Nuwan Pradeep: Sri Lanka's latest maverick
Sri Lanka’s knack of picking unorthodox cricketers out of nowhere continues. The replacement for Lasith Malinga, who is out of the second Test with a stiff knee, is a similar story. Until three years ago, Nuwan Pradeep hadn’t played any cricket with a leather ball – and he is 23 now. He won a pace contest, impressed the talent scouts with his pace in a soft-ball event, and was sent straight to Sri Lanka Cricket’s academy.
Pradeep doesn’t look as strong, his round-arm is not quite the slingshot, he is not quite the Malinga, but he has attributes: pace, and according to observers, outswing and reverse-swing. The pace and the round-arm action come because the tennis balls wouldn’t travel. Ranjit Fernando, national selector and his coach during Sri Lanka A’s tour of Australia, recommends Pradeep highly.
“Does not have any cricketing background,” says Fernando. “Never played with a cricket ball till three years ago. Came from a fast-bowling competition arranged by the Maharaja about three years ago. He was the fastest bowler in the competition. Bowled in Australia. There were no speed guns, but to me he bowled quicker than all the Australian bowlers. Being a slinger, he doesn’t have much bounce, but I feel he is someone to watch out for. He is quick, you can see it. Someone like him keeps on coming at you all the time, so is hard to negotiate on such wickets. He is also very accurate.”
Sri Lanka’s former national bowling coach, Anusha Samaranayake, told srilankacricket.lk: “He can touch 150kph mark as of now. He has got express pace, and he’s also accurate. He’s a very special bowler. Comes at the batsman with a very long run-up and his pace has troubled many batsmen in the domestic circuit.”
Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Malinga have been glowing tributes to Sri Lanka’s tolerance for the unorthodox. Dilhara Fernando used to play only basketball until his school coach asked him to play cricket one fine day. Now we have Pradeep, who might not get a Test in this series, but provided he meets the fitness his action demands, could one day be bowling alongside Malinga in an international. Hard bowlers created by softballs.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo