The original game changers

Highest impact ODI players in Sri Lanka's history.


Continuing in our series of pieces on each country's ODI history, we go to Sri Lanka. From 1975 to 2012 (before the start of their current series against India), Sri Lanka played 667 matches and won 312 with a win loss ratio of 0.96. Their highest score is 443, lowest 43. They won the World Cup in 1996 and finished as runners-up in 2007 and 2011.

We present three lists - of players, batsmen and bowlers. The minimum qualification to be on these lists is to have played 75 matches. A match is considered in this system only when there is a result, and if the player has bowled or batted, as the case may be.

Here are the highest impact ODI players in Sri Lanka's history.


So, there are 8 specialist batsmen, 10 specialist bowlers and two all-rounders amidst the highest impact 20 players in Sri Lankan ODI cricket history; an indicator to Sri Lanka's image of being a well-balanced side in the international arena.

Unsurprisingly, it is Sanath Jayasuriya who tops the list and emerges as the highest impact player in Sri Lanka's ODI history. Jayasuriya's 12 SDs as a player confirms his billing of a game-changer in the Sri Lankan team and his tally is also the joint-highest (with Wasim Akram) by any player in the history of ODI cricket. Alongwith being one of the most explosive openers of all time, Jayasuriya was no mean achiever with the ball. He is one of the only two players (on this list) from Sri Lanka to have an all-round impact (both Batting and Bowling IMPACT above 1) and importantly has 2 SDs solely as a bowler.

Even though Kumar Sangakarra can be considered as one of the modern greats of the game, it is perhaps a bit surprising to see him at the no.2 spot. Besides his role as wicketkeeper and captain, Sangakkara is Sri Lanka's fourth-highest impact batsman in their ODI history and his tally of 6 SDs is also the joint-highest (with Adam Gilchrist) in the world for any wicket-keeper batsman. His high number of SDs also helps explaining his influence and importance to the Sri Lankan team in the recent past.

Aravinda de Silva is one of the most iconic figures in the Sri Lankan cricketing history and makes it high on this list because of his all-round abilities. His 7 SDs as a player is also the second-highest for a Sri Lankan and shows his valuable contribution to the team, more so because he started his career at a time (1984) when Sri Lanka were still minnows in the international circuit and de Silva played a major role in changing that status.

The popular notion of Arjuna Ranatunga being the best captain for Sri Lanka in their ODI history holds true as he emerges as the highest impact captain in Sri Lanka's ODI history. However, it is his influence as a player too which is quite remarkable. Even though he narrowly misses out on being classified as an all-rounder (Bowling IMPACT doesn't touch 1), his 6 SDs mark him out as one of the best Sri Lankan batsmen during his era.

Muttiah Muralitharan's and Chaminda Vaas' positions are due to their batting inadequacies, although when it comes to bowling, Muralitharan clearly leads as the highest impact Sri Lankan bowler in their ODI history and has 6 SDs to his credit whereas Vaas has 5. Their presence in the same bowling attack was the primary reason for Sri Lanka's bowling might in the mid-1990s.

The number of utility players present on this list also embodies the structure of the Sri Lankan cricket team that we have come to see for a very long time. So, even though the likes of Upul Chandana, Kumar Dharmasena and Asanka Gurusinha have a comparatively much lower Career IMPACT, it is important to note that they all were a part of the World Cup-winning team in 1996. In fact, out of the 20 players from this list 11 represented Sri Lanka during their 1996 World Cup campaign.

There are 6 players from the present playing generation who feature in this list which is indicative of both-their relative decline but also their promise.


When it comes to batting, as many as four batsmen from the present playing generation make it to the list, namely- Kumar Sangakarra, Mahela Jayawardene, Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan which goes to show the batting might the current unit possesses. Interestingly, they also form the top four of the current Sri Lankan batting line up.


