Sri Lanka cricket August 8, 2013

Selectors must manage Chandimal's captaincy workload

Sri Lanka's selectors must decide whether the burden of captaincy and high expectations are hampering Dinesh Chandimal's growth as a batsman

When Dinesh Chandimal was named Sri Lanka's Twenty20 captain in February, chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya justified his decision with these words: "We thought that it would be too much for Angelo Mathews, to give him the Twenty20 captaincy as well. We wanted to allow him to concentrate on the Tests and ODIs." At the time, the irony in his statement eluded many. After Sri Lanka's 2-1 home loss to South Africa, it has become clearer. In relieving Mathews of the Twenty20 reins, the selectors have overburdened another young talent, whose value to Sri Lanka lies primarily in the other formats.

Chandimal has long been spoken of as Sri Lanka's next great batting hope. An ODI hundred at Lord's in 2011 announced his potential on the big stage and this was underscored by the two fifties in his Test debut in Durban. He has since made encouraging enough gains in Test cricket to satisfy a steep set of expectations.

Yet it is the Twenty20 side he leads. Power has never been integral to his game, nor has finding the boundary at rapid rate. In 16 international T20 innings, he averages 13.18 and has a strike rate below 100. Unlike in ODI cricket, he can hardly claim he does not bat in positions that suit him. Half of his innings have been at no. 3 and a fourth of them at 4. Yet his average does not climb above 15 in either position.

Both he and Lahiru Thirimanne have recently spoken of the immense challenges they face in their attempts to establish themselves in the game. They are tasked with producing their best domestic form at a much more demanding level and, in ODIs, have routinely gone to work in high-pressure situations to which they are unaccustomed. Chandimal's stroke range remains limited, and though his technique is more polished than when he first appeared, the best bowlers will still feel encouraged by its enduring raw aesthetic and they will think they are capable of locating its flaws. Given that Chandimal has not crossed 50 in 15 limited-overs innings, perhaps some bowlers already have.

There is a logic to the selectors' thinking, that is sound, perhaps even commendable. In his brief stints at the helm, Chandimal has proved himself creative and attuned to the game's heartbeat. His team-mates also seem to relish playing for him, feeding off the boyish enthusiasm with which he approaches all aspects of cricket. The school record for most outright wins in a season still belongs to the Ananda College side that Chandimal led at 18.

But the task ahead for him is a monumental one. He averages 58.30 in Tests, and if he is to provide any confidence that Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan will not be missed, he cannot allow that figure to drop significantly. Chandimal was asked to take the gloves in Sri Lanka's most recent Test series, and might eventually inherit them in ODIs as well, when Sangakkara hangs his up.

His fine one-day returns in Australia, England and South Africa marked him out as a special talent early on in his career, but his inability to make big runs in the subcontinent, has yet to be rectified. His technique against spin on turning tracks can hardly have had a more thorough inspection than Sri Lanka's first-class competition, but in ODIs, slow bowlers have succeeded in denying him early runs, and felling him when he seeks to attack. Chandimal has said he far prefers faster foreign tracks to the slow, dry ones at home, but as he plays most of his cricket in Asia, that is not an outlook he can allow to go unchecked at length.

Sri Lanka have also now begun to set sights on the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next March. Having so far retained the top ranking they have had since the last global event, they will feel they are among the leading contenders to win the trophy, in conditions they should like.

But they will not be doing justice to their chances if they do not embark on that campaign with their best XI men. Chandimal, and to some extent Thirimanne, occupy places that befit more natural strikers of the ball. The provincial tournament that is about to begin may provide apt replacements and give an indication of players' form, but if Sri Lanka are to arrive in Bangladesh with their best possible combination, the selectors must act quickly. Sri Lanka have only three Twenty20 internationals confirmed for the seven months before the tournament.

