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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2021 Debutant of the year nominees: Asalanka, Nissanka and others make it a bumper Sri Lankan crop

Five of the ten players on this year's shortlist are from one team

Charith Asalanka: Sri Lanka's next No. 3?  •  Getty Images

Charith Asalanka: Sri Lanka's next No. 3?  •  Getty Images

Charith Asalanka (Sri Lanka)
Tests: 29 runs at 14.50 (1 match)
ODIs: 326 runs at 40.75 (8 matches)
T20Is: 295 runs at SR 132.88 (9 matches)

The 24-year-old former Under-19 Sri Lanka captain is a strong and fearless bottom-hand-heavy player who can give the ball a whack. Making his debut across the three international formats in four months in 2021 for the national side, he won the Player-of-the-Series award against South Africa in September, having accumulated 196 runs in the three ODIs. In the main draw of the T20 World Cup, he scored 225 runs at a strike rate of 153.06. Among the batters who scored over 200 runs in the Super 12s, his strike rate was the best. His unbeaten 80 against Bangladesh came under pressure, when Sri Lanka were toiling at 79 for 4, chasing 172. Given Sri Lanka have had problems finding a consistent performer at No. 3, Asalanka looks a decent bet for the position.
Praveen Jayawickrama (Sri Lanka)
Tests: 18 wickets at 18.22 (3 matches)
ODIs: 5 wickets at 35.40 (5 matches)

It didn't matter much that Jayawickrama had played only ten first-class matches before his Test debut. The young left-arm spinner couldn't have asked for a better first game: he returned match figures of 11 for 178 against Bangladesh in the second Test in Pallekele, which the hosts won by a massive 209 runs. His match figures were the best by a Sri Lankan bowler on debut and the best by a left-arm spinner from any country on debut. Jayawickrama was included in the white-ball squads for the England tour, and though he only bowled one over on his ODI debut against England, he took three in his second game, against India at home.
Rachin Ravindra (New Zealand)
Tests: 3 wickets at 40.33 (2 matches)
T20Is: 6 wickets at 4.36 Econ (6 matches)

"Earmarked as a star of the future since his U-19 days" in the words of New Zealand coach Gary Stead, 22-year-old allrounder Ravindra came into the national team on the back of centuries for New Zealand A against West Indies early last season. Having recovered from a dislocated shoulder, he earned his maiden Test call-up for the tour of England, which included the World Test Championship final against India. Though he didn't play for New Zealand on that tour, Ravindra made his debut against India in Kanpur in November, showing immense application in playing out 91 deliveries with the tail to help his team eke out a draw. In T20Is his left-arm fingerspin has come in handy, like in the second T20I against Bangladesh in Dhaka, where he accounted for the top three.
Ollie Robinson (England)
Tests: 37 wickets at 21.16 (8 matches)

It was a year to remember (and forget) for fast bowler Robinson. After picking up seven wickets and scoring 42 in his maiden Test, against New Zealand, he was banned for eight matches (five of those suspended for two years) and fined for tweets he posted between 2012 and 2014. Upon being recalled for the Tests against India, he finished as the highest wicket-taker on both sides with 21 wickets at 21.33, including five-wicket hauls at Trent Bridge and Headingley. Robinson finished the year as England's second most prolific bowler in Tests, with 37 wickets, two behind James Anderson.
Pathum Nissanka (Sri Lanka)
Tests: 427 runs at 42.70 (6 matches)
ODIs: 86 runs at 9.55 (9 matches)
T20Is: 302 runs at 117.05 SR (12 matches)

According to former Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur, Nissanka is "kind of a different beast". Like Asalanka, he made his debut across international formats in 2021. He scored 103 on debut against West Indies and finished with an average of over 42 after six matches. He came into the national side on the back of impressive consistency in first-class cricket, where he currently averages in the mid-60s with 14 hundreds after 39 matches. Perhaps one of the most technically sound young batters from Sri Lanka, he has struggled to find his feet in ODIs so far, but in T20Is he has gone past 30 in five of his 11 innings and has made three fifties, at a strike rate of a little under 120.
Sajid Khan (Pakistan)
Tests: 18 wickets at 19.72 (4 matches)

Having made his Test debut against Zimbabwe in April, offspinner Sajid hit the headlines in December, when he routed Bangladesh with figures of 8 for 42 and 4 for 86, racing the clock to take Pakistan to a thrilling win in the second Test, in Dhaka. His haul in the first innings was the fourth-best bowling performance by a Pakistani in a Test innings and the best for any bowler against Bangladesh in the format.
Ishan Kishan (India)
ODIs: 60 runs at 30.00, 2 catches (2 matches)
T20Is: 113 runs at 134.52 SR (5 matches)

A powerful batter at the top of the order or in the middle, and a capable wicketkeeper, 23-year-old Kishan took his IPL form and confidence into international cricket, where he whipped the first ball he faced, off Jofra Archer, for a four. He made 56 in that T20I, and on his ODI debut, against Sri Lanka, he hit a 42-ball 59, having started his innings with a first-ball six off Dhananjaya de Silva.
Mahesh Theekshana (Sri Lanka)
ODIs: 4 wickets at 9.25 (1 match)
T20Is: 9 wickets at 6.21 Econ (10 matches)

Joining the likes of Ajantha Mendis and Muthiah Muralidaran in the ranks of mystery spinners from Sri Lanka, Theekshana showed glimpses of his potential in white-ball cricket in 2021. He made his ODI debut in the series decider against South Africa and took 4 for 37. In T20Is, he took two three-wicket hauls in a row, against Namibia and Ireland, in the World Cup. Though he has only played a handful of matches at domestic level, the 21-year-old has variations that make it hard for batters to read him.
Suryakumar Yadav (India)
ODIs: 124 runs at 62.00 (3 matches)
T20Is: 244 runs at 155.41 SR (11 matches)

A middle-order batter who has shown great improvisatory skills in the IPL, Yadav made his India debut at the relatively advanced age of 30 in 2021. But that also meant he entered the international circuit with plenty of experience and a sound understanding of his game. He made an instant impact in the T20Is against England in March with a 31-ball 57 and 32 off 17. In his 11 T20Is, Yadav has struck at an impressive 155.41. He made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in July and bagged the Player-of-the-Series award.
Ramesh Mendis (Sri Lanka)
Tests: 26 wickets at 21.53 (4 matches)
ODIs: 2 wickets at 24.00 (3 matches)
T20Is: 1 wicket at 5.50 Econ (2 matches)

Coming up through the levels of the game, Mendis was a batting allrounder. But former Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur identified his bowling as a potential asset to the Test side, and his faith was rewarded in the series against Bangladesh when Mendis returned a match haul of 6 for 189 in his second Test. He continued to shine in the long format, picking up another18 wickets in the two Tests against West Indies at home in November, finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the series.

Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo