You wouldn’t notice that Upul Tharanga has notched up 6951 runs in One-Day cricket. You wouldn’t also notice that the left-handed opener is the eighth highest run getter for Sri Lanka in the 50 over format. Having played his last ODI more than a year ago, hope is fading away that Upul can make a comeback and have a crack at that 7000 mark. But he is not giving up – playing the game for his beloved NCC, maintaining fitness and keeping the selectors in the loop about his whereabouts.
*Courtesy – The Island
Upul landed at the big stage aged 20 soon after Tom Moody had taken charge. The tall Australian was keen on ushering in youth to the senior set up and Upul was one of the players who benefited. Moody’s sound judgment was spot on. In his first year in the big stage, Upul had scored six ODI hundreds. Not just on slow, low turners of Colombo and Dambulla but at venues like Christchurch, Leeds, Lord’s, Ahmedabad and Mohali.
Some of them included World Records as well. In 2006, England had set up Sri Lanka a target of 322 to win the fifth and final ODI. A formidable total 15 years ago, but Sri Lanka were so good in chasing those days, they reached the target in 38 overs.
Upul (109) and Sanath Jayasuriya (152) had shared a World Record 286 run stand for the opening wicket in just 191 deliveries! That was some hitting and ended the international careers of some English players. Kabir Ali, who took the new ball never played for England again. So too Vikram Solanki. Sri Lanka completed a 5-0 whitewash that day in the heart of English cricket – Leeds.
However, the hundred that Upul cherishes most is the 120 he made at Lord’s on the same tour in what was the opening encounter of the series. Sri Lanka managed only 257 in that game and it wasn’t the easiest pitch to bat on.
Upul had a brief stint as Sri Lanka’s captain. Chosen to lead the side during one of the toughest phases for the team, the results didn’t go his way but he kept fighting. Upul was a team man. He had been an opening batsman throughout his career and when there were requirements for the team to introduce new openers, he willingly went down to the middle order and did a fine job.
More importantly, he was an exemplary character and set high standards during challenging times for Sri Lankan cricket where there were several corruption investigations.