Thrashing England 5-0 in their own backyard in 2006 remains one of Sri Lanka’s greatest achievements in bilateral cricket series and the recent 3-0 sweep of Pakistan in Lahore ranks among the best. The fact that it was achieved by a second-string Sri Lankan side makes it even more special.
These are hard times for our team in white ball cricket and the side winning a series against a top ranked team occurs once in a blue moon. This win certainly has cheered up fans and there’s new-found hope. Suddenly, Sri Lanka find themselves ranked seventh in T20s having been placed at the bottom of the table for too long which has resulted in them being forced to play the qualifying round of the World T-20.
Young spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was a treat to watch and richly deserved the Player of the Series award. For someone who started his international career with a hat-trick on debut, he should have played more than just 12 ODIs and six T20 Internationals in two years.
There was little doubt that he is ideally suited for the shorter format of the game given his accuracy. Research shows that he is on the money some 80 percent of the time and the wrong’un brings him unprecedented success.
It is always exciting when a leg-spinner does well. To start with, it is one of the most difficult arts in the game and Sri Lanka have not had that many successful wrist spinners although those who bowl off-spin and left-arm orthodox spin have made their mark.
Look how much success India have had using their two wrist spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. If Hasaranga and Lakshan Sandakan can replicate that success, Sri Lankan cricket will be in good hands. There is of course Jeffrey Vandersay but you get the feeling that he is more suited for the longer format of the game.
Some teams tend to have specialists who play T20 cricket alone. These players are in high demand in franchise cricket all over the world too. West Indies have a heap of them and Bhanuka Rajapaksa could fit that bill. His knocks were a treat to watch. When was the last time you saw a batsman charging down the track to Wahab Riaz?
Rajapaksa plays a high-risk game, taking on the bowlers from the word go but as you have seen with the case of certain players who excel in this format, when there are no slips and most players are trying to save the boundaries, you can get away with it. When Bhanuka represented Sri Lanka Under-19, he promised so much but it has taken a while for him to blossom.
Another player who impressed was Oshada Fernando. He has not got many opportunities since his heroics against the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Duanne Olivier in Port Elizabeth and in the dead rubber in Lahore, he dispelled the myth of being a Test match specialist.
There aren’t very many players in the island who are capable of playing high quality fast bowling and Oshada seems to be having that extra bit of time to play good fast bowling. That is a fine trait when playing overseas in conditions where there is extra pace and bounce. Most of our players excel on flat tracks but are exposed when they are up against quality fast bowling.
All-rounder Shehan Jayasuriya and opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka are other players to impress massively during the tour. Jayasuriya has been consistent for Sri Lanka ‘A’ over the last two years while Gunathilaka has come up with some match winning contributions for the senior side but has been plagued by a series of back injuries.
Dasun Shanaka’s leadership qualities were another key aspect during the historic tour with his man management skills being praised by all and sundry.
All in all, the courage the players showed to tour Pakistan was tremendous and then to win the series 3-0 was a top effort.
There is a lot of excitement no doubt but let’s not get too carried away. True that Pakistan are a hard side to beat at home. This time around they are ranked number one in the world as well. However, you have to admit the fact that Pakistan didn’t play to their potential. Sri Lanka’s next challenge in Australia will be a different kettle of fish. That is the test of the true character of the players. A series win down under should give you the assurance that we are getting back into winning ways.
The Australian series is followed by another T20 series in India and authorities need to make use of these opportunities to figure out which players will feature in their squad for the T20 World Cup in Australia next year rather than waiting for the last minute.