Sri Lanka in UAE 2013-14 December 29, 2013

Chandimal, Thirimanne have points to prove

Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne have been given long rope by Sri Lanka's selectors, and it's high time they justified their continued selection

Just as he did with the bat 17 years ago, Sanath Jayasuriya has blazed a trail in his 11 months as chief selector. Less than two weeks into his tenure, Jayasuriya's panel had appointed Sri Lanka's youngest Test captain, and placed a 23-year-old at the helm of the Twenty20 side. Sri Lanka have also batted to an unprecedented depth under his watch, and the joke among fans is that pioneer Jayasuriya has brought a minister's son to the national side for the first time. In Jayasuriya's defence, Ramith Rambukwella has largely justified his selection, on the field.

Jayasuriya's boldest policy, however, has not been the selection for which he received the most global attention. Since the team's last Test in March, Jayasuriya has not budged on his support for two young middle-order batsmen, who have rarely played the innings Jayasuriya has been adamant they are capable of.

In 23 innings since Sri Lanka's last Test match Dinesh Chandimal hit one fifty. In 19 knocks in the same time period, Lahiru Thirimanne hit two. Occasionally they have mustered valuable boundaries as they arrive towards the end of an innings, but more often, they have been passengers in the national side. It is just as well that the likes of Nuwan Kulasekara have become more adept with the bat in the past year, as the lower order has been called upon for cover.

Almost every time Jayasuriya has faced the media in the past six months, he has been grilled on the merits of his unflappable stance on the pair. Notions of talent and innate ability have been invoked in his responses but mostly, he has asked for patience. "Young players need time to settle and to start performing", he has said. A late bloomer himself, Jayasuriya knows plenty about persevering until the chasm between domestic dominance and international success has been bridged. When he was first trialled as an opener in 1993, Jayasuriya averaged less than 15 and could not provide the starts his team expected of him. Yet three years later he would redefine his role, and become one of the most feared batsmen of the decade.

Chandimal and Thirimanne do not have to achieve anything so dramatic, but the time draws near when they too must make good their talent. Although neither batsman possesses the aggressive dynamic that is required of a limited-overs finisher, they cannot claim to have made the best of their opportunities.

Before the tour of the UAE, Chandimal's batting had appeared to be in regression. He had once been spirited and carefree, but this year, his trips to the crease have been fraught with over caution - almost paralysis. Balls he might have once attacked were suddenly defended reverently. Sometimes his inaction would worsen the team situation to the extent that either he or his partner would perish hitting out at deliveries that did not deserve such treatment. Thirimanne had been better in comparison, but limited affinity for aggression brought about ungainly dismissals.

Finally, now, the pair arrive on a stage in which they can have few excuses. Their approach suits Tests better than any other format, and for the first time against a top-eight nation, they will have a full series in which to proclaim the gains they have made in their cricket since being marked out as key prospects.

Injury kept Thirimanne out of the ODI series, but already Chandimal has been promising. He had made three starts in the first three one-dayers, but in a game-clinching hand on Friday, Chandimal built a innings on his own terms. He also coaxed the best batting out of a tailender, which he has done before in Tests despite his inexperience.

Although his ODI average has dropped by about 10 in the last 18 months, Chandimal may be heartened by his Test record. He still averages 58.30 in that format, and his 12 innings have featured away half-centuries against South Africa and Australia, as well as a hundred against Bangladesh in a pivotal period of play. His ascension to vice-captain in ODIs this year has made his failures the most conspicuous in the team, and his returns against a good Test attack over the next three weeks have the potential to define his career or to scuttle it.

Less has been expected of Thirimanne, but he has already been touted by team-mates as Kumar Sangakkara's future replacement at No. 3, and only consistent scores will affirm those plans. Thirimanne perhaps has the harder task, having had little time at the crease in the past month, but if he wishes to protect his place against challenges from the likes of Ashan Priyanjan, he cannot allow rust to slow him against Pakistan.

In a year of attempted regeneration, Chandimal and Thirimanne have been Sri Lanka's biggest investments. If dividends do not soon arrive, even Jayasuriya will have his resolve tested.

