July 25, 2013

'It's time our batting started winning matches for the team'

Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne talk about what it means to be given leadership roles in the one-day side, and what they can learn from Sangakkara and Jayawardene

Twenty-three-year-old batsmen Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne were named captain and vice-captain for the first two matches of the ODI series against South Africa. The move was a strong signal from Sri Lanka's selectors - that they expect both men to inherit the top-order mantle that will eventually be vacated by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. ESPNcricinfo spoke to the two about expectations, batting in unfamiliar positions, and making their way into the international team.

When you first come into the Sri Lanka team as a young batsman, what do you work on?
Lahiru Thirimanne: I haven't changed a lot, technically, since I came into the team, but I have thought a lot about changing my batting according to the situation. When should I step out and hit a spinner? What types of balls should I always look to leave in a Test? Those are the kinds of things we work on inside the first year. Other than that, I think Marvan aiyya [Atapattu] doesn't like to change a lot about the way you bat, because that's what got you this far.

Chandimal, you've spoken of being in a form rut at the moment. As a young player how do get out of that?
DC: I had a lot of coaching during April. There were a few small technical problems in my game. I worked those out with Marvan aiyya. That said I haven't been scoring many runs since then. But every sportsman goes through bad patches. No matter how hard you work on it, sometimes you don't get the rewards. That isn't just in cricket but in life as well - whether you're running a business or playing another sport, it's the same. At other times things happen for you when you haven't worked towards it. You have to weigh all that up in your approach to the game.

I know that I haven't done well in the recent past, and I take full responsibility for that, but it's also not easy to score a lot of runs at 5, 6 and 7. Any batsman coming in at that time will find it hard to get more than 30 runs - 50 at most. It's a high-pressure position, because you need to score quick runs and retain your wicket as well. It's a cameo role, so I need to figure out how to do that better. I think I will get the rewards for my hard work in the time to come.

You've both batted down the order in ODIs, but which position do you think suits your game best?
DC: I think Nos. 3 and 4 are where I have made a lot of runs. But in the Sri Lanka team there are players who are much better than me, and because of that I have to bat lower. Having said that, if you are truly a good batsman, then you need to know how to bat from No. 1 to No. 11. It's up to me to take that responsibility. I'm doing my best to rise again from the place to which I've fallen.

LT: I'd like to bat at 3 or 4 as well, high in the order. When I was playing for school, I played as an opener or one down - same in the A team and Under-19 side, when I was mostly an opener. Batting at 5, 6 and 7 is tough in ODIs, because you might only get a couple of overs. From match to match the type of innings you have to play differs. And if you give your wicket away at a crucial time, that could contribute heavily to a loss. We have to perform in the spots we are given, though, and hopefully that will give us experience in a range of different situations that will be helpful to us in the future.

The selectors have placed a lot of trust in you and given you places of leadership. Have you talked about how you can repay that faith?
DC: We didn't just start playing together in the last couple of days; we've been in the same teams since we were about 15. We have a good friendship and we know each other's games. When I speak about something, he knows exactly what I mean, because we have a very good understanding. As cricketers and now captains, we talk a lot about what needs to happen for us to win games.

In the first match of this series, some people asked me why I didn't bat myself at No. 5. As a captain I can't just think about myself. We have four left-handers in the middle - Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Jehan Mubarak and Rangana Herath. If I had gone in and made 5 and got out, there is a string of left-handers to follow, and that makes it very easy for the bowlers, because they don't have to change their line at all. Those are the kinds of things that you have to think about as a captain.

LT: As the two youngsters in the team, we've been given a long run by the selectors. We can't make excuses about inexperience anymore. It's time that our batting really progressed and started winning matches for the team.

How big is the difference between the standard of Sri Lanka's domestic circuit and international cricket?
DC: I see a massive difference, especially recently. It's really tough for players who come into the international scene, and I've seen that myself. It's really important that the domestic standard improves in the future.

"They work and work on their techniques and they clear all their weaknesses before they go to the match. We are lucky, because we get to talk to them, and that way you learn more than from just watching them"
Chandimal on having Sangakkara and Jayawardene as mentors

As players trying to currently bridge the gap between the domestic and international standard, what do you think needs to happen to make that transition easier?
DC: I think the biggest thing is to have fewer teams in our domestic tournaments. We should then push all our talented players into that - the standard goes up a lot. If we had a set-up where the most talented cricketers play each other regularly and the best one gets picked, it wouldn't be so hard for that person to adjust to international cricket. But that said, everyone has problems. Look at Australia now. They are really struggling with their combinations, so it's not just us.

LT: We have 20 teams now, and in some of those teams, there will be just one good bowler in the attack. The rest are average bowlers. You can play that one guy out and score your runs off the rest. In international cricket, every single bowler in the attack is top-class. You don't get so many loose balls, and that is a big challenge when you're new.

We already have a provincial tournament, and in that only five teams play, so the best of the 20. That is really competitive. I think the longer we can play that tournament, the better. I think that tournament can be something like the state tournament in Australia.

You've been around for a little while. What advice do you have for a player like Angelo Perera, who is on the brink of coming into the side?
DC: He's a great talent, and like Thirimanne I've played with him since we were 15. I think the most important thing is being consistent and cutting down on your mistakes. We have some great senior players in the side, and we would be stupid not to watch the good things that they do and incorporate those things into our own game. We have to learn the things that make you successful at the top level for a long time. Even if you're not playing a lot of matches in a tour, there's no point just sitting around and watching. The seniors are a resource for us to ask questions from, and I still go and talk to them about my weaknesses. I think the key to surviving in that early period is to make as few mistakes as possible.

