Is Sri Lanka missing a left-arm quick?

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Image Courtesy - AFP

As the pitches tend to be flatter and offer considerable assistance for batsmen, a lanky left arm pacer would be an ideal addition to every team across formats.

Free hit contributor – Adeeb Saleemdeen

With the leaderboards dominated by the left arm pacers in recent times, Sri Lankans haven’t been fortunate enough to have the option of a left arm quick who can rattle the batsmen with tricky angles and variety since the era of Chaminda Vaas.

Modern day cricket has made one thing perfectly clear, it’s a batsman’s game. The rise of the T20 format has seized the attention of the world, as the batsmen provide mouthwatering action more often than the bowlers. However, the X factor a left arm seamer can bring to a bowling arsenal makes him a valuable commodity. As most batsmen are right handers, the awkward angles and the swing left armers deliver makes life difficult for the batsmen.

More often, games are being won and lost in the death overs, the lefties will be playing a vital part as they have a better ability to take the ball away from the right handers and keeps the batsmen guessing. Similarly facing a left armer during the powerplays would also be a challenge, especially as they partner right armers. The lefties are also key in the longer format as they exploit the older ball masterfully by delivering the important partnership breakers. 

Since Wasim Akram, Alan Davidson, Garfield Sobers and Chaminda Vaas were the trendsetters of left arm pace bowling, the legacy of the lefties continued over the course of the last few years as Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult, Mohomed Amir and Mustafizur Rahman took on the mantle. In the year 2014, the leading wicket taker’s tally in ODIs was completely dominated by faster bowlers and the left arm duo Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult were the front runners in the list. Left arm quicks have been magnificent in World Cups too. Wasim Akram topped the highest wicket takers list in 1992 and Chaminda Vaas got the best out of it in 2003 while Zaheer Khan steadied the ship for India in 2011 topping the table. All in all, the most successful World Cup campaign for the lefties was the last World Cup in 2015 as they picked up more than 100 wickets. Pakistan’s bowling arsenal has relied on the lefties; they have been fortunate enough to have a few in their lineups that have shone on the international stage. 

From the Sri Lankan point of view, the need of the hour is perhaps a good left armer who can be impactful across all formats. Most importantly, a left arm seamer in the lineup will add a new dimension to the Lankan bowling lineup.

As there’s a rarity of the lefties in Sri Lanka, here’s a look at a few exciting players who can take up the role and be very productive across all three formats.

  1. Vishwa Fernando

After few stellar performances at the domestic season saw Vishwa Fernando roped into the national side in 2014 for a Test series against Pakistan. Unfortunately, he couldn’t match up to the likes of Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Prasad and few other seniors and it forced him to stay out of the playing XI for 2 more years. As a few of the regulars suffered from constant injuries Vishwa was given a chance for the Australian series which was played at home.

The 26-year-old, can deliver the bouncers and the lethal yorkers at a decent pace. Though having a left arm quick can be effective in any format, the selectors moved on from Vishwa after a poor show in the home series against India as he only managed to pick up 3 wickets in the ODIs. The left armer has featured in 2 Tests and 7 limited overs encounters thus far. Despite being substandard in the international level, he has managed 134 dismissals in 49 First Class matches and 39 wickets in 32 List A games.

  1. Isuru Udana 

Isuru udana is a seasoned campaigner for Sri Lanka in T20Is, making his debut in 2009 against Australia. The 30-year-old lanky pacer is renowned for his death over bowling skills in the shortest format. He has been using the back-hand deliveries, yorkers and slow deliveries in an effective manner.

The left armer was dropped from the side after he went wicketless in the series against India back in 2012 and was out of the scene for a couple of years. Currently, he is one of the regular pacers in the Sri Lankan T20I outfit. Udana has represented Sri Lanka in 16 T20Is and has 14 wickets under his belt. If he can develop his skills and play up to potential, he will be a treat to watch in all three formats.

  1. Binura Fernando

The T20I debut of Binura Fernando was nothing less than an exceptional outing, seeing him dismiss the explosive Shahid Afridi to claim his first international wicket. The 6 feet 6-inch Binura has only played 2 T20Is but has got a wide repertoire of deliveries in his arsenal which can cause trouble batsmen. Binura perfectly brings out the change of pace deliveries and also can create that extra bit of bounce from the surface because of his height. Most importantly, he has got the ability to swing the ball both ways which is a rarity in Sri Lanka.

The 22-year-old left armer, made his T20I debut in 2015 against Pakistan and was also a part of the Test squad in 2014 but disappointingly, didn’t get any game time as the Lankan pace attack was complete with a few experienced quicks. Binura has been a consistent performer in the first class level  and as a player who can get the extra advantage from his height, will be a valuable asset for the future.

  1. Anuk Fernando

The 22-year-old Anuk Fernando, was a key member of the U19 World Cup as he concluded the 2014 edition as the highest wicket taker with 15 dismissals going past the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Mustafizur Rahman. As a fine all-round prospect, he has sparked 2 centuries and 3 fifties and also dismissed 35 batsmen with career best match figures of 6/73 playing 26 First Class matches. 

The left arm pacie, generates some good pace and has the capability of delivering the yorkers. Anuk has been a part of the Sri Lanka U23,Sri Lanka board XI and Sri Lanka A sides as well. If he brings out his best, he will be a definite sensation to watch.

  1. Vimukthi Perera 

The left arm pacie, Vimukthi Perera was brought into the squad for the final ODI of the series against South Africa in 2013 considering his fine record in the Windies tour with the A team in that particular year. Unfortunately, he couldn’t earn a spot in the playing XI and later on, he was axed from side. The 28-year-old, has featured in 70 First Class matches and 38 list A games picking up more than 200 wickets. Vimukthi has represented Sri Lanka A and the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI in the recent years.

  1. Mohomed Dilshad 

The 26-year-old, Mohomed Dilshad stormed into contention after a fiery spell against Colombo as he delivered 2 magnificent in swingers to see off Kaushal Silva and Dhananjaya de Silva in the recently concluded Super Four Provincial Tournament. Apart from the swinging deliveries, Dilshad has the capability of executing the yorkers and the bouncers to perfection.

The left arm pacie has played 27 first class matches and has dismissed 68 batsmen including 2 five-wicket hauls. As he shows promising signs of delivering remarkable spells, he needs to be groomed well for the future.