Aravinda de Silva is the golden boy of Sri Lankan cricket.

His finest hour was surely his man-of-the-match display during the 1996 World Cup final when he produced a great all-round performance to help Sri Lanka to a famous victory over hot favourites Australia. It meant that Sri Lanka were crowned world champions of cricket and de Silva–who had hit an unbeaten 107, taken three wickets and two catches in the final–was hailed as a national hero.

But he was not just a World-Cup wonder and after those amazing achievements, he went on to score seven Test centuries in 12 innings.

Without any doubt one of the world’s most exciting batsmen, former Kent player de Silva also proves a big hit with his autobiography. It is an honest and profound account of both his life and career, which are both closely linked with the religion of Buddhism.

He sees the game of cricket as a “great definer of character”, which is a refreshing viewpoint in an age when top-class sport seems to be all about superstars on big salaries and detached from the common people. De Silva is certainly down to earth and simplistic in the way he looks at the world. It all comes from the heart.

There is a generous foreword from former Australian Test captain Ian Chappell, which sets a deep-thinking tone for the rest of the book. Photographs and statistical records enhance the book’s richness, but it is somewhat surprising that there is no contents page. The chapters are simply numbered and with no index either; anyone in a hurry looking for a particular occasion or event would be stumped.

But this is still a fascinating book about an exciting player who has added variety and colour to cricket. It is just a shame that de Silva and his Sri Lankan side could not follow up their 1996 World Cup heroics in the 1999 event–they went out at the first stage. This book will survive much longer.

Aravinda: My Autobiography




  1. Anonymous says:

    I came to this book not really knowing Aravinda de Silva, and didn’t really think it would have anything much to say. Hence even though it came out last year, I hadn’t bought it. Boy, had I missed out! The glowing review in Wisden 2000 and the fact thata quote from this book is the epigraph to Wisden 2000 alerted me to the fact that maybe there was actually something worthwhile here.

    I read the book in one sitting, I couldn’t put it down.

    Hooked as I was by the story of triumph against adversity and richly entertained by all the insights and anecdotes from a life led as Sri Lanka’s current No. 1 batsman who will go down as an all-time great.

    Pulled as I was by the narrative rush which relates the rollercoaster ride of international cricket, the pressures and pitfalls.

    Driven as I was by the need to find out what makes a man like Aravinda try to be the best that he can be, when there is so much going against him.

    Cut to the quick as I was by all the stories of politics, snobbery and infighting which is so much a part of the Sri Lankan scene.

    I was hit for six by his dramatic telling pf encounters with Imran Khan, Merv Hughes, Wasim Akram and the like, and nudged into laughter by his affectionate and witty portraits of Ranatunga, Miandad, Jayasuriya, Tendulkar, Warne and English cricketers.

    There is phrase-makinghere as powerful as his batting – ” I have a tendency to put on weight quicker than someone who double-crosses the Mafia puts on concrete boots” – and throughout, the tone is heartfelt and engaging.

    If I take one lesson away from this (and I read cricket books to take lessons in how to play and live) it is that “as you are in cricket you are in life”. If one does things in the right spirit then success will happen. Not every time, but certainly for ever.

    In honesty, I cannot give it 5 stars however, because the book is diabolically edited with no index, chapter headings, colour pictures or even proper statistics. I think Aravinda (and his co-writer) have been badly let down by their team.

    It is a book written in the right spirit however, and is a credit to the game and cricket literature.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  2. Wow ! After reading this man’s story, I feel like I’ve lived his life ! Very dense and detailed, yet somehow never boring, de Silva takes you right inside the game.

    Few of us will ever join him on the world stage, but everyone after reading the book will feel they have really tasted life as an international cricketer.

    The lack of colour pictures and index should spoil the reading experience a little, but somehow doesn’t. In a way, it makes you pay a little more attention to his vivid stream-of-consciousness technique.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Anonymous says:

    An amazingly enriching read. Astonishingly, we have here a cricket book that goes beyond mere the banal reminiscences, chuckles and chortles and score-settlings that are so typical of the sports autobiography right into the very heart of the game itself.

    Incredibly wide-ranging, de Silva brings insights from baseball, basketball, boxing,Buddhism, business, marriage, motor racing, parenting, soccer and tennis in order to make his point that nothing on and off the cricket-pitch is achieved without guts and desire, the determination to do the best for oneself and one’s team. This is obviously a man who wants to communicate all his hard-earned knowledge for the good of his readers.

    I learned a lot about someone whom I have actually tended to overlook throughout his long career.

    “Aravinda” is a terrific eye-opener on all cricket matters and really made me feel that reading this book was time very well-spent.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s a simple story – a boy from nowhere grows up to be one of the best cricketers in the world. It’s a complex story too – on the way to maturity this batsman made every single possible mistake that could be made. And he didn’t always immediately learn from his mistakes.

    Aravinda de Silva’s success has come only after deep reflection and understanding of what it would take for him to be the best that he could be. As he says of his younger, mercurial self for whom boundaries were everything :”if I’d had a brain I’d have been really dangerous”. He learns that “big hits only get you so far”. He adjusts his game accordingly when he realises that merely being flamboyant and exciting didn’t always mean that he ended up the ultimate match-winner.

    It seems that if anything, it was his team-mates’ rise from being international cricket’s minnows and pushovers that impressed upon him the need to get better and really turn on his brain and talents to the max. A journey that led to their 1996 World Cup triumph with de Silva hitting that incredible 100.

    Surprisingly modest for such an ego-laden trade, Aravinda devotes far more of his writing energies to recounting the greats of his era – Viv Richards, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Javed Miandad, Shane Warne – than he does in lauding his own mighty efforts and catalogue of batting records. And the fact that apparently he seems to be the only professional cricketer driving a Ferrari (though there is a picture of the proud owner leaning against the bonnet).

    It must be something to do with his Buddhist beliefs, the Sri Lankan flavour of which comes out very interestingly. And for bringing to light and explaining what it is that makes Sri Lankan cricketers so good to watch win, lose or draw, the book is to be commended.

    Sri Lankan cricketers had to suffer much during their agonising rise to the top. What this book does is almost give the blueprint for success on and off the pitch. These seem to be: listen to your elders (almost always); work things out for yourself; think of your responsibilities to others; never ever be boring !

    This is the kind of book that will win friends and influence people, even those who know little about cricket or the Sri Lankans. Almost a 5-star review were it not for the fact that there is no index or chapter headings provided by the publishers, so all the highly entertaining nuggets of insider-gossip and insight have to be read only by actually thoroughly reading the book ! More colour pictures would have been nice too.

    A marvellous book. One of the best sports books I have ever read.
    Rating: 4 / 5

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