One of my earliest memories of cricket goes back to the year 1992. It was an Australia v Sri Lanka match played at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo. Australia batted first and got around 250 in their 50 overs. The Sri Lankan openers that day were Roshan Mahanama and Hashan Tillakaratne. Both got out within the first few overs. Asanka Gurusinha at No. 3 made a painstakingly slow fifty. Aravinda de Silva came at No. 4 and smashed the Aussie attack that consisted of McDermott, Whitney, Dodemaide and Moody all over the park and made a run-a-ball hundred.
But just when it seemed like Sri Lanka was going to steal an unexpected win, Aravinda got out. Australia saw the opportunity and clawed their way back in with a couple of quick wickets, leaving Sri Lanka needing about 30 to win in the last 3 overs. At the crease, Sri Lanka had Arjuna Ranatunga who had to shepherd the tail, and finish the game.
Finishing chases in the subcontinent is an art as much as it is a science. Spinners slowing it down, forcing the batsman to generate all the power, the ball gripping off the surface and turning square at times, the discoloured white ball, the heat, batting gloves drenched with sweat. In my mind, there have been three great ODI finishers in subcontinental conditions – Javed Miandad, Arjuna Ranatunga and MS Dhoni.