Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 2nd day August 7, 2014

Silva, the businessman, Tharanga, the best friend

Kaushal Silva's meticulousness is evident in his play and his mannerisms, while Upul Tharanga's carefree elegance is like a breath of fresh air, until he gets a little too lazy
17

Kaushal Silva - short, stocky and square-jawed - is tight but neurotic © AFP

Test openers are a singular breed, they say. They walk in when opponents have a clear advantage. The quicks are fresh and their appetite undiminished. The seam is hard and the pitch, often, soft. It takes a peculiar mix of moxie and masochism to watch a snarling Dale Steyn or a towering Mitchell Johnson bearing down on the crease, smoke pouring off their backs, and still want to be at the other end.

But if they are a singular type, they are not all wearing the same uniform. Not lately anyway. In the last 20 years, Sri Lanka fans have had Sanath Jayasuriya's homespun mayhem and Marvan Atapattu's tempered classicality at either end. Australians have enjoyed Mathew Hayden's swagger and Simon Katich's crab-crawl. Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten, Marcus Trescothick and Michael Atherton - the list goes on.

In this Sri Lanka team, it is not enough to say the openers are two more studies in contrast because, at times, Upul Tharanga and Kaushal Silva are bending space-time to appear in parallel universes.

Silva - short, stocky and square-jawed - is uptight and neurotic. The routine before each ball is precise, drawn out and exhausting. He touches the back pad with his right hand, then draws it up towards him. For about eight seconds he moves the right hand between his hip and the tip of the bat handle, as if he is strumming and tuning an invisible ukulele. Then, looking square at the sticker on the back of his blade he arches his torso backward and stretches his neck, before folding neatly into his stance and tapping his bat thrice. In between all this he is constantly taking guard, both leg and middle, and asking the umpires for the number of balls.

When Silva is opposite Junaid Khan's lolloping skip at the top of his mark, or Morne Morkel's habitual wheelbarrow-circle, the cricketers don't seem to be waging battle for runs and wickets, as much as competing for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder pill prescriptions.

Tharanga - whippet thin, loping, languid - meets you like a cool breeze at the other end. There are no airs to his game, no swagger. Mahela Jayawardene is a little like him in this top order, but even Jayawardene has routines, like always completing a run when he hits a boundary. Tharanga just gazes into the distance and slouches into his stance. He is so sedate sometimes, you wonder if he is asleep. When he lunges lazily at outswingers that all beat the edge, these suspicions are confirmed.

Then out of nowhere, a faultless, flowing cover drive. He does not seem to be hitting the ball so much as asking it out on a date. Sri Lanka fans do not feel anything approaching confidence when anything approaching a good delivery is bowled at Tharanga early in his innings. But if he gets through the first 40 balls, the runs drip from his blade like honey. Balls come with fury at him and go with fury to the fence. What happens in between is delicate, unhurried and delightful.

Three weeks ago, he stroked Steyn, Morkel and Vernon Philander around the park, and then on 83, when he should have been buckling down for a hundred, Tharanga got bored and waltzed past a regulation offbreak from JP Duminy. He had just been given a Test after seven years. He is a professional playing for his country. How does this kind of dismissal even happen?

If he was your friend, he is the kind you go to a bar or sit on the seaside with to shoot the breeze for a few hours. Except, there may not be much talking. Silva, meanwhile, is the business-partner type; the guy you invite around for dinner to impress on your parents you keep sensible, industrious company.

Their batting styles are themselves the story of disparate journeys to the top level. Silva's compactness and precision reflect a lifetime of sweating in the nets with his cricket-coach father, and years of climbing Sri Lanka's arduous domestic staircase. The man had 27 first-class tons before being granted a proper stretch at Test cricket.

Tharanga is eyes, hands and talent, still a little raw after all these years, but blinding when he is at his best. If he bats like he has just woken up on the beach, it is because he spent his youth by the sea. Almost ten years ago, Tharanga finished up a club match for NCC, got on a bus to his hometown of Ambalangoda, and found his family's house, their fishing boats, and their entire neighbourhood, had been washed away in the tsunami. It was Kumar Sangakkara who equipped him with new gear to get him back on the field again.

Tharanga got 19 off 15 balls on day two, as his team strove to reel in a huge Pakistan total. The ball that trapped him in front was a terrific one, jagging back enough to beat the bat, but not enough to miss leg stump, which projections suggest it would have shaved. Silva, meanwhile, edged plenty of deliveries, looked in discomfort against every bowler Pakistan used. Tharanga will feel he was unlucky to get such a good ball. Silva will say it is not luck, but hours of practicing the softening of his grip at the last moment, that allowed all the edges to fall short, and for him to survive until stumps.

