Having broken into the International Cricket Council’s Test team of the year, Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne says that scoring a Test hundred in Australia is high on his agenda but his main target is to become the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year over taking Indian skipper Virat Kohli.
Reporting from Brisbane
Karunaratne has had two excellent years in Test cricket in 2017 and 2018. Two years ago he became the first Sri Lankan since Kumar Sangakkara to complete 1000 runs in the calendar year and now he has broken into the ICC World XI for the first time.
“I set myself small goals. In 2017, although I made over 1000 runs that wasn’t good enough to get me to the ICC World XI. But this time it has become a reality. Feel pretty good about it as I worked hard on my game. I have small goals, but my next big target is to become the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year.
Sri Lanka have some tough assignments over the following four weeks with back to back Test series in Australia and South Africa and in order to do well in these games, Dimuth will have to score heavily. Sri Lanka have done well whenever Dimuth has scored big runs and their success in these series will depend on their premier Test batsman.
A green top awaits the Sri Lankans at the Gabba for the opening Test and instead of training under lights, Dimuth opted to skip training which was optional and to use that time looking at few of his video clips and those of the opposition bowlers.
“To be honest, I don’t like stuff like looking at the wicket and reading too much into it. That puts additional pressure on you. Why should you waste your energy thinking of how hard it is going to be. Instead, you are better off facing the challenge when the game gets underway. Take a look at the wicket on the morning and play the ball on the merit,” remarked Dimuth.
“Conditions will be tough no doubt but if we are able to get a decent first innings score then we can put Australia under pressure. That is what India did successfully during the recent series.”
“If we score 300 runs that will give us a good chance to win the game. I was chatting to Marvan Atapattu the other day and he was saying that if someone scores a hundred in Australia there is a good possibility that we will either win that game or draw it. So I am looking forward for the challenge.
“Winning a Test match in Australia will be a great achievement. We had some very good players over the years but we have not been able to achieve that. It is the batsmen who need to set up those decent scores to give the bowlers something to defend. That is the challenge. Australia may not have David Warner and Steve Smith, but still this is a good attack. Their bowlers have remained the same.
Sri Lanka’s Test players didn’t go home after the Test series in New Zealand and while the limited over games were on across the Tasman Sea, they came over to Australia to train at the Cricket Victoria Center for Excellence.
“We trained at St. Kilda where Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars train. It was a good preparation for the series and there was a decent fast bowling unit – a couple of First Class players and a couple of County cricketers. They were superior than the net bowlers we face. We had a good chance of getting use to conditions and we are ready to go.”
The Gabba has remained a fortress for Australian cricket with the hosts losing only eight of their 60 games here. Now with the WACA gone, Gabba is easily the fastest wicket in Australia and for the touring teams the conditions here will test their characters.
No Asian team has won a Test match at the Gabba despite playing 13 games here. Aravinda de Silva’s 167 made in 1989 still remains the highest score by an Asian player at this ground.
Australia have old scores to settle having suffered a 3-0 whitewash when these teams played the last time in 2016. That series win helped Sri Lanka to win the Warne-Murali Trophy for the first time since it was launched in 2007.
Except nothing but fireworks when the day-night pink ball encounter gets underway on Thursday. Despite Sri Lanka dominating the series in 2016, Mitchell Starc took 24 wickets across three Tests. He could be lethal with conditions to his favour unlike in Sri Lanka where the series was played on dust bowls. However, the recent series against India saw Starc had lost bit of his sting once the ball got older.
Sri Lanka have been so fired up by the wicket here at the Gabba that they were initially contemplating to go with all seam attack leaving off-spinner Dilruwan Perera out. However, sanity prevailed and eventually it was decided to retain Perera with Kasun Rajitha likely to miss out. The tourists will bank on their three seam attack comprising Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara.
Dilruwan was the second highest wicket taker in the world last year. He finished with 50 wickets, two behind South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada.
Left-hander Lahiru Thirimanne is expected to make a comeback today after being out for more than a year. He will open batting with Dimuth.
There is very little to choose between these teams these days. Australia are ranked fifth while Sri Lanka one slot below them at number six according to official ICC Rankings.