Sri Lanka ponder the Kapugedera conundrum
Sri Lanka cannot seem to make up their mind about Chamara Kapugedera. His 92 ODIs have been spread over six and a half years for a disappointing average of 22.04. He has batted all the way from No. 2 to No. 9. He has gone out of the squad many times, and has made his way back again. Mahela Jayawardene spoke for almost ten minutes on Kapugedera on Monday, but the debate still remained open.
Jayawardene conceded Kapugedera had not made the most of his chances, but felt that the opportunities had not been consistent. He said Kapugedera was committed and focused during practice, but admitted he struggled to handle the pressure in a game. Jayawardene hinted that time could run out for Kapugedera eventually, but asked for some more patience given that he was still only 25.
"It is frustrating," Jayawardene said of Kapugedera's struggles. "If you see the way he bats at nets, and the way Isuru Udana bowls at nets, it's totally different, and we give them an opportunity. I don't know whether it's the occasion, whether they can't handle pressure, [but] it does not come good for them. If they cannot handle the pressure then we have to move on and give that opportunity to someone else.
"But what we see at the nets, the commitment and the attitude we feel that there is something that could spark these guys. We have had players like Marvan [Atapattu] who didn't have a great start, but people gave him opportunities and he reacted to that. Obviously if they are not performing and others come and grab hold of their chances then they will get more opportunity than guys like Chamara."
Jayawardene said Kapugedera was not being able to carry his focus in the nets to the middle and said that was something for coaches to work on. "He is still young and if he can turn a corner it'd be good. In the last World Twenty20 he was awesome for us in the Caribbean batting at No. 6 [Kapugedera made 95 runs in six games at a strike-rate of 121.79]. The talent is there, but the execution is not there and we have to identify how we can trigger that. We have to be patient. If he is struggling [then] giving him a break, obviously see if there are any other players, but if he is good we have to try him."
Jayawardene said Sri Lanka had limited resources and were looking to give chances to young players. "If you see a player like Nuwan Pradeep wasn't bowling well six months ago, but we kept him in the squad and today he is doing well.
"We try to do justice to all players. We can't throw out simply because players fail in few games. They are all young players and we need to be patient."
Jayawardene said it was the selectors' call on whether or not to persist with Kapugedera but added that opportunities had to be capitalised on. "He has not made most of the opportunities, but the opportunities have been far and few. Not consistent. But obviously if someone is fighting for a spot, whatever the opportunity you have to grab it. It's tough, it's under pressure, it's not easy, but we will see how it goes."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo