Pinnaduwage Aravinda de Silva can be called the first superstar of Sri Lankan cricket and with the willow was a class apart; before Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, and even Sanath Jayasuriya, there was him. Born October 17, 1965, de Silva was not only Sri Lanka’s World Cup 1996 hero but also the cricketer who inspired a generation in the island to take up the sport.
On his 56th birthday, look at some interesting facts about the pocket-sized Lankan legend Aravinda de Silva.
1. Early education
De Silva’s father Sam found it difficult to get him to a suitable school. His father later approached the principal of DS Senanayake College RIT Alles who agreed to admit the young boy to grade one. He soon began making a name for himself with his attractive batting.
2. The pocket rocket
De Silva is short even by Sri Lankan standards; his 5’3″ height often made the bat look out of proportion, but despite the small structure, he was an extremely strong square of the wicket.
3. First-Class debut
De Silva made his First-Class debut for Sri Lanka Board President’s XI against the touring Zimbabwe side in 1983. Batting at No. 6, the then-18-year-old scored an unbeaten 23.
4. ODI and List A debut in the same game
De Silva’s List A debut came in his first One-Day International (ODI). So talented was he that he was already considered to be an international prospect. He did not have a great start though, and was bowled by Richard Hadlee for 8.
5. Test debut at 18
De Silva was a teenager when he made his Test debut, against England at Lord’s. The Test is best-remembered for Duleep Mendis’ onslaught on Ian Botham. De Silva had an off game and scored 19 runs.
6. A grand 20th birthday
De Silva stepped out of his teens with his maiden Test ton. It was his 5th Test and he was playing Pakistan at Faisalabad. He made the day special by remaining 93 not out on his 20th birthday. The following day he brought up his maiden Test hundred. He batted for eight and half hours for his 122.
7. Mad Max
In the early part of his career, de Silva was inconsistent and often got out to rash shots. He was given the nickname Mad Max and the name stuck.
8. Second to Big Viv
Wisden listed the top 100 batting performances in ODIs in 2002, and it contains as many as six entries for de Silva; only one entry less than the West Indian legend Viv Richards. In fact, his hundred in the World Cup 1996 final is rated as No. 8 on the list.
De Silva led the Sri Lankan side in the 1992 World Cup. In the 1990s, de Silva led Sri Lanka in 18 ODIs and 6 Tests. He never managed to win a Test as captain.
10. Kent’s star
De Silva played county cricket for Kent in 1995. Though Kent were placed at the bottom of the table with only 132 points, de Silva made the most of his county outing. He ended up as the third-highest run-getter in the championship after Mark Ramprakash and Nasser Hussain. De Silva scored 1,781 runs in the championship at 59.36. He slammed seven tons.
11. 1996 World Cup
Sachin Tendulkar may have scored the most runs in the 1996 World Cup but it was de Silva who was the real hero. He amassed 448 from six games at 89.60 and at a staggering strike-rate of 107.69 unheard of in the pre-T20 days. In addition to that he picked up 4 wickets at 21.75.
12. The Man of the Semi and Final
Sri Lanka were in a spot of bother in the semi-final of the 1996 World Cup against India at Eden Gardens. Having lost two wickets for one run, it was de Silva’s blitz that brought Sri Lanka back in the game. He scored 66 from 47 and later picked up the wicket of Nayan Mongia.
In the final, his bowling figures of 9-0-42-3 restricted Australia to 241 and later with the bat, he scored 107 not out, as Sri Lanka won the title for the first time. He was adjudged the Man of the Match in both the games. He was the third player after Clive Lloyd and Richards to score a hundred in the World Cup final, and is the only cricketer till date to have scored a hundred and picked up a three-wicket haul in the tournament’s finale.
13. Wisden Cricketer of the Year
De Silva was one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1996. His 112 off 95 balls in the Benson and Hedges final was considered to be one of the finest knocks in county cricket in 1995.
14. Fast cars
De Silva has a sweet tooth and loves cakes. As much as the game, de Silva also loves fast cars.
Having retired from Test cricket in 2002, de Silva called curtains on his glorious career right after the 2003 World Cup. Sri Lanka made it to the semi-final and lost the game against Australia at Port Elizabeth. In his last innings, de Silva was run out for 11.
16. An impressive record
De Silva’s career records may not highlight his greatness as he was inconsistent in the early part, but nevertheless they still make for impressive viewing. De Silva scored 6,361 runs from 93 Tests at 42.97 and 9,284 runs at 34.90 from 308 ODIs. De Silva also has 135 wickets to his name. He averages 48.38 in First-Class cricket and only 29.17 with the ball.
De Silva came out with his autobiography titled Aravinda: My Autobiography. He wrote about how Buddhism played a role in his journey and success.
De Silva was the head of the selection committee when the Sri Lankan side made it to another World Cup final in 2011. After the World Cup he stepped down.
19. Theft at his home
Days after his 49th birthday, when de Silva and his wife were out abroad for a vacation, there was a theft at his house. As reported, cash worth Rs 5 million was missing from the safe.