CWC Greatest Moments – World Cup History – A pinch-hitting opening pair changes the modern game in 1996 World Cup

Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana are probably the two players that every bowler from the 1996 World Cup fears and even has nightmares about them till date. So what exactly did they do? They changed the game as it has been, forever. How? The Sri Lankan opening batsmen hit almost every bowler they faced, out of the park, with absolute disdain.

Even though the fielding restrictions of only two fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle for the first 15 overs were brought in 1992, not many teams exploited it. Most teams still went the old-school way, conserving wickets upfront and then looking for quick runs at the back end of the innings. However, the Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga and team management decided to change the norm at the 1996 World Cup when they asked wicket-keeper batsman Romesh Kaluwitharana and all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya to open the innings and play as freely as they want.

The master-stroke by Ranatunga was in the fact that both of them were lower middle-order batsmen and even if they got out without scoring runs, it did not affect the team’s balance that much. The main batting line-up included legends and experienced players like Aravinda de Silva, Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama and Ranatunga himself with a young talent like Marvan Atapattu. So, the basic idea was to give the openers a free licence to score runs and fast.

Sanath Jayasuriya, one half of Sri Lanka’s destructive opening pair during the 1996 World Cup.(Photo credit should read ISHARA S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

They had the backing of the coach and captain to hit every loose ball if they felt like and ditch the conservative approach. The pair of Kalu and Jayasuriya destroyed every bowling line-up they faced and thus instilled fear in minds of the opposition. No one had ever faced or seen such onslaught from ball one in the history of cricket. The result was Sri Lanka already crossing the 50-run mark with the opposition not even completing their first 10 overs and even scoring 100 runs before the field restrictions were lifted, which was unheard of at the time.

Out of the two, Jayasuriya was the more prolific run-scorer as he hit the ball over the in-field and got boundaries and sixes at will. Australian fast-bowling legend Glenn McGrath rates Sanath Jayasuriya as one of the toughest batsmen he has ever bowled to in his career. He still remembers how Jayasuriya changed the game forever with his fearless hitting and the ability to hit the ball from word go. Jayasuriya was neither the highest run-scorer in the tournament nor was the leading wicket-taker but was awarded the Player of the Tournament for his all-round skills but mainly for the impact he had while opening the batting, helping Sri Lanka lift their first and only World Cup till date.

The biggest proof of how this opening pair of Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya changed the cricket lies in the fact that almost all the teams had similar opening batsmen in the 1999 World Cup. The ‘pinch-hitting World Cup of 1996’, gave rise to a new brand of cricket, which was the foundation stone for the entertaining T20 format in the future.

Latest News

ICC World Cup 2019 – Match 11 – Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, Preview, Probable XI, Head to Head Record

The 11th match of the ICC ODI World Cup 2019 will be played between two used-to-be Asian powerhouses Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Both teams have […]

Read More
See More

Fantasy Tips and Predictions