SL v SA, World T20 2012, Group C, Hambantota September 21, 2012

Tough trial awaits Munaweera

  shares 23

One game into the World Twenty20, it is clear Sri Lanka have invested a great deal in Dilshan Munaweera. The team has split up a successful opening pair, moving their best batsman Mahela Jayawardene to a less favoured batting position to accommodate Munaweera in his familiar spot. It would have been easy for the seniors to pull rank and ask Munaweera to inject energy into a middle order carrying two accumulators, but they've been careful to make his international baptism a gentle one. Largesse towards youngsters has been a hallmark of a side that understand the leap Sri Lanka players must make when they move from the local circuit to international cricket.

It also emphasises Munaweera's importance to Sri Lanka's campaign. Dinesh Chandimal waits on the sidelines to replace the first batsman to falter, but if he joins a lineup already looking short of firepower, Sri Lanka's finishers may have to work even harder towards the close. With one of the most aggressive top threes in the tournament, Sri Lanka have banked on sustained hitting during the Powerplay, and Munaweera must play his part for the strategy to prove worthwhile.

Saturday's match shapes as the biggest test of Munaweera's career. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have bloodied more hardened men than he, and a nervous start to international cricket and an awkward first dismissal cannot have boosted Munaweera's confidence greatly. Moreover, South Africa will have studied him closely in their team meetings. They will know he is, at present, over-reliant on boundaries to make a score. They will know he cuts and pulls well but drives poorly. They will endeavour to keep him on strike, knowing he has trouble rotating it, and the customary dose of newbie-abuse will no doubt be gleefully given as well.

"It's always going to be tough, especially when you're an opening batsman," captain Mahela Jayawardene said of the trial awaiting Munaweera. "It's a great experience for him to play one of the two best bowling combinations in the game right now. He has Dilshan at the other end to guide him and a couple of other senior batsmen to follow."

Not only will Munaweera's mettle be tested by bowlers much faster and capable of generating more bounce than he has encountered at home and on A-team tours, he will also be playing on a foreign surface. The Bloomfield Cricket Club pitch he has thrived on has a reputation for being low and slow. Both pitches in Hambantota so far have had plenty of bounce and carry, and South Africa's seamers will squeeze every inch of movement available as well.

It is perhaps unfair to expect Munaweera to pass the test with flying colours, given his inexperience and the gulf between domestic and top-level cricket he must learn to bridge in the next few weeks. A young Mahela Jayawardene was among the most complete batsmen Sri Lanka's system ever produced, and even he was forced to make drastic improvements in his early years to compete against the finest.

"For me Wasim Akram was the guy I struggled against early on because of his quality and variations," Jayawardene said. "Every time I played against him early I struggled early on. Every time after the game he would pat me on my back and say keep learning, and that's what I did. It was a good experience for me. I was one of the victims of his hat-trick early on. After 12 years of international cricket he started getting hat-tricks against Sri Lanka. It was tough playing him."

One of Sri Lanka's biggest selection regrets has been the meandering career of Chamara Kapugedara. No one can doubt the batsman's talent, having seen it in spades in domestic cricket as well as in patches for the national team, but perhaps his failure to grow into a match-winner was hampered by inconsistency in selection and a tendency to bat him out of position. So far Munaweera far has avoided that fate.

"The good thing is that he's got a free hand. When you have a youngster coming into the set-up, there's not much pressure on you. You just go out there and enjoy yourself and back yourself to play your game. That's what is exciting about young cricketers coming in. We're just going to give him the license to go out there and enjoy himself."

A poor outing against South Africa's pace may not warrant Munaweera's exclusion at the Super Eights stage, but it may earn a him a reputation for being a soft target. He will be watched, analysed, and attacks will formulate plans specifically for him in the coming weeks. It is a different world of pressure at the top, and Munaweera will get a healthy taste of that on Saturday. How he responds in that game and the matches to follow may not shape his career, but having provided Munaweera with the best chance to succeed, Sri Lanka will hope their investment pays off.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Mannix16 on | September 22, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    He is not the guy. I thought he was some sort of an aggressive batsman like Dilshan or Perera, but that does not seem like the case. Just saw today's match. Run Rate required was around 12 and shots need to be played. What does Munaweera do? He calmly gets a run a ball 13 runs (one 4) and then tries to hit the shots in the last over when the Run Rate was 40 and gets out. Not the guy Sri Lanka is looking for. We need an aggressive batsman to take over once Dilshan is gone

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Man has got tallent....is in form...what better time to give him an opportunity? Time will tell if he fails or not...Cricket is about taking your chances and not missing out on them

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    Munaweera against Styen and Morkel...are you kidding..I would be surprised he would last for more than couple of hours...

