Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 December 4, 2012

Paranavitana yet to cement his spot


As Australia ponder the output of their Test openers, Sri Lanka have an opening conundrum brewing of their own. In ODIs, Sri Lanka are so awash with talent, they routinely play four capable openers in the XI, yet in Tests there has been a dearth of men with technique and mettle to chisel out a long-term role atop the batting order.

Sri Lanka's last tour of Australia in 2007 was Marvan Atapattu's swansong, and his long-time partner Sanath Jayasuriya played his final Test not long after. Though Tillakaratne Dilshan has advanced Jayasuriya's legacy in the years since, Sri Lanka have not found a bona-fide successor for Atapattu, though several have been trialled.

Tharanga Paranavitana has had a steady spell of opportunities since his debut in early 2009, but while he has shared Atapattu's penchant for collecting ducks, his career has also been frustrated by middling scores and a limited range of strokes. At times he has been defensively capable, but mentally tentative - particularly susceptible outside off stump, where his powers of judgement have been found frail.

Paranavitana had appeared to overcome a slow start in Test cricket when he made hundreds in back-to-back matches against India in 2010, but has not crossed triple figures in 39 innings since. Sri Lanka rightly acknowledge that their domestic competition does not produce opening batsmen who can find immediate success in Test cricket, but with 32 matches now behind him, the team may have hoped Paranavitana was further along in his development. In 2012, he has played 10 innings and made only one 50, averaging a shade below 30.

Perhaps partly in the hope of spurring Paranavitana's stagnating output, Sri Lanka have taken a spare left-hand opener to Australia. Dimuth Karunaratne got a Test debut when Dilshan sat out the first Test against New Zealand through injury, and a sparkling unbeaten half-century in the second innings of that match earned him a place in the squad to Australia a day later. Sri Lanka are unlikely to displace Paranavitana early in the series, but Karunaratne's presence will serve as a statement to Paranavitana that he cannot subsist on the selector's largesse for long.

"Dimuth has been around for a long time and when he got his opportunity in Galle he showed his potential," Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's captain, said ahead of the series. "It's healthy for everyone to have some sort of competition in order to push ourselves to keep improving."

Jayawardene has seen both men develop at first-class level: they open together for the Sinhalese Sports Club, where Jayawardene also cut his teeth. Though Karunaratne and Paranavitana will compete for a spot in the XI in Australia, they have been earmarked as potential long-term openers when Dilshan retires from Tests. Karunaratne's aggression has complemented Paranavitana's more circumspect approach in their time together at SSC, and Jayawardene suggested the synergy they have established in domestic cricket may help ensure a successful partnership in years to come.

"What we're looking into developing for the future is to try and get a combination that will be there for a while. It's very important that the two guys are comfortable and understand each other's game, because the start makes a big difference.

"I think Dimuth adjusted pretty well to international cricket. He knows his game quite well, which helps him. International cricket is always going to be a big step up for anybody. We've said to Dimuth that the first six months will be a honeymoon period after which the other teams will analyse you and then it will get tougher. He has got a good head to handle all that. Tharanga is another guy who I've played with quite a bit and who has had that same kind of commitment. We need to make sure we help them develop."

For the moment, Paranavitana's place is the only one in any sort of contention in Sri Lanka's top seven. Jayawardene believed Paranavitana's inability to make his position his own despite the extended run is not down to flaws in technique.

"It's about consistency. From time to time we've had chats with him and the coaches have been working with him. I think he's got the technique, but it's the mental approach that he sometimes makes mistakes with. Technically he's very sound, but he needs to approach certain situations differently. He needs to work hard at that.

