Monday, January 2, 2012

The Sri Lankan Legend Known as 'Satha'

The history of the game is full of players who have had us in complete awe of the mastery they have displayed in their time on centre stage. These players fall in to two categories with the first being the immortals who garnered their reputation through a style reminiscent of an accountants efficiency and embodying that same ho hum charisma.

On the other side of the coin are the types that have a swagger and a real saviour faire in their play. That not only makes us respect them for their greatness, but compel us to watch their every move on an off the field due to their aura. Shane Warne instantly comes to mind to explain this, a player that had everyone under his spell for his cricketing genius as well as just making all us mere mortals want to know everything bout him.

Mahadevan Sathasivam, a Sri Lankan master batsman that had everyone wide eyed watching his play and duly jaw dropped at his sublime mastery was one in the same. He not only had all in raptures due to his skill, but the style that he oozed while displaying this mastery had everyone wax lyrically about him.

'His walk to the middle, with his cap at a rakish angle, had style. The nonchalant way he took guard and his stance had style. His every movement had feline grace.'

'Satha had the eye of a hawk the wrists of a fencer the feet of a dancer. All combined to make a Satha innings a taste of bubbly champagne. '

Truckloads of that 'it factor' that makes up the shiniest of stars, but do not let his sublime manner fool you into believing he was merely a 'pretty player' for the boy could bat in a manner comparable to any. A few handy judges by the names of Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Frank Worrell on seeing him labelled him 'the greatest batsman ever on earth.'

Huge call, but made to have credibility by the wide ranging view that like with all the greatest the opposition was irrelevant to 'Satha'. For he had that Brian Lara quality of making good bowling look distinctly average. On the back foot or front foot it was irrelevant for when Satha decided to flay balls would be rocketing to the pickets at a good rate of knots.

This was there for all to see in 1947 at the Chepauk Stadium where his majestically sublime 215 was regarded by many as the greatest innings seen at the ground.

 '...It was well worth going miles to see the beautiful batsmanship of Sathasivam. There was all the art and style in his innings which was played on dancing feet. He played all shots from the prettiest late cut to the fine leg glance which he did as much as wave it away from his presence. He was the complete master.'  

Adding to the mystique attached to the knock was that it was widely understood that when he 120* at the end of the 1st Day. He decided to go out on an all night bender of wine, women and song. Arriving bleary eyed the next morning, but still with enough of his senses intact to flay the bowling to all parts in completing his double ton.

Prompting this reaction from a very accomplished Test spinner and Indian Captain Ghulam Ahmed

'I have bowled at Bradman, Harvey, Hutton, Denis Compton, Keith Miller, The Terrible W s -Weekes, Worrel and Walcott. If you ask me a question, who is the most difficult batsman that I have ever bowled, I will mention a name that some times you will not know. He is M. Sathasivam of Ceylon. I will never forget how he thrashed me in Chennai.'

His Hollywood Box office like appeal followed him into his personal life where he became a real life villain with accusations of him killing his wife with an 'ammi kal', a cylindrical grinding-stone. His trial was the Sri Lankan version of the O.J.Simpson trial in the US with everyone having an opinion on it and all following it. On his defence proving it was his servant that carried out the dastardly deed he was seen as being carried out of the Court on the shoulders of his devotees.

'Satha'- Set Free!
On returning to the cricket field after a 5 year absence due to his legal issues to represent the Tamil Union his legend was again there for all to see. In the face of a young upstart bowler trying to behead him with a series of bumpers in the days before helmuts. Water off a ducks back for Satha, who duly eye balled the youngster who was trying to gain a notch on his belt telling him to not do that.

When the lad returned to his mark hurling down another thunderbolt aimed between Satha eyes it was reported in this manner.

'The batting maestro positioned himself well and hammered a mighty six and dispatched the ball over the mara trees and the ball was deposited at the nearby Havelock Rugby Ground. '

On retiring to Singapore, he completed his life of mystique by achieving the unparalleled feat of having Captained three separate Nations in Ceylon, Singapore and Malaysia.

A true Master in all regards of the word that would have been viewed as one of the greatest Test batsmen ever if he had the opportunity in 

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