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

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  • Nuwan on December 31, 2013, 6:11 GMT

    Kapu among runs again. Need to keep on performing consistently though.Selectors need to draft him in for T20 and ODIs. Specially considering the way Thiri and Chandi struggling to hit big when needed. Their batting does not suit shorter formats. They may come good in once in a while but better to give players like Kapu, Priyanjan and Angelo Perera proper opportunities at the top (Not at no 6 or 7) and build their confidence and nurture them. We don't have a huge talent pool and when we recognize proper talent we need to carefully manage them. Kapu,Priyangan,Angelo and Bhanuka are world class talent and if they fail it's not because of their fault but because of the short sighted politically motivated administrators. They have successfully managed to ruin careers of some really talented players such as Pradeep Hewage ,Nimesh Perera (and the list goes on) so far.Hope and pray this will change soon.

  • Yohan on December 31, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    @ Sachin O. Khairnar - you are correct . Bhanuka was fantastic in U19 world cup . but he has not been that prolific in scoring in domestic level .moreover he has become chubby and lacking fitness . he first needs to get fitter and score runs to be concerned . i hope unmukt chand doesnt have such issues .

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 15:42 GMT

    @King_Loyal please don't take schools for cricket mate! Bhanuka is flop after school tounnerment! kusal is real deal and he will get his place in starting 11! there are many batsman better than kithruwan mate! dickwella,priyanjana and angelo perera alla are better than him! and on the other hand chandimal and thirimanne is only promising in fast tracks! if you think they are useless just watch 2011 Cb series,2012 SA tour 2012 Australia tests in ausis..

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 15:30 GMT

    Why Sanath Jaysuriya is not giving chance to Bhanuka Rajapaksa, i saw him in u-10 world cup in 2010, and i thought he will be great future for Sri Lankan cricket or he has gone on the same way like Unmukt Chand U-19World cup winning captain of India. i,e Good at u-10 level and is still to prove at domestic level.

  • Ranidu on December 30, 2013, 15:27 GMT

    @King_Loyal Hey Dude this conversation is about Sri lankan Cricket team NOT Royal College Cricket team.:-) Agree with Kusal Perera opening the team. But from where is Jehan Mubharak comes?? What happend to other cricketers in Sri lanka. Bhanuka and Kithruwan both are talented players but there are many players who waiting to earn their national colours than Jehan Mubharak and Ramith Rambukwalla.

  • Samantha on December 30, 2013, 14:55 GMT

    Why don't they include Jehan Mubarak to open with Kusal Perera? That would be an ideal combination who can take apart any bowling attack in the world under any condition! With them, Banuka Rajapakshe, Ramith Rambukwella, Kithuruwan Vithanage SHOULD make the FINAL ELEVEN in 2015 WC to have any chance of winning it.!! Dilshan, Mahela, Sanga are too old for this… Chandimal & Thirimanne are useless… they all should be eliminated as Upul Thranga, before it is too late! As-far-as-I-can-see… Priyanjan, Dimuth, Niroshan Dickwella, Angelo Perera are nowhere near in talent required to be considered for such a big task or TEST! In my honest opinion, the above mentioned super talent should be included in the TEST side too! If really needed Jeewan Mendis and Kaushal Silva can be considered. No matter what … This is going to be the near future World-Beating Cricket side of SL.

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 14:22 GMT

    @Charith Nanayakkara, yes Chandi takes his time to build the innings.Same was in the last match.And Sanga did the same as well. Consuming far more dot balls than Chandi.Blaming Chandi for taking his time LOL.

  • prasad on December 30, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    Both Chandi & Thiri need to deliver good performances in the test matches otherwise there are some good young talent waiting in the wings likes of Ashan, Kithruwan and even Kusal.

  • Android on December 30, 2013, 12:13 GMT

    yes of course srilankan seniors nt like to play in middle order...if sangakkata play at thirimmane place or chandimal place he will out frm the team...its prove by chandimal in various occassions last odi was the same..he take time to build his innigs..

  • Rizwan on December 30, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    Why are the selectors ignoring Banuka Rajapakshe - The former Royal skipper is too good to be plying his trade in T20 for overseas clubs.Banuka , potentially could take Sangakkara's place at # 3 - Chandimal and THirimanne are solid batters but they will never dominate at attack in the manner of a Mahela or Sanath.Of the current lot , only Banuka ( with the exception of Kusal Perera) has the skills to destroy an attack.


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