Sanath Jayasuriya's presence at the top is primarily due to his 8 SDs as a batsman which is actually the second-highest (joint) by a batsman in the history of ODI cricket. His failure rate of 50% is considerably high but is naturally expected with the slam-bang style of play he is associated with. It is also interesting to note that apart from his Strike Rate IMPACT, he doesn't top any of the individual batting parameters for Sri Lanka.

Aravinda de Silva establishes his position as one of the greatest batsmen in Sri Lankan ODI history and as one of the most well-balanced batsman of his generation. He was good in defending, spectacular in launching counter-attacks and extremely calm in pressure situations. It is also revealing that 49% of the time De Silva came in to bat in his ODI career, he was under pressure. He faced pressure in 152 ODI innings (the second-highest for a Sri Lankan batsmen, just one innings short of Jayawardene) and absorbed it successfully 34% of the time. His billing of a big match player can also be understood from the fact that his highest match impact performance actually came in the 1996 World Cup final where he took 3-42 off 9 overs while bowling and followed it up by scoring an unbeaten 107 off 124 balls against Australia to seal the title. It is also the second highest match impact performance (series context) by a Sri Lankan in their ODI history.

One of the biggest revelations on this list is Marvan Atapattu at the 3rd position. Even though he was always considered a classy batsman, he was never seen in the same league as Jayasuriya or de Silva. However, it is really interesting to note that out of the 6 individual batting parameters, Atapattu tops 4 of them for Sri Lanka. Along with his 5 SDs and him being Sri Lanka's most consistent batsman in their ODI history (lowest failure rate - remarkable for a batsman who began his ODI career with 69 runs in 9 innings), Atapattu can be considered as one of the legends of Sri Lankan ODI cricket.

Mahela Jayawardene coming in at no.7 may be a bit of a surprise to some but the fact remains that he has been a relatively inconsistent player in the ODI format compared to his standards in Test cricket. In fact, even though he has three SDs as a batsman, his failure rate of 54% is one of the worst amongst these Sri Lankan batsmen which is a bit surprising given his image of being a reliable batsman for Sri Lanka in the middle-order.


The presence of Upul Tharanga on this list is a positive sign for the future of Sri Lankan cricket. Even though Tharanga doesn't have a single SD to his name, his run scoring propensity (Runs Tally IMPACT) puts him on this list. His combination with Tillakaratne Dilshan (who is placed 6th on this list) at the top of the order has done wonders for Sri Lanka in the recent past and both of them make for a highly promising pair still.

NOTE: If the cut-off is lowered to 50 matches (from 75), Roy Dias (1.42) becomes the tenth-highest impact batsman for Sri Lanka in their history of ODI cricket.

The stories that unfold on various batting parameters are revealing.

When it comes to Runs Tally IMPACT (proportion of match runs made through career), the highest impact batsmen are Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda De Silva and Marvan Atapattu.

The highest Strike Rate IMPACT batsmen (highest strike rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda De Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga.

The best Pressure IMPACT batsmen (those who absorbed the most pressure that came about due to fall of wickets) are Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara and Asanka Gurusinha.

The batsmen with the highest Partnership Building IMPACT (who built the most partnerships in the middle) are Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara and Aravinda De Silva.

The best Chasing IMPACT batsmen (who registered the highest impact while chasing a target) are Marvan Atapattu, Aravinda De Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga.

The batsmen with the lowest failure rates (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara and Arjuna Ranatunga.

The Highest Impact Batting Performances in Sri Lanka's ODI history:

1. ST Jayasuriya - 189 off 161 v India, Sharjah, 2000 - Batting IMPACT 16.37

In an exhibition of brutal hitting, Sanath Jayasuriya blasted open the Indian bowling attack in this final encounter of the Coca Cola Champions Trophy in 1999. Jayasuriya's knock came at a time when Sri Lanka were struggling at 116-4 off 28 overs and propelled them to a score of 299 runs. India, in reply, collapsed to the lowest ever score in their ODI history and managed to score only 54 runs. Jayasuriya's innings till date is not only the highest individual score by a Sri Lankan batsman in an ODI innings but is also the highest impact batting performance in the history of ODI cricket.