Silva has the firmer grip on his place in the team, but as an opener, he is in a fickle trade with a high turnover. Tharanga probably needs runs in the next three innings, or he will be cut loose again. It is up to them to prove their value in the long-term, in a future beyond Sangakkara and Jayawardene. But for now, these two men with the same job, but on wildly different paths are making for fascinating viewing.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew-Silva on August 8, 2014, 13:43 GMT

    It is a pleasure to read your poetic article. Highlighting Tharanga's true potential & the much needed assurance to clear his mind from sheer uncertainty (of his place) is worthwhile! Hopefully, SLC will give him a substantial run to establish as a Test opener that we badly need. Tharanga is the SOLE investment remaining from the past, for the long-term future of SL Cricket.

    He has the most consistent ODI batting record in SL, being the quickest to top 1000 runs & 2nd fastest to reach 5000 runs. He started his blistering ODI career with 6 x 100s & creating a World Record @ 21 Yrs, even much better than Sachin, Ponting, Lara or similar @ 21. This record stands to date! Also, 29 yr Tharanga holds the World Record for highest number of 200+ partnerships (Seven) in ODIs! Only much older/experienced Ponting has equaled it. 13 big 100s + 28 x50s were made against all formidable oppositions around the globe! Do we have any other youngster with Upul's achievements @ international level?

  • Andrew-Silva on August 8, 2014, 13:41 GMT

    CONTINUE) No matter what our SELECTIVELY picky commentators (apart from Ranjith Fernando) try to prove with their consistently negative remarks on every move of Tharanga on the field, if a player doesn't have a true potential to beat all odds of shortcomings, he will never succeed to achieve such a marvelous long-term track record (glistening with some sparkling World Records & SL Records @ international level)..!! After all, Upul Tharanga is just 29 yrs of age & he remains OUR BEST BET for the OPENER's Slot in all 3 Formats.! Please remove the "guillotine-of-insecurity" ever hanging around his neck, since last year! Let him play his natural game with peace of mind (atleast for a reasonable time) to prove his worthiness in Test Cricket as well. He has the definite potential to play long innings glazed with runs, as proved with a World record in Long partnerships in ODIs. Let him materialize that in Test cricket as well, probably with another quickest 5k achievement record in the future

  • Andrew-Silva on August 8, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    It is a pleasure to read your poetic article. Highlighting Tharanga's true potential & the much needed assurance to clear his mind from sheer uncertainty (of his place) is worthwhile! Hopefully, SLC will give him a substantial run to establish the Test opener that we badly need. Tharanga is the SOLE investment remaining from the past, for the long-term future of SL Cricket.

    He has the most consistent ODI batting record in SL, being the quickest to top 1000 runs & 2nd fastest to reach 5000 runs. He started his blistering ODI career with 6 x 100s & creating a World Record @ 21 Yrs, even much better than Sachin, Ponting, Lara or similar @ 21. This record stands to date! Also, 29 yr Tharanga holds the World Record for highest number of 200+ partnerships (Seven) in ODIs! Only much older/experienced Ponting has equaled it. 13 big 100s + 28 x50s were made against all formidable oppositions around the globe! Do we have any other youngster with Upul's achievements @ international level...?

  • on August 8, 2014, 13:34 GMT

    At last, that post-guard routine of Kaushal Silva got documented!

  • SL_Boy on August 8, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    I love Tharanga, i wish he will get big inning soooon ...

  • on August 8, 2014, 8:42 GMT

    Tharanga need some time to adjust this long game.If they gave 2 yrs to dimuth 7 everyday failing kusal in odis .

  • on August 8, 2014, 6:53 GMT

    Great article Andrew. It's funny how players develop certain mannerisms on the field. It was seen that even Aravinda, Hashan, Sanath,Malinga had certain on field mannerisms and the list keeps adding up.

  • on August 8, 2014, 5:10 GMT

    I am writing while listening to commentaries on third day morning and according to Dean Jones Kaushal Silva looks very impressive and other commentators also acknowledged that. He is having his share of problems with Saeed Ajmal, but who would not. But according to Andrew and espncricinfo live match description Kushal looked very edgy. Any explanation?

  • Abdullah07272 on August 8, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    I think today is lucky for Pakistan .Pakistan bowlers can out Srilanka under 250.

