5 players who can be in Sri Lanka's leadership nucleus
Sri Lankan cricket is at the crossroads after their humbling loss against Zimbabwe in the five-match ODI series. Having lost the first match of the series, Angelo Mathews-led team came back and won the following two encounters. However, the visitors turned the tables and bagged the last two matches and ran away with the series.
"It's one of the lowest points in my career, and a hard one to swallow," Mathews said after the 3-2 series defeat.
In the aftermath of this, Sri Lanka’s captain stepped down from his position, leaving the gate open for others to take the responsibility. The next morning, Upul Tharanga was appointed as the captain for limited-overs-cricket, while Dinesh Chandimal was appointed as the captain in whites.
On that note, here, we take a look at five players in the Lankan ranks who can be in the leadership nucleus and help the struggling team move ahead from the recent debacles.
#5 Asela Gunaratne
Gunaratne’s ascension to the international arena came in February 2016, when he received a national call-up for the T20 against India in Vishakapatnam. Later in the same year, he made his Test and ODI debuts as well. He was immediately effective in Tests as he scored a fifty and a hundred in his first three international innings, against Zimbabwe.
Gunaratne also earned a place in the ODI squad of the same tour, and made an impact with his bowling, as he claimed eight wickets to help Sri Lanka win the tri-nation trophy in Zimbabwe. In February 2017 he proved his T20 credentials as well when he made 84 in 46 balls– including three consecutive sixes in the penultimate over to chase down 174 made by Australia.
Though relatively a newcomer in international cricket, Gunaratne’s clever cricketing skills can also help the leadership nucleus in the long run.
#4 Kusal Mendis
The youngster, having made his Test debut in 2015, before playing a Limited Overs International, impressed the fans and pundits alike in his short stint. In 16 Tests, the 22-year-old has added 1106 runs and in ODIs the right-hander has made 1087 runs in 33 matches.
Last year, after Mendis’s stupendous knock against Australia, Mathews had this to say for the youngster: "He's going to be a big player for us. He's going to be the future of our batting. If he keeps going like this he will do wonders for the Sri Lanka team and I wish him all the very best.”
Mendis, even with his brief career so far, can be an integral part of the leadership nucleus.
#3 Niroshan Dickwella
The attacking left-hander and wicketkeeper made his Test debut in July 2014 - at the age of 21 - but despite a good effort with his 72 against a strong South Africa side, the now 24-years-old could not cement his place in the team and soon faded away. However, in 2017, he made yet another foray into international cricket and managed to get some success, followed by a permanent place in the squad.
In the recently concluded series against Zimbabwe, the southpaw scored two back to back centuries in the 3rd and 4th ODI to prove his mettle. He has played 18 ODI innings in his career, in which he has amassed 767 runs at an average of 42.61.
Although he was a sporadic international cricketer until now, Dickwella can provide valuable inputs to the leadership nucleus.
#2 Upul Tharanga
The 32-year-old was one of the obvious names on this list captaincy probables for Sri Lanka. The left-hander, now the limited-overs captain, has played over 200 ODIs in his career and has scored 6212 runs at an average of 34.32.
The upcoming India series won’t be the first time that Tharanga dons the skipper’s hat. He was first handed the captaincy last year in a tri-series in Zimbabwe, which the team ultimately won. The middle-order batsman has been time and again asked to lead the side due to Mathews’s injury issues.
Recently, Tharanga led the side in their first 2017 Champions Trophy encounter against South Africa as well and Sri Lanka can hope to recover from their ODI debacles under Tharanga.
#1 Dinesh Chandimal
Dinesh Chandimal was named skipper of Sri Lanka's Test team on Wednesday and has little to no time for a smooth transition to his new role since India will visit the Islanders later this month to play three tests, five one-day internationals and a one-off Twenty20 match.
The 27-year-old who was Mathews’s deputy in all formats has played 65 Test innings in which he has scored 2540 runs.
After his appointment, the new captain said he looked forward to receiving guidance from Mathews when India tour them. "I thank Angelo for leading the team and it is not an easy task," he said.
"We have lots of ups and down in the last two years, but we have a lot of talented young and senior players in the team. I am happy about being entrusted (with) this post. I am going to put my heart and soul to put the team in the right position," Chandimal added.