2. TM Dilshan - 137 not out off 139 v Pakistan, Lahore, 2009 - Batting IMPACT 9.24

Even though Tillakaratne Dilshan wasn't at his usual attacking best in this innings, he made sure that the Sri Lankans didn't lose early wickets under overcast conditions against a competent Pakistani bowling attack and scored 100 off 119 balls (slow by his standards) before teeing off at the end to see Sri Lanka through to a total of 309. In reply, the entire Pakistani team could muster up only 75 runs which eventually saw the series going 2-1 to Sri Lanka's favour.

3. ST Jayasuriya - 125 off 114 v India, Karachi, 2008 - Batting IMPACT 9.11

With Sri Lanka faltering at 66-4 in 12 overs, the much needed change of course in their innings was provided by their veteran opener. Jayasuriya steadied the ship alongwith Dilshan and in his usual aggressive manner gave the Sri Lankan innings a much needed thrust to take them to a total of 275 runs. In reply, India fell short by a margin of 100 runs which resulted in an Asia Cup win for the Lankans. 

The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. When it comes to a match context also, Sanath Jayasuriya's above mentioned knock of 189 off 161 balls registers as the highest impact batting performance in the history of Sri Lankan ODI cricket. Sanath Jayasuriya's unbeaten knock of 151 off 120 balls v India (Mumbai, 1997)  and Thilan Samaraweera's 104 not out off 124 balls v New Zealand (Colombo, 2009) are the second and the third highest impact batting performances in a match context, respectively.

Aravinda de Silva's twin classics in the knockout stages of the 1996 World Cup - 66 off 63 v India in the semis (after his team was 1 for 2) and 107 off 124 in the final (after his team was 23-2) may not register amongst the peak-highest on the impact scale in a match or series level (as it does not distinguish between World Cups and other tournaments) but in terms of the individual weight of tournament-defining performances, it is emphatically right up there in Sri Lankan ODI cricket history.


Muttiah Muralitharan being the highest impact Sri Lankan ODI bowler is a ho-hum fact, of course. Muralitharan also makes it to the list of the top ten highest impact bowlers (10th place) in the history of ODI cricket. His consistency is unparalleled by any Sri Lankan bowler (lowest failure rate) and is also the third most consistent ODI bowler in the world (after Garner and McGrath). His Partnership Breaking IMPACT is also the second highest in the world (after Martin Snedden). Talking of his big match abilities, he has 5 SDs as a bowler which is also the highest for any spinner in the ODI format and the 5th best for any bowler, overall.

Although many would have expected Vaas to come in at the second place, Lasith Malinga pips him to the 2nd spot on the basis of his wicket taking ability (Wickets Tally IMPACT) for which he is well-known for. Malinga's role as a finisher in the ODI format can also be understood from the fact that he has the second-highest Lower Order Wickets IMPACT (dismissing batsmen from nos. 8-11) in the world (after Saqlain Mushtaq). It is also interesting to note that even though many consider Malinga as a highly restrictive bowler, his Economy IMPACT in the ODI format is actually in the negative zone.

Chaminda Vaas' popular image of being a highly consistent bowler is well brought out from the fact that he is actually the second most consistent bowler for Sri Lanka in the ODI format (after Muralitharan). His tally of 3 SDs as a bowler is also the highest by any Sri Lankan pacer and proves his legacy in the ODI format.

The emergence of Nuwan Kulasekara onto the international scene has been highly impressive and with the passage of time he has transformed himself into a genuine wicket-taking bowler for Sri Lanka during the opening overs. His new ball partnership with Malinga is one of the things to look out for in the near future and even though he has had a brief career of only 118 ODIs, he already has 2 SDs in his account which also shows his ability to perform in big-match situations.

