Abu Dhabi: The now-familiar Twenty20-style of cricket, where batsmen go after the bowlers right from the word go, was something Sri Lanka first introduced into the 50-over format in the mid-1990s.
The dangerous combination of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana on the 1995-96 tour of Australia marked the beginning of a new era of aggressive batting in the first 15 overs, while the fielding restrictions were in place.
This tactic saw Sri Lanka to glory in the 1996 World Cup, where they won all their matches. And no wonder Kaluwitharana’s eyes light up when queried on how much he could have contributed to T20 cricket, had he still been playing.
“It’s tailormade for me and Sanath,” the 44-year-old told Gulf News while in Abu Dhabi to be part of the community tournament organised by the UAE Exchange and the Ministry of Interior.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t be a part of the T20 format. We revolutionised 50-over cricket by going hard in the first 15 overs. Yes, myself and Sanath would have been a lethal combo. I would have certainly enjoyed it.”
Though Jayasuriya was fortunate enough to play a couple of seasons for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kaluwitharana had hung up his boots long before the cash-rich league was born.
“I will not say I regret not playing in the T20 format as I have achieved all that I had hoped and dreamed of,” said the wicket-keeper batsman, who figured in 49 Tests and 189 One Day Internationals from 1990 to 2004. “However, the way Sanath and I played our cricket, the world can straight away relate that we could have made a difference and brought in that excitement. We have left that everlasting impression and that’s an achievement for me.”
Meanwhile, the current Sri Lanka ‘A’ coach believes his countrymen have a good chance of winning the ongoing World Twenty20 ahead of their semi-final against the West Indies on Thursday.
“I will say Sri Lanka has a good chance of winning the World Cup. Spin has so far played a big role and we have some quality spinners who can defend any target and can run through the best batting line-up,” he said. “Our pace attack is also well balanced and so I feel we have a good chance.”
On the UAE hosting the first two weeks of the upcoming IPL, Kaluwitharana added: “It is a huge opportunity for the UAE and they have to make sure that they make the most of it. Once you start making the best use of the infrastructure you have, then things will automatically start rolling for the UAE. The IPL gives them that opportunity and I’m sure they will be looking to make it a smash hit.”