Aravinda de Silva: Great Batsman are Celebrated for their Consistency

There was little about Aravinda de Silva that caught the eye, yet while playing, it never left him. For a fellow with a fondness for fast cars, there was nothing remotely aerodynamic about him. The image of Arjuna Ranatunga and de Silva perched on bar stools, plotting Australia’s downfall, was a lovely one. Of course, de Silva drank milk.
Arevida de Silva, 5 feet 3 inches on belligerent tiptoe, was found to be a mix of the effeminate and the masculine: the milk and the Ferrari, the high-pitched voice and pounding play. The squat, with the Aravinda de Silva helmet strap pulled under the chin, was delicacy and boldness in the strangest of containers.
He was as aggressive as Attila, yet he could stitch up attacks with the finesse of your mother doing embroidery. He played cricket like a man late for dinner with an actress, and oddly enough, he seemed like a leading man who was content playing cameos. He came, saw off a few bowlers, but stopped short of conquering. There was flourish and fullness to his strokes, but, in his earlier days, it often ended. He was in search of substance.
Later, he matured, but it was too late to conceal one particularly absurd statistic. In one-day cricket (pre-World Cup 2003), Aravinda de Silva had 11 hundred and 62 fifties, which suggested unfinished business. His peers reveal what a lopsided figure that was. Sachin Tendulkar had 33 hundreds and 56 fifties; Mark Waugh had 18 and 50; and Brian Lara had 15 and 48. But yes, de Silva’s name is more than worthy of standing alongside them.
For the world waking up to Sri Lankan cricket, Arjuna Ranatunga was the crafty one, and de Silva was the artist. In a time before Tendulkar, he remained a supreme commercial for subcontinental strokeplay. There were few shots he did not own, and fewer he did not dare to play. He pulled with élan, drove with fluency, and cut with surgical grace, unveiling a repertoire both bruising and breathtaking. He had seen, he said, “the worst of Sri Lankan cricket,” but in time it would come to signify its best. This growing up of man and country, side by side, was something to behold.
Asanka Gurusinha, who played alongside him, says now: “To me, he was the best batsman Sri Lanka ever produced. I have never seen a player who can control games as well as he did. He would just walk in and say, ‘I’m going to get a hundred’, and he would thrash the bowling.”
Great batsmen are celebrated for their consistency and their ability to sustain a certain excellence against varied bowlers, on distant pitches, and over time. Over the course of nearly 20 years, Arevinda de Silva was a man of such quantity and quality. But champions also leave behind one distinct footprint on the mind—a sort of emphatic and echoing advertisement of their genius. De Silva’s moment would arrive in the 1996 World Cup, where he won four Man of the Match awards, scored the third-highest number of runs, and compiled a century in the final.
But this writer’s enduring memory, and coincidentally Gurusinhas too, is of the semi-final against India, in which he compiled 66 runs after his team was two down for one run. He hit 14 fours along the way, presenting such an irresistible blend of command, courage, and precision that even to be an Indian was to be moved. It was a moment when we were reminded that a sport’s appreciation cannot be confined to borders and that beauty surpasses any base jingoism. It was also de Silva’s message that his quest was finally over. The style had found substance and was embraced tightly.
The defining moment of Arevinda Silva’s career was in the 1996 World Cup final at Lahore, when he scored a wonderful century against Australia after pinching three wickets with his off-spin to see Sri Lanka to the title.
Incredible Stat At one point in his career, he scored seven centuries in five Tests at a ground in Colombo. Overheard “When he packed his bags, he hugged each of us, and I have never known a professional sports team so close to tears.” Graham Cowdrey, teammate at Kent.
Stats: Tests 93 Runs 6361 HS 267 Average 42.97 Hundred 22 BB 3-30 Average 41.65
ODIS Matches 308 Runs 9284  Average 34.90 Hundreds 11 Fifties 64 HS 145  Average 40.10 BB 4-30
There was little about Aravinda de Silva that caught the eye, yet while playing, it never left him.
There was little about Aravinda de Silva that caught the eye, yet while playing, it never left him.