Kumar Dharmasena is best remembered as a lanky off-spinner supporting Muttiah Muralitharan during Sri Lanka's '96 World Cup campaign and was one of the four spinners deployed by Sri Lanka during that phase. Dharmasena's crucial contributions often got camouflaged under Muralitharan's brilliance but his restrictive abilities along with his ability to break partnerships during the middle-overs made him the target-man for Ranatunga to go to. Even though his ODI career was limited to only 142 matches, he still has 2 SDs to his name which just goes on to show the value of his performances to the Lankan national team.

Even though players like Dilhara Fernando, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Zoysa and Upul Chandana have given performances from time to time for the Lankan national team, it is their inconsistency (relatively poor failure rates) as a bowler which has more often than not cost their place in the team. The four of them combined have only 2 SDs and even though they were always a part of the bigger picture (supporting Muralitharan, Vaas) they failed to step up individually as strike bowlers when required.

NOTE: If the cut-off is lowered to 50 matches (from 75), Ajantha Mendis (2.19) becomes the second-highest impact bowler for Sri Lanka in their history of ODI cricket. It is also baffling to see the selectors ignore him consistently for the national team despite his high impact performances.

The highest impact players in all bowling parameters are quite revealing.

When it comes to Top/Middle-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (wickets taken from nos. 1-7 in most cases), the highest impact bowlers are Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas.

Lower-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (batsmen nos. 8-11) - highest impact bowlers are Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Upul Chandana.

The highest Economy IMPACT bowlers (lowest economy rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Dharmasena.

The highest impact Partnership-breaking bowlers are Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena and Sanath Jayasuriya.

The bowlers with the highest Pressure Building IMPACT (taking quick wickets to put opposition under pressure) are Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof.

The bowlers with the lowest failure rate (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga.

Top 3 Bowling Innings (Series/tournament context):

1. BAW Mendis - 6 for 13 in 8 overs v India, Karachi, 2008 - Bowling IMPACT 8.71

After Jayasuriya had initially played a breathtaking knock of 125 runs to boost the Sri Lankan total to 275 runs, Mendis drove in all the final nails in the coffin to wrest away the initiative Sehwag had generated for India. With Sehwag going blitzkrieg at one end (60 off 36 balls) and India at 76-1 after 9 overs, Sri Lanka needed a break-through which was duly provided by Ajantha Mendis. He prised open the entire Indian middle-order alongwith the wicket of Sehwag and by the time he had finished India were tottering at 154-8 off 32 overs with their chances of winning the Asia Cup gone.

2. WPUJC Vaas - 5 for 14 in 9.3 overs v India, Sharjah, 2000 - Bowling IMPACT 7.73

Chasing 300, India had earlier been tormented by a Jayasuriya classic and to their misery and dismay had to endure the brilliance of Chaminda Vaas' bowling display in the second half. Vaas took out the Indian top four in his first spell of 4 overs to reduce them to 18-4 before coming back to finish off the match to give a thumping 245 runs victory to Sri Lanka.

3. M Muralitharan - 5 for 34 in 10 overs v England, London, 1998 - Bowling IMPACT 7.19

With England getting off to a solid start, thanks to their opening partnership of 132 runs between Nick Knight and Michael Atherton, Muttiah Muralitharan was brought into the attack to stifle the English batting line-up. He did more than that as he picked out 5 of the top 6 English batsmen and eventually restricted them to a total of 256 runs. In reply, Sri Lanka chased down the target with 5 wickets in hand and in the process sealed the Emirates Triangular Tournament in their favour.

The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. When it comes to a match context, Farveez Maharoof's 6-14 v West Indies (Mumbai, 2006) registers as the highest impact bowling performance in the history of Sri Lankan ODI cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan's 7-30 v India (Sharjah, 2000) and his 5-9 v New Zealand (Sharjah, 2002) are the second and the third highest impact bowling performances in a match context, respectively.

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