T20 leagues offer great learning opportunities - Thisara
Thisara Perera is the archetypal modern cricketer offering his services in leagues across the world. But, he didn't play a single game in the Big Bash League last season; he was denied permission to take part, with Sanath Jayasuriya, the then Sri Lanka chief selector, questioning his work ethic.
He didn't get to play a single game either for Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2014, although he turned out for them five times in the Champions League T20 later that year, even playing the lead role in one of their wins. With captain George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson and David Miller nailing down the foreign-player slots, breaking into the first XI is going to be just as difficult this time around.
Perera is also contracted with Guyana Amazon Warriors to play in the Caribbean Premier League this season. In 2012-13, he was a last-minute signing for Brisbane Heat, and was part of their victorious campaign. Perera said he liked playing outside Sri Lanka for the learning opportunities such leagues offered.
"I think I play a lot of cricket inside the country and outside the country," Perera told ESPNcricinfo. "In IPL, you can see a lot of foreign players and lot of captains and lot of coaches. I think that is main thing for us, you know, we can take advice from them, and we can change our thoughts.
"Big Bash [is] also real competitive league. It's not an easy wicket to play in Big Bash, Australia. I play a lot of domestic matches also, but the thing is they don't have international players. That's why I like to play outside the country because we can take good things, good thoughts [from others]."
Perera admitted to favouring the shorter formats, but said he wanted to establish himself in Test cricket as well. "Actually my batting style and bowling style… I really like to play Twenty20 and 50-overs. [But] I [have] played only 7  matches in Tests. I have to play another 20-30 matches because I like to play Test matches. Normally, my batting style is… I am the big-hitter. I am always hitting, hitting, hitting."
Such "hitting, hitting" style is making way for a more sustainable approach to batting, if Perera's claims are anything to go by. "Right now, I am doing some bit of changing [to] my batting style. Now I am going to bat longer a little bit and not [try to] hit every ball and rotate the strike.
"I like to bowl consistent length and my variation. Last year I didn't do well in my bowling. I don't know why and if this is a technical problem, but I am putting in hard work with my bowling.
"In Sri Lanka I am working with Anusha Samarayanake and Champaka Ramanayake, my Sri Lankan bowling coaches. I really like to work with them."
Perera also credited his schoolmate and Sri Lanka captain, Angelo Mathews, with supporting his career "as a captain and as a friend."
"We both played together in St. Joseph's College. He is elder than me [by] two years," Perera said. "I played under his captaincy at the Under-19 level, international level and school level also. I think we had good partnership as friends and brothers, you know."
Leading up to the World Cup, Mathews had said the seam-bowling allrounder was critical to the team's balance, an assessment later endorsed by Mahela Jayawardene. Perera's campaign, however, yielded only middling returns: he picked up six wickets from as many matches and scored 62 runs from four innings. In the IPL, Mathews, the captain of Delhi Daredevils, and Perera are in different camps.
"I think it's good for me he's now our Sri Lankan team captain," Perera said. "We work together a lot of times. I have to say he's a good person, he's a good captain and a good friend. And that's why [we are] staying together.
"Every time I make a mistake, he comes and tells me, 'Thisara this isn't good, you have to play like that, bowl like that.' He gives me lot of advice as a captain and as a friend."
Perera said he was proud of having played alongside Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. "We miss these two legends. I think without these two [it would be] really hard for batting department. Mahela he has retired already, Kumar is going to be… another two-three years or so, I don't know actually."
There was also praise for George Bailey's leadership at Kings XI. "I have worked with him [for a] couple of years and I think he knows how to handle his players and get the best out of every player. Team meeting and everything he really handles well," Perera said.
Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo