There is a lot of Aravinda de Silva in Dhananjaya de Silva; the brisk gait to the middle, same confidence, the range of strokes and the aura of a domineering batsman who made no compromise with the situation. Aravinda believed in dictating. Dhananjaya follows the same philosophy. On a sun-baked Ferozeshah Kotla, with the demons of a polluted air driven away for some time, it was a day of lovely cricket as Sri Lanka defied India and forced an honourable draw in the third Test.
India won the series 1-0, having triumphed in the second Test at Nagpur, but Sri Lanka took home some good memories, especially the clinically constructed hundred by Dhananjaya, playing his 11th Test.
Aravinda was a package of delight when toying with bowlers. He was the face of Sri Lankan cricket really. Dhananjaya may or may not reach that stature but his innings belonged to the realm of classics. Flawless, purposeful and immensely entertaining, it was an innings that lent respect to Sri Lankan cricket. Few would have backed this team which had suffered a 3-0 pasting at the hands of India early this year. This result, and the hundred by Dhananjaya, provided lot of fillip to this beleaguered team.
Resuming at 31 for three, Sri Lanka lost first-innings centurion Angelo Mathews within three runs. The blow caused greater agony for the Lankan dressing room when it discovered that Mathews was out to a no-ball from Ravindra Jadeja. Much later Jadeja had castled Dinesh Chandimal on 23 but this time the no-ball was detected in time. The 112-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Dhananjaya and Chandimal was one of the brightest phases of this series for Sri Lanka.
For those who expected an Indian victory, not misplaced after the three-wicket strike on Tuesday, the day did not turn out joyful. In Dhananjaya, the Sri Lankans had a man who backed himself from the world go to play his natural game. He was not going to curtail himself and he did not. Pace and spin was dealt with adroitly and the flurry of shots only demonstrated his repertoire.
The Indian bowlers tried every trick but Dhananjaya was not to be budged. He was unrelenting when the ball was pitched short. If not, he would step out with authority and place it stunningly between the gaps. It was an innings executed with the assurance of a champion because Dhananjaya was determined to leave his stamp on the contest.
The emergence of Sri Lanka from the haze of uncertainty and self-belief was orchestrated by the 26-year-old Dhananjaya. His footwork was a treat as he picked the line early and found endless ways of beating the field. He did not flinch from the responsibility by looking to play a defensive role. He knew the best way to make a statement was to stay authoritative and in the process he came to connect with the reality of the challenge. He just played his shots and played them well too.
Not that the Indians did not try. There was no reason to doubt their effort but the fact was Dhananjaya, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella and Chandimal stood up and defied the attack. For debutant Roshen it was a confidence-boosting knock following the zero in the first innings. Roshen certainly is a special talent who provides depth to the Sri Lankan batting, not to forget Dickwella, a compulsive strokeplayer and a joy to watch too.
The draw was a fair result and a boost to Sri Lanka’s rebuilding process. Aravinda de Silva would have loved Dhananjaya’s brilliance this afternoon. It was a throwback to his glorious times. (Courtesy The Hindu)