For as long as the beautiful game of Cricket will endure, there’ll perhaps be three kinds of century makers. There’ll be those who will hit hundreds for fun. We’ve heard about Sir Don, if not had the pleasure of seeing him live. You’ve seen the great Sachin Tendulkar. You’ve been awed by Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers. Then there’ll be the ones who’ll come out of nowhere and score hundreds, when least expected. Think of Karun Nair, whose international career is sadly, nowhere for little fault of his own. Think Jason Gillespie.
And then, there’ll be those who will score centuries under pressure, often, amid the calamity of despair.
Right now, think of no one else but Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne.
To many, the recently-concluded Sri Lanka tour of India was a bilateral series, though in truth, it was sadly, a one-sided series.
We all know it, it’s just that for self entertainment and the sheer thrill of having seen Test cricket again, perhaps we won’t admit to it.
But if there was a man, just one single man from the Sri Lankan side who ensured that the game became a contest somewhat, if only on the day where it was imperative the result would come, then it was Dimuth Karunaratne.
There’ll always be two sides to analyse a century.
First, you’d measure it in the output it had on one’s team. On that count, Karunaratne’s century, his first in India, didn’t help much. Sri Lanka lost. But wasn’t it always on the cards? Was it like an unfathomable occurrance?
Second, you’d judge a century on the impact it had on the game eventually. And where that is concerned, you cannot discount that Dimuth Karunaratne’s century succeeded in delaying the inevitable that stared Sri Lanka in the eye.
From the time that they landed here in India up until the final delivery was played on day three, there was no win in the cards for Sri Lanka.
The only saving grace that they experienced- if not enjoyed- was the stubbornness shown by the man elected to lead the team. The very man who did actually lead from the front.
Facts be told, Dimuth Karunaratne’s impact in the just-completed Test could be ascertained by the duration for which Sri Lanka lasted in their final inning vis-a-vis where they stood in the first inning.
For not even lasting for thirty six overs when they first batted to, at last, hanging in there for nearly sixty overs, the left hander furthered the Lankan resistance when just nothing went the visitor’s way, barring the impressive 54 by Kusal Mendis.
And at all this time where Bumrah aimed at the stumps (before finally disturbing the Lankan captain’s), where Ashwin prodded the team’s dubious defences, where Jadeja didn’t cut any corners and where Patel was just as exemplary as he was against England last year, one man stayed put.
There was beauty, there was subdued joy in that one was aware that a defeat was on the cards, and lest it not be forgotten, a sense of calmness about all that Dimuth Karunaratne did.
The archetypal Test match resistance displayed by virtue of adjusting his technique.
Did you note the crouching stance, perhaps a bit more forward leaning than usual, in facing the spinners? Perhaps that is why Karunaratne was able to negotiate against an ace troika of spin on what clearly was a rank turner.
There were bad balls and there were good balls but Karunaratne negotiated both with a sense of commanding poise bordering on saintly ease.
Surely, you’ve done something right to draw applause from Kohli and the very man who rushes on to pat your back was the one who dismissed you.
Dimuth Karunaratne’s graceful walkback preceded arguably the sight to behold from Bangalore; Bumrah congratulating the Lankan skipper emerging as the postcard from what was a triumphant Test but one played with warmth.
While his team may have exited the gates of the M. Chinnaswamy as a defeated side, Karunaratne was anything but; he was a figure of grace amid the ensuing chaos.
A measured evidence of his success amplified by a telling stat that mustn’t be ignored in front of India’s commanding win.
In the first inning, all that the Sri Lankan side could last were 215 deliveries, but in the second, the opening batsman faced 174 on his own, which was almost half of what his team confronted.
And honestly, it’s not the first time that Karunaratne has battled confrontation with method and focus.
In 2021, his team had rued the lost opportunity of winning a Test in the Caribbean, the series ending quietly with two drawn games. Later, toward the end of the year, when the West Indies visited Sri Lanka, Dimuth Karunaratne was on the job.
In the First Test at Galle, the thinking batsman contributed 147 of his team’s 386, after which he’d come up again with an 83 in the third inning. You have to be a Test match frontman to garner 230 from a single contest.
Though the highlight of the year for Karunaratne was the 103 at the Wanderers- was it the most under-appreciated Test knock of the bygone year, a year where Kohli not making a hundred perhaps made more news than those who actually made one?
But that’s cricket. That’s how it’ll continue to unfold.
Those who’ll keep their heads down perhaps being creatures of habit will plod alongside those who’ll chirp and jump, making news outside of the game.
Not that Dimuth Karunaratne will mind, just as he may have not when despite scoring 902 Test runs at an average of 69 in 2021, he didn’t quite feature on our obsessive cricketing discussions that often begin at the breakfast table and go well beyond the last pint is served in our favourite bar.