"It's a tough position. Openers always will always have tough times. That's not just in the Sri Lankan team, that happens in other international sides as well. You need to show authority and feel confidence about that position. That's where everything is being set up for the rest of the batting order."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on December 6, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    Srilankan selectors usually include poor players in the team while captains without back bone help those guys. For example, paranawithana in tests: arnold, upul tharanaga, chamara silva, thilan in ODIs: chamara silva, mubaraq in T20s have been a headache for srilankan cricked during the past decade. Those type of selections resulted in losses in 2003,2007,2011 WCs and 2009,2010,2012 T20s. When selecting a batsman for ODIs, he should have the ability to clear the boundary when need. He may have some sort of bowling abilities. Sanath, Aravinda, Symonds, Sehwag, Ganguly, Kallis, Gayle, Samuels are the great examples. If the batsman cannot bowl, he should be a reliable batsman and a great fielder. Ponting, Gilchrist, Dhoni are such a batsmans. But in Srilanka, some batsman who cannot bowl are the batsmans who cannot clear the boundary, who drops catches while bitting finger nails in the field, who keeps the average (eg:100 from 130 bowls or 50 from 80 bowls) when the asking rate is high.

  • namal on December 6, 2012, 2:42 GMT

    mgsperera whats wrong with u ? Upul tharanga is a great player..plz look at his records.upul is one of the great timers in cricket world.

  • prasad on December 5, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    some guys needs their favourite player to be in the side even some commentators(managers)need to do that,but test cricket need technique para is sound technique batter than upul or chandimal only problem is his mentality...we need to hel him to get out from it by not presure him mainly by media,,,then u can see back to back centuries the avarages of first class,and tests..he is well ahead of upul,dinesh and lahiru...

  • Susantha on December 5, 2012, 16:31 GMT

    Play Paranawithana at the first test as the opener. If he fail in the first one, include Dimuth in the 2nd test. I think Paranavithana may be very useful like Thilan Samaraweera in Australia. We want a long inning & hold one end fixed from Para in Australia. Dilshan can play at his own way. I'm pretty sure, Paranavithana may answer from his bat for those questions about him.

  • sanjaya on December 5, 2012, 13:57 GMT

    Here Iam throwing out Paranavitana's performances -

    Matches in 2011/12 -- 16 (Innings 32 ) 50+ runs -- 6 times (HS is 76* ) Number of Ducks -- 7 times Dismiss below 20 -- 14 times

    But Still in the Playing 11 ahead of Chandimal / Thirimanne / Dimuth ...

  • sanjaya on December 5, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    Both " THARANGA" are spoling the Sri Lanka Cricket . ..One is Upul Tharanga & the other is Tharanga Paranavitana !!! Pls send them home for Godsake !!!!! or else send Mahela & Demel home as these two who back them !!!!

  • namal on December 5, 2012, 10:26 GMT

    plz bring back upul tharanga as test opener,he has 12 odi centuries.wonderful opener for srilanka last seven odis upul has 6 double century partnerships.286 is the best 1st wicket partnership in odis ever(upul and sanath ) 282 (upul and dilshan) second best..plz mr.ashantha select upul for the test matches.upul is still 27 years only..goodluck upul

  • Chinthaka on December 5, 2012, 9:48 GMT

    I completely agree with Mahela which, Paranavithana and Dimuth may be the future opening batsmen's for Sri Lanka. Dilshan is playing a lot. He should have some sort of rest to perform well in ODI and T20, as it is Paranawithana is playing only TEST. Therefore he needs much more opportunities to show his Talent on the crease. I know him very well; He is the much talented opening Batsman today as Mavan Athapattu.

  • Blaise on December 5, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    I agree that Paranavitana should not be in the team. He is too slow and put pressure on the other batsman. Upul Tharanga who is a proven perfomer should be given more opportunities. Thirimana and Karuratna seems to be better choices.As long as Asantha De Mel is a selector, the Sri Lanka team will be a loosing team. Where are Ajantha Mendis and Tissara Perera? The sports minister says there is no political interference cricket.He should wear a clown's hat.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    Chandimal is not a genuine opener, and Dilshan is not a test opener. SL need to find a remedy fast.

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