Bringing the best out of Dickwella

Sri Lanka Tour of Bangladesh 2022

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Sri Lanka Tour of Bangladesh 2022
 

Leading into the two match Test series against Bangladesh, there was unstinting support for under pressure wicketkeeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella.

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne, while backing Dickwella stressed on the need for the batter to repay the faith shown on him by the selectors and team management.

“Dikka is our number one wicket keeper, no doubt about that. There’s no questions with his keeping but we need big run as well from him. It’s not an easy task as he usually bats with our tail which is long. I have spoken to him a few times. While doing his job for the team, I have also told him to look after his contributions with the bat. There is a new wicketkeeper who has come into the squad and that’s bit of pressure on him but we will keep backing him,” Karunaratne said at the pre match media briefing.

Dickwella has played in nearly 50 Test matches and is yet to score a hundred. There were a couple of chances for him to score the elusive hundred but having played so well, he has thrown it all away with a couple of reckless shots.

The global trend in the 1990s was to back a batter who could keep wickets rather than relying purely on specialist wicketkeepers. England broke the trend by backing Chris Read towards the latter part of the 1990s. But under Duncan Fletcher they again reverted to a batter who could keep wickets when they dumped Read and backed Geriant Jones.

That was the same time when Kumar Sangakkara had settled down as Sri Lanka’s wicketkeeper and Ashantha de Mel decided to take the gloves off the future captain. De Mel argued that the talents of Prasanna Jayawardene had been wasted and Sanga, by concentrating on keeping alone, could go onto become a leading batter in the world.

Sanga didn’t buy into the argument at that time but eventually he settled down. In the meantime, de Mel urged the other Jayawardene to keep working hard on his batting. To his

credit, PJ finished with four Test hundreds and was Player of the Series when Sri Lanka toured England in 2011.

While PJ’s keeping was pure class, his contributions with the bat kept coming. He was an important cog in the wheel as the national cricket team recorded several Test wins overseas. In fact, PJ was involved in two record breaking partnerships. The 351 run stand for the sixth wicket with MJ is not only a Sri Lankan record but a record in India as well by any team. The seventh wicket record partnership also belongs to PJ and Chaminda Vaas as they added 233 runs at SSC against Bangladesh.

That’s the kind of consistency that Sri Lanka would love to get from Dickwella. PJ worked extremely hard on his batting and delivered the goods. Dickwella has always been solid with his batting. His 19 Test half-centuries is proof of that. But the problem has been that often he throws away the wicket after being set. He should have converted at least ten of those half-centuries into three figure scores.

Dickwella’s impulsive nature is one reason why he throws it away. If a strong minded person is on the other end, he tends to get his act together. But if he is down to the tail, there’s a scoop, a reverse sweep and then bye-bye. Pity that Sri Lanka’s lower middle order doesn’t contain a Chaminda Vaas, a luxury that PJ enjoyed.

Dickwella also gets a fair bit of criticism for the manner in which he urges the captain to take reviews. Sri Lanka’s reviewing in the last few years has been awful, often exhausting the reviews early in the innings and Dickwella has been the culprit. A bit of common sense in telling the captain which ones to review will win him many admirers.

Successive Sri Lankan coaches from Graham Ford to Mickey Arthur have admired Dickwella’s skill sets but none of them have been able to bring out the best in him. It remains to be seen how Chris Silverwood goes about things. At the end of this series, Dickwella will be one Test match short of 50 appearances. That would make him one of the senior players in the side and it’s time that he steps up and takes more responsibility.

Already the selectors have lost patience with Dickwella in white ball cricket as he is no longer part of the ODI or T20 outfits. It will be a shame if the same happens in red ball cricket. As Karunaratne tried to explain, bringing in a back up wicketkeeper will add pressure on Dickwella. If that’s going to bring the best out of him, then so be it.