  • Ara247 on August 8, 2014, 3:49 GMT

    Seriously good article

  • Andrew-Silva on August 8, 2014, 13:43 GMT

    It is a pleasure to read your poetic article. Highlighting Tharanga's true potential & the much needed assurance to clear his mind from sheer uncertainty (of his place) is worthwhile! Hopefully, SLC will give him a substantial run to establish as a Test opener that we badly need. Tharanga is the SOLE investment remaining from the past, for the long-term future of SL Cricket.

    He has the most consistent ODI batting record in SL, being the quickest to top 1000 runs & 2nd fastest to reach 5000 runs. He started his blistering ODI career with 6 x 100s & creating a World Record @ 21 Yrs, even much better than Sachin, Ponting, Lara or similar @ 21. This record stands to date! Also, 29 yr Tharanga holds the World Record for highest number of 200+ partnerships (Seven) in ODIs! Only much older/experienced Ponting has equaled it. 13 big 100s + 28 x50s were made against all formidable oppositions around the globe! Do we have any other youngster with Upul's achievements @ international level?

  • Andrew-Silva on August 8, 2014, 13:41 GMT

    CONTINUE) No matter what our SELECTIVELY picky commentators (apart from Ranjith Fernando) try to prove with their consistently negative remarks on every move of Tharanga on the field, if a player doesn't have a true potential to beat all odds of shortcomings, he will never succeed to achieve such a marvelous long-term track record (glistening with some sparkling World Records & SL Records @ international level)..!! After all, Upul Tharanga is just 29 yrs of age & he remains OUR BEST BET for the OPENER's Slot in all 3 Formats.! Please remove the "guillotine-of-insecurity" ever hanging around his neck, since last year! Let him play his natural game with peace of mind (atleast for a reasonable time) to prove his worthiness in Test Cricket as well. He has the definite potential to play long innings glazed with runs, as proved with a World record in Long partnerships in ODIs. Let him materialize that in Test cricket as well, probably with another quickest 5k achievement record in the future

  • Andrew-Silva on August 8, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    It is a pleasure to read your poetic article. Highlighting Tharanga's true potential & the much needed assurance to clear his mind from sheer uncertainty (of his place) is worthwhile! Hopefully, SLC will give him a substantial run to establish the Test opener that we badly need. Tharanga is the SOLE investment remaining from the past, for the long-term future of SL Cricket.

    He has the most consistent ODI batting record in SL, being the quickest to top 1000 runs & 2nd fastest to reach 5000 runs. He started his blistering ODI career with 6 x 100s & creating a World Record @ 21 Yrs, even much better than Sachin, Ponting, Lara or similar @ 21. This record stands to date! Also, 29 yr Tharanga holds the World Record for highest number of 200+ partnerships (Seven) in ODIs! Only much older/experienced Ponting has equaled it. 13 big 100s + 28 x50s were made against all formidable oppositions around the globe! Do we have any other youngster with Upul's achievements @ international level...?

  • on August 8, 2014, 13:34 GMT

    At last, that post-guard routine of Kaushal Silva got documented!

  • SL_Boy on August 8, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    I love Tharanga, i wish he will get big inning soooon ...

  • on August 8, 2014, 8:42 GMT

    Tharanga need some time to adjust this long game.If they gave 2 yrs to dimuth 7 everyday failing kusal in odis .

  • on August 8, 2014, 6:53 GMT

    Great article Andrew. It's funny how players develop certain mannerisms on the field. It was seen that even Aravinda, Hashan, Sanath,Malinga had certain on field mannerisms and the list keeps adding up.

  • on August 8, 2014, 5:10 GMT

    I am writing while listening to commentaries on third day morning and according to Dean Jones Kaushal Silva looks very impressive and other commentators also acknowledged that. He is having his share of problems with Saeed Ajmal, but who would not. But according to Andrew and espncricinfo live match description Kushal looked very edgy. Any explanation?

  • Abdullah07272 on August 8, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    I think today is lucky for Pakistan .Pakistan bowlers can out Srilanka under 250.

  • Ara247 on August 8, 2014, 3:49 GMT

    Seriously good article

  • on August 8, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    Tharanga Is not a test opener. As long as he plays so lose outside off, he won't be. But he might have a chance in the middle order to replace Kithruwan, who doesn't deserve a place in the playing 11 till his weakness against the short ball is sorted out.

  • nickexplore on August 8, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    Tharanga was again unlucky yesterday and his dismissal highlights the anomaly in the DRS criteria. Had he been given not out lbw and Pakistan reviewed the decision, he would have still have been not out, because less than half the ball was hitting the stumps, as shown on Hawkeye tracker. But because he was given out initially by the onfield umpire, Tharanga's own referral was not successful, because the ball was seen clipping, and the original decision stood. That's 2 successful referrals from 20 for SL in the past month. The odds must change soon, so must the DRS criteria.

