Under-19 World Cup 2016 February 9, 2016

SL Under-19 captain Asalanka stands by his trust of spin

Sri Lanka opted for spin as early as the 11th over, which helped India get off the hook in the Under-19 World Cup semi-final © Getty Images

Charith Asalanka smiles at you whether it is just after leading Sri Lanka Under-19s to a quarter-final win over England or a semi-final defeat to India. He smiled when the Indian bowlers and fielders tried to sledge him; the exchange was completely harmless and Asalanka was so amiable that his opponents eventually went up and patted him on the back. His dismissal in the 10th over made Sri Lanka's task of chasing 268 ever more difficult. Eventually they lost by 97 runs.

Asalanka had been the team's highest scorer in this Under-19 World Cup, so too in all Youth ODIs since the last one. He had won two Player-of-the-Match awards, and along with Avishka Fernando, could have given India a few jitters. But it wasn't to be.

Asalanka had to face a barrage of questions about his decision to bowl first in knockout conditions. Once again there was that smile.

There had been rain in the air and the pitch did give fast bowlers Asitha Fernando and Lahiru Kumara enough juice to make the Indian openers jump around. They removed the openers Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan in the first ten overs, but Asalanka, who said on the day before that slow bowling was their strength, brought on left-arm spinner Thilan Nimesh and leg-spinner Wanidu Hasaranga from both ends from the 11th over. India found breathing space, Anmolpreet Singh and Sarfaraz Khan found match-winning half-centuries.

At the end of the game, Asalanka said he doesn't regret bowling first or bringing on his spinners early because Fernando and Kumara were getting tired.

"I think we got exactly the right decision," Asalanka said. "We got the advantage of pitch earlier. You saw that we bowled really well and got two wickets for 30-odd runs.

"In the last match against England, we played just one fast bowler and today we played two fast bowlers. That's why we had decided to bowl first. I think in that time [after 11 overs], they [the fast bowlers] were really tired.

"I am a little disappointed with spinners also but you know, they are good at playing spin and they batted really well.

"I think it was a little high total to chase," Asalanka said. "They were really batting well so credit goes to them. I think I am again really disappointed with the batting."

Having done well against England with spin, Sri Lanka really didn't think about picking a third seamer. "After the match we can think so many things, but I think we couldn't change the side. We played against England with our spin," Asalanka said.

Asalanka's next target is to play for Sri Lanka A and believes the squad he has led in the Under-19 World Cup could feature in the senior side soon enough.

"I think sometimes we have been really troubled in batting [here]," he said. "In the quarter-final, we came back really strongly and won very easily. I think we found Sri Lanka some good players. I think this is a good thing for Sri Lanka cricket."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arjuna on February 11, 2016, 13:03 GMT

    These youngsters should get opportunities in the national team. lot of talent wasted on SL A team. most of the new comers in national team are in late twenties or thirties.

  •   Sajith Hasanka Kariyawasam on February 10, 2016, 9:25 GMT

    Cheers brother! We really proud of you and your team's achievements, you made your country proud, you made your school proud. That was a tough day for us, don't worry it's just that wasn't our day. Some things went right, some went wrong. That's how the games go. Wishing you all the best, and hoping to see you soon in the national X1 side. :)

  • TheMystery on February 10, 2016, 7:31 GMT

    @JOSIAH M. PHILIP Come on dude, we are not talking about senior team here. These kids are barely 18 year old. Fitness levels start to develop at this age and they are at their best after 22-23 yrs of age. Asking fast bowler to bowl more than 5-6 over spells at this age is not a good idea. Not only from fitness point of view but also not to put their young body under undue stress is something to consider. We have seen young prodigies getting injured way too often with stress injuries. You can criticise the Captain for not bringing them back after little gap, but he was right not to give them more overs at that point. U19 world cup is stepping stone for these young kids, not the ultimate achievement.

  • Sam on February 10, 2016, 5:19 GMT

    Firstly, congratulations on performing well throughout the tournament and deserves a lot of credit for the way the young SL boys played. However, I have a little constructive criticism of captain Asalanka's decisions in semifinal. I don't think the decision of bowling first backfired at all, but there were a few silly decisions during the innings. After 10 overs, understandably the fast bowlers are tired, but after a few overs with spinners, Asalanka should have brought them back before Sarfaraz and Singh got settled. Furthermore, the selection of bowlers in crucial periods were pathetic. Captain over-bowled himself when the best spinner during last match (Hasaranga) only bowled 4 overs. Bowling friendly off-spin for two settled right handers when you have an in-form leggie if ridiculous and it cost him 59 runs for 8 overs. And should have used Mendis a little more than 1 over. On the whole, an over-confident captain doesn't always make right decisions.

  • Josiah M. Philip on February 9, 2016, 17:29 GMT

    if a fast bowler is tired after a 5 over spell in an odi them he is seriously unfit

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