What things do Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara do that you want to bring into your own game?
DC: Even off the field, they are always talking about cricket. They talk about bowlers and how they can get runs off them, they talk about certain conditions and what they need to make runs there. Before every match, they are talking about that match and that pitch, and by the time they get there they have a plan in their heads on how to be successful.

The way they work hard at practice is also important. They work and work on their techniques and they clear all their weaknesses before they go to the match. We are lucky because we get to talk to them, and that way you learn more than from just watching them as well. They give great advice.

LT: I've really liked watching Kumar Sangakkara bat since I was a kid, and Aravinda de Silva as well. They were my idols. I have a long way to go before I get to that level. Sangakkara is the best in the world right now in terms of how he builds an innings. I want to try to emulate that. It's not an easy thing to learn.

How do you find foreign conditions for batting, in comparison to pitches at home?
DC: The way I see it, at this stage of my career, Sri Lanka is the hardest place to bat - for me at least. I think a lot of other batsmen in the team will say that as well. There is uneven bounce and pace here, which isn't there in overseas pitches, where the ball just comes through at the same pace. Here some balls stay low, others stop on the pitch. I guess it depends on your own game as a batsman, as to how it affects you.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lalindra on July 28, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    One day chandimal and thirimanne come to the place where maiya and sanga are now there they would also do the same as when they were juniors they were also treated in a such fashion...! pathetic... at least in this last game we should send lahiru 1 down and chandimal 2 down and sanga to follow suite.... maiya can open with dilshan

  • mark on July 27, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    SL dont have 1.2 billion to find a 11 players, yet they have made legends in the game than those mere high average/personal record makers. but still making huge difference to the game and its development. When Jayasuriya, Aravind etc was leaving also everybody told that SL cant win without them, no batting talent without them blah blah...but then Sanga,Dili, and MJ emerged over the years and did well in the interrnational level coming to so many finals of ICC events. they too never came to that state within 1 or 2 years.. its time taking gradual process depending on the individual players skills.. these players will learn and groom into a shoes that will fit in when the right time come.. stil they are in learning curve. we dont wont to bother nor compare with level of other teams,thats not gonna solve the problem.its doenst need to be happdn in quick time nor according to wishes of thoses who comment with prejudice to SL cricket here.

  • Anil on July 26, 2013, 22:21 GMT

    It's a big joke to even take the name of the Legend and greatest finisher the game has ever seen -Dhoni with these 2 Players who average 27-Chandimal and 24 Thirimanne after playing 50 games.Sri Lankan fans have to accept reality that there is no batting talent there except Sanga and to a lesser extent Mahela and Dilshan.

  • Sakthi on July 26, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    Without Mahela and Sanga they cant win matches. There is no solidity in the team, for every win they get these two are the backbone. They are lucky if they dont play with India or Pakistan or Bangladesh.

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2013, 10:02 GMT

    I think DC has already started showing signs of improvement, he's batting with responsibility and his strike rate is improving in last 3-4 innings. But LT, I feel, is getting worse. Not a single inning, he's played so far indicates that he is an international level player. Most of the time he gets out after wasting awful lot of deliveries, no responsibility, no conviction. Let him first prove that he deserves a place in the side let alone making him the VC.

  • srinivasan on July 26, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    First of all, if you guys comparing Dhoni with any of this two kid is utter joke..Dhoni is LEGEND. He did it for India what KS and KJ couldn`t do?? #Reality

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    The best talent Sri Lanka found both as a player as well as a captaincy material is in the form of Mathevs. He is the most gifted and talent among probably after Sanga. These too youngsters should give a fair run and freedom to build them and cement their places first. I have reservation as these additional responsibilities will not do any good for these players. Specially DC is preferred in the team due to potentiality than the record. Let them enjoy the game and not to bring politics to overate them and ruins their carriers. The captaincy issue is not the threat at present Sri Lanken cricket as new captain is rapidly bring lots of comfort and maturity, now the challenge is to replace big three. Should give similar run to other emerging talents as I sincerely feel that they should bring better performance than these two selectors choices.

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    the thing with Sri Lankan batsmen is that averages don't really count for anything... Only Sangakkara has enjoyed even near decent averages.. Jaya, Dilshan or even greats like Jayasuriya, De Silva or Ranatunga... none of them had stellar averages.. Jayasuriya played 400 games, had an avg of 32...

    so yeah if the administration saw something in these two perhaps we need to see it out for a bit... and I have seen match winning innings from both batsmen to believe they can come out with some innings in crucial times...

    having said that, not sure if making them captain/vice-captain was the greatest move (though they have won games but does it do any good to their game?)... we shall see

  • Vikash on July 26, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    Recent trend of blooding youngsters in Asian teams these days albeit with diff reasons.. India doing it to give rest to senior players and keeping a healthy pool of backup, SL forecasting a loom when the their TRIO great players r not there so they hv started grooming the new faces.. PAk doing it as the existing one like Maliks, K Akmal r not good enough n havent done justice to the selectors faith. But the good thing about DC n LK is that they came across as really humble persons n actually know their limitations. However they have to remain determined and shud hv enough grit to show their worth n what they spoke in this interview. Also everyone is now praising Dhoni and making him as an example but not so long ago we all were cursing for humiliating test defeats. Its high times we as fans should mature and start appreciating cricket rather than finding scapegoats in victories and loss.

  • Prbath on July 26, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    get rid of those too under performers, and it seems Thirimanne is nowhere close to been International batsmen, let alone being next Sangakkara, he does not have nay shot, he just scrap around and eat balls and get out, i would take Kapugedara over Thirimanna any given day, atleast he has potential to destroy any bowling attack unlike Thirimanna who is painfully poor and no potential