  • on August 8, 2014, 2:27 GMT

    Yet another brilliant piece of insightful writing by Andrew. Just brilliant!

  • sudualiya on August 7, 2014, 23:20 GMT

    Brilliant writing which is more than cricket. I am glad the Sri Lankans are well represented in the media columns as well as on the field. Do we have the reincarnation of a Neville Cardus here?

  • KingOwl on August 7, 2014, 22:54 GMT

    I agree that Kaushal is not a genuine opener. But he is a better opener than any we have got. But if we do find solid openers, then Silva should go one down and Upul should go two or three down (after Mahela and Sanga leave). Thiri and Chandimal should fit in other positions.

  • on August 7, 2014, 21:28 GMT

    Kaushal silva got way too many chances. he was way too lucky!

  • on August 7, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    Kaushal Silva is not a career opening batsman. In his second coming which he deservedly earned through consistent performances at first class level, he was asked to open as that was the only position he could be fit into. He does go feeling for the balls outside the off stump on occasion and at times edges them towards slips. However, as Andrew has mentioned he makes sure that his edges will not carry to slips by using soft hands. Whatever it is he has got the makings of becoming a reliable and gritty opening batsman. He did a wonderful job in England in the drawn first test by constructing long partnerships with Sanga. That trend is continuing. What he must do now is to convert those good scores into big scores. Tharanga is a free flowing opening batsman. However, he is bit too flashy for a test opener. Yet again, this odd couple test opening batsmen combination is good for SL cricket as opposing team opening bowlers need to have two separate plans for them.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • on August 7, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    Kaushal Silva is not a career opening batsman. In his second coming which he deservedly earned through consistent performances at first class level, he was asked to open as that was the only position he could be fit into. He does go feeling for the balls outside the off stump on occasion and at times edges them towards slips. However, as Andrew has mentioned he makes sure that his edges will not carry to slips by using soft hands. Whatever it is he has got the makings of becoming a reliable and gritty opening batsman. He did a wonderful job in England in the drawn first test by constructing long partnerships with Sanga. That trend is continuing. What he must do now is to convert those good scores into big scores. Tharanga is a free flowing opening batsman. However, he is bit too flashy for a test opener. Yet again, this odd couple test opening batsmen combination is good for SL cricket as opposing team opening bowlers need to have two separate plans for them.

  • on August 7, 2014, 21:28 GMT

    Kaushal silva got way too many chances. he was way too lucky!

  • KingOwl on August 7, 2014, 22:54 GMT

    I agree that Kaushal is not a genuine opener. But he is a better opener than any we have got. But if we do find solid openers, then Silva should go one down and Upul should go two or three down (after Mahela and Sanga leave). Thiri and Chandimal should fit in other positions.

  • sudualiya on August 7, 2014, 23:20 GMT

    Brilliant writing which is more than cricket. I am glad the Sri Lankans are well represented in the media columns as well as on the field. Do we have the reincarnation of a Neville Cardus here?

  • on August 8, 2014, 2:27 GMT

    Yet another brilliant piece of insightful writing by Andrew. Just brilliant!

  • nickexplore on August 8, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    Tharanga was again unlucky yesterday and his dismissal highlights the anomaly in the DRS criteria. Had he been given not out lbw and Pakistan reviewed the decision, he would have still have been not out, because less than half the ball was hitting the stumps, as shown on Hawkeye tracker. But because he was given out initially by the onfield umpire, Tharanga's own referral was not successful, because the ball was seen clipping, and the original decision stood. That's 2 successful referrals from 20 for SL in the past month. The odds must change soon, so must the DRS criteria.

  • on August 8, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    Tharanga Is not a test opener. As long as he plays so lose outside off, he won't be. But he might have a chance in the middle order to replace Kithruwan, who doesn't deserve a place in the playing 11 till his weakness against the short ball is sorted out.

  • Ara247 on August 8, 2014, 3:49 GMT

    Seriously good article

  • Abdullah07272 on August 8, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    I think today is lucky for Pakistan .Pakistan bowlers can out Srilanka under 250.

  • on August 8, 2014, 5:10 GMT

    I am writing while listening to commentaries on third day morning and according to Dean Jones Kaushal Silva looks very impressive and other commentators also acknowledged that. He is having his share of problems with Saeed Ajmal, but who would not. But according to Andrew and espncricinfo live match description Kushal looked very edgy. Any explanation?