatbatch as a pinch hitter, Kaluwithrana and Jayasuriya used this more effectively. Suddenly people started to like such swashbuckling batting by this ‘pocket dynamo’ Romesh Kaluwithrana, as they started to call him by that name. He and his partner were given the license to kill and they continued to do so even after Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup. This again gave food for thought to the coaches around the cricketing world and they started to find such wicket keepers who can open the innings and start hitting the ball like a mad man.
To start with, there was no method in such madness, but one person who changed this totally and his name was Adam Gilchrist. My first remembrance of Adam Gilchrist was a 8-a-side’ tournament played in Malaysia. Allan Border was the Australian team captain and ‘Gilly’ was part of his team. In that format sixes were given status of 8 runs and Gilchrist hit plenty of 8s in that two day tournament.
Slowly he became part of the main Australian team in both the formats and Gilchrist rarely changed his way to bath in either format. He will just come and start hitting the ball long whether it is an ODI or a test match. He had saved the Australian side from many shambles by just playing his ‘natural game’. He would intimidate any bowler to bowl him to his likings. In ODIs he used to open but in tests he used to come at No. 6 or 7 after a long Australian batting line up gets over. Still he made 16 centuries in tests along with his 17 in ODIs mostly as an opener. Centuries are not the only way to evaluate a batsman even fifties or scores in between 50s and 100s also matters. Gilly has made plenty of those scores which helped his team a lot. He was one of the hottest properties when first ever IPL auctions happened in India in 2007. Knowing his hitting capabilities many franchises had bided for him and at the end of the day ‘Deccan Chargers’ bought him. After Deccan’s forgetful first season of the IPL in 2008, under Gilchrist’s captaincy only they bounced back in 2009 to win the second season of IPL played in South Africa.
Yet Gilchrist was never considered as good captain, forget the greats, within Australians. Great Australian captain like Steve Waugh couldn’t win the final frontier, India, Gilchrist did that in 2004, yet he was never considered as a good captain. Because the original captain Ricky Ponting was injured for the first three Tests of the series, Gilly took over and won 2 out of those three and drawn the other one to win first ever series in India after decades. Ironically when Punter returned for the final test in Mumbai, Australia lost it. May be because wicket-keepers still lacked a bit of glamour when it comes to leading a side. Though they are rated as glamour boys while on song with the willow. But the time will never remain the same. Someone was just around the corner to prove that wicket-keepers can not only be good captains but also can be considered as great.
We will talk about him in our next and concluding episode of this series.
Till then, its goodbye!
Image credit: slcricket.com
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