Chandimal focuses on adaptability
Dinesh Chandimal's year could hardly have begun much better. Having sat the last half of 2012 on the sidelines, he was added to the New Year Test side after Kumar Sangakkara fractured a finger, and impressed with both bat and the gloves, hitting 62 not out alongside the tail in the second innings.
Two months later, he made his maiden Test century on a batting paradise in Galle, but followed that with a much more valuable hundred in Colombo, against Bangladesh. In between, he had become his nation's youngest ever captain in any format, when he was handed the Twenty20 reins, and he celebrated by leading his side to a first-up win.
The last few months, though, haven't quite gone according to plan. In April, he opted to turn down soft offers from the IPL, in order to work intensively with Sri Lanka's batting coach on technical flaws that hindered his limited-overs game, as well as to learn some English. He has emerged with a slew of phrases that every sportsman finds useful in his career, but the rewards of learning are less evident in his ODI batting. In seven innings since the start of June, Chandimal has made 86 runs, at 14.33.
His development in limited-overs cricket has to some extent hampered by the presence of Sri Lanka's three top-order juggernauts. Chandimal has excelled in Tests, where he has had the time to construct innings, but his batting yet lacks the power to make good use of the finishing spots he has been saddled with in ODIs. With Sri Lanka's senior batsmen reluctant to retire before the 2015 World Cup, Chandimal has figured he must adapt to batting lower down, as he may remain there for some time yet.
"I need to know how to bat from No.1 to No.11. I think that's what the best cricketers do," Chandimal said. "When you have such good players in your top order, you have to fit where the team needs. In my last two tours there have been some small weaknesses in my batting and I have had to bat in different places in different matches, but I can't be disheartened by that."
Chandimal also called on the other young batsmen in his side to begin contributing, after the senior batsmen had carried the side through tournaments in the UK and West Indies, without a great deal of support from the middle order. Sri Lanka's 180-run victory in the first ODI was similarly propelled by Kumar Sangakkara's 169, which constituted more than half of the team's total.
"We can't always rely on our experienced players to score runs. As youngsters we are expecting that on the days when they can't score, we will stand up and perform," Chandimal said. "We have a lot of good young players - Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne, myself. I think we have a lot more experience now than we did when we first started playing.
"We've been given a big opportunity, as I've been given the captaincy and Lahiru is the vice-captain. As young players we need to know how to take hold of that opportunity with both hands."
Tharanga's presence at the top of the order has helped settle the opening combination, after Kusal Perera could not find form in the Champions Trophy last month. Tharanga has 13 ODI centuries, including a career-best 174 since returning to the side last month, but he has in the past been wildly inconsistent. With so much youth in the middle order, however, Chandimal feels Tharanga's 168 matches worth of experience, provides a better overall balance.
"He has done really well since coming back into the team in the last tour. We saw how well he used his experience in the last few games. If you look at his statistics there's no doubt he's a talented cricketer. That opening combination is good. Because of the two new balls, you need that experience."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here