Hasitha Boyagoda – heading the V.V.S. Laxman way?

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Some time back, former great Aravinda de Silva reasoned why schoolboys weren’t walking into the senior side as teenagers any longer. In his days, the school structure was blessed with coaches like W.A.N. Silva, Lionel Mendis, Nelson Mendis, Bertie Wijesinghe and many others who were stalwarts in their own right.

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With no disrespect to those in the noble profession, perhaps the two coaches who have held their own in recent times are Harsha de Silva and Sampath Perera. Both coaches have produced some quality talent in the last few years. While de Silva was the former St Joseph’s coach, Perera has shifted his alliance from Trinity to arch-rivals St. Anthony’s, Katugastota. At Trinity, we can see the last set of players he nurtured performing outstandingly well. Hasitha Boyagoda is one of them.

Trinity’s captain was in the news last week after posting the highest individual score in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. The 191 he made in the quarter-final of the Plate Championship was followed up by a match-winning hundred in the final against West Indies.

Like the elegant Indian batsman V.V.S. Laxman, Boyagoda was born to parents who are doctors. The Hyderabadi decided not to pursue studies on medicine in order to concentrate on his cricket and Boyagoda has done the same.

Boyagoda passed the GCE O’Level with flying colours obtaining nine As. Then for GCE A’Level, he opted Commerce stream instead of Bio Science which would have helped him to go in the footsteps of his parents. The demands of Bio Science would have curtailed his ambitions of becoming a Test cricketer and that was the reason he chose theCommerce stream. This is where the role of parents becomes important. Hasitha’s father, himself a former cricketer at Dharmaraja College, encouraged his son to follow his passion, something most parents fail to do these days as most encourage their children for academic excellence.

Hasitha was born at Aniwatta, Bahirawakanda as the eldest of a family of three. His father is attached to the Mawanwella Hospital as a consultant physician while the mother is based at Peradeniya Hospital as a pediatrician. He was introduced to cricket at the age of eight with Harold Ranasinghe teaching him the first lessons of the sport.

Although Boyagoda made his mark in the Youth World Cup as an opening batsman, you get the feeling that he will be better off playing at number three or ideally number four. From a distance, it looks like that getting a solid start is not his forte. But once he gets that start, he has got the nucleus to push on. An innings has three phases – start, continuation and finish. Boyagoda seems excellent in the last two phases and not the first. In that sense, against the new ball and with bowlers’ fresh, there’s too much at stake.

But once he gets through that tough initial phase, he has the ability to go on to finish things off, a superb quality in a batsman. A look at his stats will confirm that story. Boyagoda played four games in the World Cup and while he scored hundreds against Kenya and West Indies, he was dismissed without scoring against Ireland and Zimbabwe. It was the same case for Trinity this season. He has only played two games in the ongoing season due to international commitments and while he scored 130 against St. Servatius, Matara, he was again out for a duck against D.S. Senanayake. Like Marvan Atapattu he is a nervous starter.

Although his big runs have come in the 50 over format, you tend to get the feeling that with a sound technique he is ideally suited for the longer format of the game. He is not a hard-hitting batsman, but times the ball to perfection and has a knack to pick up gaps. His cricket sense looks superb.

Boyagoda has still not decided which club he will join after school. However, don’t be surprised if he goes to NCC like most Trinitians. Kumar Sangakkara is Boyagoda’s role model and Trinity’s finest product is sure to direct him towards Maitland Place.

Another good thing about Boyagoda is that he is a clever off-spinner although he was rarely used during the World Cup. One of the major issues Sri Lanka’s senior side has at the moment is that they do not have players who could bowl a few overs and hence balancing of the side has become a hard task. The emergence of the likes of Boyagoda must be a sigh of relief for the selectors.

The need to invest more on ‘A’ team cricket

Most of us would have thought that last month’s Delhi Test was done and dusted …

His talent needs to be nurtured carefully. You don’t want to see another Aviska Fernando moment where a talented player is brought in to make his debut against the World Champions and then dumped after just one game.

After Under-19 cricket, players lack quality competitions and that’s where ‘A’ team cricket becomes extremely important. Sadly, we have invested little in that area.