  • POSTED BY Soups on | September 22, 2012, 8:34 GMT

    @peter4135 - No he meant one of the two best... the other being England

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    Nice to hear Mahela 's comment on Munaweera "Go & enjoy your game" Feel he has selected for super eight too. One needs bulk of experience to perform against all variations in all types of cricket toady & doubt whether time or no. of matches permits it. Personally feel a player need more than 30 matches to get set for all opponents. But will the no. of matches can bear it? Munaweera test with your luck & talents

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 5:24 GMT

    I think Mahela sould open the batting with T.M. Dilshan. If they want they can use Munaweera at No3 Slot. Mahela has done pretty well as a opening batsman.

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    its very unlikely he will score more than 20 runs in the game ... In my opinion ..if you wanna win the darn tournament forget about giving chances to youngsters play your best 11. Mahela should open.

  • POSTED BY Ramansilva on | September 22, 2012, 4:05 GMT

    It will be a big big mistake if Munaweera is given the place of Chandimal. Munaweera had his time is the so called SLPL which was no where near IPL in terms of competitiveness. He thrived aginst kanji bowlers. Can he face Stern and Morkel. In contrast Chandimal showed his metal against these same bowlers in their own grounds.

  • POSTED BY padmalkondasinghe on | September 22, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    I want thirimmanna to open batting with dilshan and munaweera or chandimal to play middle order.

  • POSTED BY dw10 on | September 22, 2012, 2:10 GMT

    so for all Chandimal supporters, he has been given enough chances and has'nt been consistent.... It's Dilshan Munaweera's opportunity now.... Munaweera should be given an extended run of at least this entire tournament before going back to Chandimal

  • POSTED BY Mannix16 on | September 22, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    He is not the guy. I thought he was some sort of an aggressive batsman like Dilshan or Perera, but that does not seem like the case. Just saw today's match. Run Rate required was around 12 and shots need to be played. What does Munaweera do? He calmly gets a run a ball 13 runs (one 4) and then tries to hit the shots in the last over when the Run Rate was 40 and gets out. Not the guy Sri Lanka is looking for. We need an aggressive batsman to take over once Dilshan is gone

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Man has got tallent....is in form...what better time to give him an opportunity? Time will tell if he fails or not...Cricket is about taking your chances and not missing out on them

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    Munaweera against Styen and Morkel...are you kidding..I would be surprised he would last for more than couple of hours...

  • POSTED BY Soups on | September 22, 2012, 8:34 GMT

    @peter4135 - No he meant one of the two best... the other being England

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    Nice to hear Mahela 's comment on Munaweera "Go & enjoy your game" Feel he has selected for super eight too. One needs bulk of experience to perform against all variations in all types of cricket toady & doubt whether time or no. of matches permits it. Personally feel a player need more than 30 matches to get set for all opponents. But will the no. of matches can bear it? Munaweera test with your luck & talents

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 5:24 GMT

    I think Mahela sould open the batting with T.M. Dilshan. If they want they can use Munaweera at No3 Slot. Mahela has done pretty well as a opening batsman.

  • POSTED BY on | September 22, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    its very unlikely he will score more than 20 runs in the game ... In my opinion ..if you wanna win the darn tournament forget about giving chances to youngsters play your best 11. Mahela should open.

  • POSTED BY Ramansilva on | September 22, 2012, 4:05 GMT

    It will be a big big mistake if Munaweera is given the place of Chandimal. Munaweera had his time is the so called SLPL which was no where near IPL in terms of competitiveness. He thrived aginst kanji bowlers. Can he face Stern and Morkel. In contrast Chandimal showed his metal against these same bowlers in their own grounds.

  • POSTED BY padmalkondasinghe on | September 22, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    I want thirimmanna to open batting with dilshan and munaweera or chandimal to play middle order.