The side's senior batsmen carried them through the home series against South Africa, as they have done for some years now. All three are yet to taste major tournament glory, and now may only have two more opportunities remaining to them before the years begin to weary their game. The selectors' quest for regeneration is meritorious, but if they seek to develop young talent only in the formats that suit each individual, for now, both the team and its youngsters stand to reap better benefits.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 11, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    First of all it need to be said that Chandimal is not a natural striker of the cricket ball. Same goes for thirimanne. Yet the major issue is both just cannot rotate the strike when they come out to bat. This is a big problem given they cannot hit big as well. Making Chandimal captain is just plain ridiculous given he has no credentials to be a permanent member of the squad let alone be a captain of a sri lankan team. Also imagine a case where SL top 4 fires and SL is on 240 or something in the 40th over or so. If then a wicket falls SL never use Chandimal or Thirimanne instead they have to promote lights of thirsara or kule. So that suggest there inability to get on with the game which is a must have quality for a middle order/ late middle order batter. So SLC should seriously consider taking Thirmanne and Chandimal out of T20 and ODIs ( may be thiri can stay in the ODI team but defa not Chandimal) and use them in tests and bring new suited talent to the limited overs squads asap.

  • Dummy4 on August 11, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    Selector Should Give t20 Captaincy to Angelo Mathews

  • Steve on August 10, 2013, 12:39 GMT

    Based on performances alone, Chandimal and Thirimanne, do not deserve a place in T20 team. Making Chandimal captain doesn't help either. Let these players first establish themselves in tests where they are more suited.

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    Having two captains in different formats who are playing in all the formats is not a good decision for SL team. It is not wise to rush Chandimal into captaincy so early. As he is a batsman he should perform consistently with the bat before taking such responsibility.

  • Yohan on August 10, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Sri Lankan selectors got this wrong . Test s and ODI s are the main components of game while T20 is played lesser no of matches . So if we wanted 2 captains , it would have been one for test and another for ODI S & T20 . Angelo Mathews is ideal for shorter format and he himself is an automatic pick as all rounder . But Mathews does not guarant a place in test . So somebody senior would have been fine as a test captain ( Sanga -Mahela - Dilshan - P Jayawardene ) . By doing that Angelo could have been forced to bat well to cement his place in test while Chandimal could have been dropped in T20 as a warning . Now you can t drop captains and we are struggling . This dilemma started in 2011 when they sacked Dilshan . At least they could have retained him as test captain . He brought our first test win in SA .

  • Altaf on August 10, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    It seems SL admin is not sure about what to do ? Few days back, after winning first 2 ODIs, they call him suitable, talented captain and after losing first two in T20s, they started to think reverse ! They don't know but same holds for Methews whose bowling and batting are much affected by captaincy role. When trio are on the edge to exit, they realized about mistake not stabilizing team in at-least last 2-3 years by continuously rotating the team, and that's why except 1-2, no player has played more than 100 ODI matches. That's only about ODIs, Tests will be nightmare for them and that's why they omitted Test series against SA...!

  • mark on August 9, 2013, 15:00 GMT

    Clearly its high time to change Sl's batting coach..Marvan has doing for a so long and now we see it has come to climax and no more cards he has to play. Aravinda should be the next batting coach, he is a attacking batsmen who guided Sl U19 team to WC final.. Marvan is more conservating type of player.. same thing we can see in our batting approach...we need to change this approach with T20 coming and changes in ODI approach has to be changed for that one need to change the old mechine and replace with new i.e Aravinda the best batsman SL ever produce no matter what his Averages...he was the master of SL batting..

  • mark on August 9, 2013, 14:54 GMT

    I think Chandi & Thiri do not suit for T20, for that even Thiri for ODIs....we need to get rid of finding similar player like Sanga...we shuld not look at personwise, instead the role wise..#3 position in ODI shld be forgood stroke players with good technique,strike rate etc...not accumilators who cant score runs and up the rate when required. Mathews shuld bat up in the oder.. they have not got chance to bat long inning even though they have played som many matches, once they start playing few long inning coming up in the bating position they will learn and buld confidence much better than doing cameo inning at the low order. so its unfair and unfortunate to put these talented players in a inappropriate positions which would kill their real talent..

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    THE NEW BIG 3 will be Mathews, Chandimal and Thirimanne for certain.