Bringing out the best of Thisara Perera

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(Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

In New Zealand last week, Thisara Perera threw caution to the wind after Sri Lanka’s run chase in the second ODI had got off to a disastrous start. The left-hander broke a series of cricket records and into the bargain ended up with a fine 140, his maiden international hundred and of course his career best score. Never have we witnessed such brutal hitting by a Sri Lankan batsman since the heydays of Sanath Jayasuriya. Watch out for Thisara, he is going to hurt the pride of a lot of bowlers during the World Cup.

Thisara was quick to pay tribute to Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha and sacked Batting Coach Tilan Samaraweera. Haturusingha last year took up a job that very few wanted. Gradually he seems to be unearthing the best out of some of his charges, something that we had failed to do for years.

It is doubtful whether Hathurusingha will be given the freedom that he used to enjoy before Sri Lanka’s submission to England in November last year. But at least he needs to be treated with respect and should be allowed to do a job rather than taking those who concoct stories seriously.

Thisara over the years has been a massive disappointment. When he made his debut aged 20 of all places at Eden Gardens, there were high expectations, but he lacked consistency.

Although we speak highly of his record breaking efforts last week, Thisara in fact had an excellent 2018 and he was perhaps the team’s most consistent player.

Here are the statistics. In 2018, he was Sri Lanka’s top scorer in ODI cricket with 415 runs to his name. That’s not all, his medium pace fetched Sri Lanka 25 scalps and only Akila Dananjaya with 28 wickets had claimed more wickets.  A batting average of 34 and a bowling average of 20 were indications that he was on right path to become Sri Lanka’s version of Lance Klusener.

Last year on a couple of occasions he threatened to post a big hundred but missed out. He cashed in against the Kiwis. Why do you think Thisara has started doing well suddenly? How has the transformation taken place? Here’s why Hathurusingha deserves the credit for that.

One of the first things that Hathurusingha did since taking over was to get Thisara playing First Class cricket again. The reason was that the Head Coach wanted Thisara to work on his defense by playing First Class cricket. Facing more balls was the best way to improve defense argued Hathurusignha.

When it comes to bowling, First Class cricket allowed Thisara to work on his stock ball. There were technical adjustments as well – improving the off-side play for example. Results were devastating. Thisara didn’t initially buy the argument that he should start playing First Class cricket again. Initially he was reluctant but eventually consented. Given his exploits in 2018 it was surprising that he wasn’t picked by any of the IPL franchises.

Thisara has been mismanaged somewhat in the last ten years. Very few managed to make him realize his immense potential. Very few were willing to experiment as well by sending him up in the order when the required run rate was getting beyond the means. Francois Du Plessis, the captain of World XI benefited by those experiments when he promoted Thisara to number five when the World XI took on Pakistan in Lahore two years ago. Thisara guided World XI to a thrilling win with a ball to spare smashing an unbeaten 47 off just 19 deliveries.

So did Shahid Afridi, who captained World XI against West Indies at Lord’s last year. Thisara made an unbeaten 61 on that instance after being promoted again.

Such creative thinking has been absent in the Sri Lankan think tank. Hathurusingha has been able to think out of the box rather than let his all-rounder waste his precious talent at number eight.

There have been some blunders as well over the last ten years. Appointing him captain was one such. Not all good players become good captains. Captaincy is an art and it is meant for the brilliant brains of Mike Bradley, Kumar Sangakkara and Imran Khan.

Not all faults belong to the authorities though. Thisara himself is to be blamed for mismanaging his career. At times he has neglected his fitness. Not too long ago he bowled at a lively pace, but in recent times he has been overweight, sloppy on the field and has lacked pace.

This being the World Cup year, Sri Lanka will be looking to Thisara to help them give those match winning efforts consistently. Expect him to break a few more records this year as he has already done in New Zealand. After years of underachieving he has finally started to come up with some eye-catching performances and we can do well without all these social media detractions.

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ThePapare.com