Suresh Perera plays an on-driveduring his lusty 28
Suresh Perera, the promising fast bowler tipped as a player who can turn out to be the great all-rounder Sri Lanka lusts after, justified his selection to the senior team by winning the man of the match award in the game against India on Sunday.
Perera played a vital role, scoring 28 off 31 balls just when Sri Lanka had stumbled to 155 for seven and then claiming the wickets of both the Indian openers in an impressive new ball burst.
An excited Perera said afterwards: "I am delighted. I feel great. This is the first time I have won the man of the match award. But more importantly I want to do better"
Perera has just returned from back and groin injuries which kept him in the cold for almost two years after he made his debut in the famous Oval Test against England in 1998; a game in which he took just one wicket, but clubbed an entertaining unbeaten 43 in the Sri Lankan first innings.
He has since been in the selectors' sights and, when he performed well against Pakistan A on their recent tour, he was finally given a recall.
"It's been almost two years," recalls Perera. "Even in the domestic season I just played the odd game because of the injury. Now I feel I am back to normal and I want to give my best to the side."
Suresh Perera's last international assignment was during the AIWA cup at home, which featured Australia and India, before the injuries started to take their toll. Sunday's game was his 13th ODI.
His back injury forced him to make some technical changes: "I have had to change my bowling action slightly, which had previously put a lot of stress upon my back, and therefore caused the injury."
With the assistance of video footage and under the watchful eye of Rumesh Ratnayake, the bowling coach, Perera also identified other areas for improvement, including a more compact action and straighter lines.
"I took the Pakistani series match by match," he said. "I desperately wanted to do well. At the end of the series I was happy because my efforts were rewarded."
"It was very hard to get back to the side," he reveals. "I had to perform up to high expectations, but on the other hand I had to look after my injuries and be careful. I was unable to just give it everything and Alex Kontouri recommended that I only bowl short spells during my recovery period."
Perera is though not content with just getting back into the one-day team, he wants more than that: "After that Test at the Oval in 1998 I didn't get a single chance to play Test cricket. I don't know why, but I now want to make it back into the Test side as well."
Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya was delighted with the 23-year-old's performance and attitude: "He's been an excellent addition to the team. We are looking for an all rounder and I was happy with his performance. He gave one hundred percent and that's what we need."
Dav Whatmore, the Sri Lankan coach, is a big fan: "Suresh is a multi-dimensional cricketer who gives you something in every department of the game. With the ball he has the knack of taking wickets and he has a lot of potential with the bat. In the field he is quick across the turf and an excellent fast throw."
With Sri Lanka now keen to play six batsmen and five specialist bowlers, an opportunity has emerged for Perera as one of the fast bowling all rounders. If he continues to fire like he did last Sunday and, more importantly, keeps those injuries at bay, then Sri Lanka's chances of success in the 2003 World Cup will receive a welcome boost.