  • POSTED BY dw10 on | September 22, 2012, 2:10 GMT

    so for all Chandimal supporters, he has been given enough chances and has'nt been consistent.... It's Dilshan Munaweera's opportunity now.... Munaweera should be given an extended run of at least this entire tournament before going back to Chandimal

  • POSTED BY criclanka on | September 22, 2012, 1:34 GMT

    @ VIKUM i agree with your comment. good luck SL

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | September 22, 2012, 0:02 GMT

    He will be tested by the Proteas through some doses of short pitch pills !! The Sri Lankans are hyping him up; we will see. As far as the game goes, I think SA will win this one given the conditions. SL are an Asian team after all and they too don't play bouncy deliveries that well. If the pitches are anything to go by, then all the Asian teams could struggle in the super 8s. Hopefully that doesn't happen. Good luck to both teams.

  • POSTED BY Vikum72 on | September 21, 2012, 23:54 GMT

    Chandimal should be given an opportunity in this game, may be ahead of Thirimanne simply because of his excellent track record against SA. He has done commendably well against them in A team level as well as national level in SA pitches. If this H'thota pitches have the slightest phase & bounce in them like everyone discusses, Chandimal will be a great asset to the SL team. He could be the game saver!

  • POSTED BY DCDC on | September 21, 2012, 21:16 GMT

    Mahela may opt to open with T. Dilshan without exposing Munaweera to SA attack. Perhaps Munaweera can bat number 5 or 6.

    Mahela is a master of the game, lets see what he does.

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    munaweera's days are numbered and chandimal will replace him in the super 8 onwards and wait see chandimal's return with a big bang...

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    It is good that SL selectors and Mahela have realised that opening batsman Upul Tharanga's weakneses in facing balls out side the off stump and getting out without any foot work. Dilshan Munaweera is an explosive opening batsman and I wish him all the success in the matches to come

  • POSTED BY Karnain on | September 21, 2012, 18:17 GMT

    I have noticed that Munaweera has curtailed his aggression since he has been named to the national squad (except in SLPL final), he is better of being Munaweera himself and be aggressive as he had been

  • POSTED BY Perera32 on | September 21, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    Really well written article. The Sri lankan team looks good but i still don't think Thirimanne will be used at all in the tournament because when batting SL will send Matthews, Perera and Jeevan ahead of Thirimanne to finish the innings off and Thirimanne will not be bowling. So I think his place should go to some one else, maby another Bowler?.

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 17:38 GMT

    Good Article,...........Keep it up.

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    Nice article Cricinfo..love it...................

  • POSTED BY Udendra on | September 21, 2012, 16:41 GMT

    one thing I saw is, he doesnt care about reputations of fast bowlers.

  • POSTED BY peter4135 on | September 21, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    ''...one of the two best bowling combinations in the game...'' I think he meant THE BEST!!!

  • POSTED BY sampathsl on | September 21, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    Excellent observation and well wrote.well done.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY sampathsl on | September 21, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    Excellent observation and well wrote.well done.

  • POSTED BY peter4135 on | September 21, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    ''...one of the two best bowling combinations in the game...'' I think he meant THE BEST!!!

  • POSTED BY Udendra on | September 21, 2012, 16:41 GMT

    one thing I saw is, he doesnt care about reputations of fast bowlers.

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    Nice article Cricinfo..love it...................

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 17:38 GMT

    Good Article,...........Keep it up.

  • POSTED BY Perera32 on | September 21, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    Really well written article. The Sri lankan team looks good but i still don't think Thirimanne will be used at all in the tournament because when batting SL will send Matthews, Perera and Jeevan ahead of Thirimanne to finish the innings off and Thirimanne will not be bowling. So I think his place should go to some one else, maby another Bowler?.

  • POSTED BY Karnain on | September 21, 2012, 18:17 GMT

    I have noticed that Munaweera has curtailed his aggression since he has been named to the national squad (except in SLPL final), he is better of being Munaweera himself and be aggressive as he had been

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    It is good that SL selectors and Mahela have realised that opening batsman Upul Tharanga's weakneses in facing balls out side the off stump and getting out without any foot work. Dilshan Munaweera is an explosive opening batsman and I wish him all the success in the matches to come

  • POSTED BY on | September 21, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    munaweera's days are numbered and chandimal will replace him in the super 8 onwards and wait see chandimal's return with a big bang...

  • POSTED BY DCDC on | September 21, 2012, 21:16 GMT

    Mahela may opt to open with T. Dilshan without exposing Munaweera to SA attack. Perhaps Munaweera can bat number 5 or 6.

    Mahela is a master of the game, lets see what he does.