Under-19 World Cup 2014 February 17, 2014

Samarawickrama strikes rich form

With two half-centuries in both league matches, preceded by 82 in the warm-up match against India, Sadeera Samarawickrama has been instrumental in getting his team off to good starts

St Joseph's College in Maradana, Colombo, has a rich cricketing culture and its alumni include Chaminda Vaas, Thisara Perera and current Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews. A rising star from the same institution is the Sri Lanka Under-19 opening batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama, who has been one of their players to watch in the World Cup. With two half-centuries in both league matches, preceded by 82 in the warm-up match against India, the right-hander has been instrumental in getting his team off to good starts.

Having watched England graft their way to 230 in Dubai, with the long boundaries making it harder to find the ropes, it was expected that Sri Lanka would have to show similar application. However, Samarawickrama's batting had the extra element of power which combined with his well-placed drives made it harder for England to contain him.

A bulk of Samarawickrama's early boundaries were through the region of extra cover as he punished anything full by the seamers. He continued batting in the same gear even after Sri Lanka had lost two wickets in as many balls and needed rebuilding. His Under-19 coach, Naveed Nawaz, said that how he is as a person has rubbed off on his batting as well.

"He is a very positive person. He is always thinking positively. Even his batting is very positive," Nawaz said. "I think from the time I saw him initially when he was young, he has matured a lot during the years building up to the World Cup.

"The boundaries didn't surprise me because he is a natural timer of the ball. When the ball is coming to the bat, he is a better cricketer."

Samarawickrama had smashed 10 fours in his 82, as many as what England managed in their innings. A century was there for the taking but he gave it away when he top-edged a pull, at a time when Sri Lanka's chances hinged on him. His side needed a further 71 with five wickets remaining but the team's batting depth ensured that his efforts didn't go in vain.

"There was a bit of a pressure after I got out, but I had trust in my players," Samarawickrama said when asked if he feared the game was lost after his departure. "We are a good batting team, even the tail-enders chip in. I had faith in them."

Samarawickrama had opportunities to convert all his last three fifties and Nawaz said he was upset with the timing and nature of his dismissal.

Nawaz said he first spotted the batsman's potential three years ago during a school game and wasn't afraid to test him against boys older than him. "We picked him up and brought him to play for the U-19 trials three years back," Nawaz said. "Initially he was not picked up for the U-19 squad at that time, but knowing his potential, we always kept an eye on him on how he was doing."

He missed a century in his U-19 one-day debut for Sri Lanka in 2013, falling for 83 against Bangladesh. However, his form tapered off and had failed to pass fifty till he set foot in the UAE for the World Cup.

Samarawickrama is also a part-time wicketkeeper, thus making him a utility player. He says that U-19 cricket has taught him to keep things simple as far as batting is concerned. He also likes to switch off from cricket a day before a match, as a way to beat nervousness. "I relax and listen to a lot of classical music," he says.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Sinhhalaya on February 17, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    Well done young Sadeera. Long may your form continue. However I would be hesitant to identify players ostensibly "from" St. Joseph's as something special solely on that score. Vass and Thisara were poached from St. Anthony's College Wattala and Dimuth was recruited from another smaller school. Mathews on the other hand is a truer product of a full stint of schooling at St. Joes - showing poise, maturity and humility in his demeanour and leadership. So would underplay the school and look for talent, consistency and class in the individual. Irrespective of Sadeera's josephian antecedents I would look at performance only, on and off the field. Playing for a prestigious school does not make you particularly remarkable. Look no further than our airborne sleepwalker who went to the best boy's school in the island, but......

  • Dummy4 on February 17, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    Dimuth Karunaratne too is a product of St. Joseph's College, Colombo, which has a 117 year old tradition and a long cricketing history. Several budding cricketers from the same alumni are doing well in the SL 'A ', Development squad, the Premier club circuit and now SL under 19.

  • Ranil on February 17, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    Both Manjekar & Wasim Akram in unison said that he is a future star. Hope these comments won't go to his head & the time he got out when the team's win depended on him something to talk about by the coach.

  • Anver on February 17, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    Mathews,Thisara & now another bright prospect from St.Joseph's College... wish he continues his great form !!!!!

  • Roshan on February 17, 2014, 6:26 GMT

    His approach was very positive, confident and scored runs at a rapid pace. That's good for him and Sri Lanka cricket. We should nurture him very carefully. Imagine what a combination this boy Sadeera Samarasekera and Kusal Perera would be? AWESOME!!!!

  • Asitha on February 17, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    He is absolutely super... Grt finding for SL future....

  • Akheel on February 17, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    heartening to see SL youngsters performing well in world stage.watched the highlights. he looked good. very good.few others looked promising too.keep it up Kollos.

  • Thimukvi on February 17, 2014, 5:10 GMT

    I am really impressed with Sadeera's batting. i have been following our U19 team for a while. i can see that Kusan Mendis and Sumanasiri has lift their game as well. the maturity and calm they showed against Ind (warm up) and here against ENG is promising. i really feel better about SL future. this is just the beginning these guys need to keep developing them selves without getting carried away with the recent successs of wins. for this team i look for development not whether they are winning or not. i wish all good luck for this team and expect them to keep up the good work and overcome the quarter finals and remaining finals as well. i wan this team to break the mental block when playing against IND & PAK. because they are so good at overcoming the situations. now i see the same with our boys... this is what we need them to see when the represent SL in future. GOOD LUCK LION CUBS........... jaya veva!

  • Edwin on February 17, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    Very positive in his approach, played a sensible knock even under pressure. Batting looks good for the Sri lankan Colts. If they can match with their bowling department, would be Champions at the end of this WC. All the best the Naved and his team. Keep up the good work

  • ESPN on February 17, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    A lots of lovely strokes are with the kid.. Sri Lanka found a great batman and hope he will do same in other matches too.. Gud luck...

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