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Arthur: Haven't seen any talent like Asalanka and Nissanka in SL

Charith Asalanka looks to have made the No. 3 spot his own ahead of the Australia fixture

Charith Asalanka smashes one over the square-leg boundary, Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, T20 World Cup, Group 1, Sharjah, October 24, 2021

Charith Asalanka smashes one over the square-leg boundary  •  Getty Images

Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka - Sri Lanka's opener, and No. 3 in this current side - are "generation next" for Sri Lankan batting. So said coach Mickey Arthur, one day out from their second match of the Super 12 stage, against Australia.
Asalanka was the player of the match in the game against Bangladesh, hitting 80 not out off 49 balls, after putting on a 69-run partnership with Nissanka for the second wicket, then an unbroken 86-run stand with Bhanuka Rajapaksa.
"I've watched every cricketer now in Sri Lanka, but I don't see batting talent like Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka," Arthur said. "As a coaching staff and a selection panel, we've got to keep giving opportunities to young players, because in the next couple of years they're going to be the leaders in the batting department."
Nissanka made 24 off 21 in that game, but in a first round match against Ireland, hit 61 off 47. It is in Tests that he is most highly-rated, having hit a hundred on debut against West Indies early in the year. But the selectors have since had him play all three formats, and if Arthur's words are anything to go by, team management are intent on investing in him as an all-format batter.
"I've always said since the first time I saw Pathum that he's a wonderful talent. His balance, his feet movement, when he attacks and defends are great. He's got it all. We saw that on Test debut. He's played every form now over the last sort of nine months for us. He's going to play every form, because I think him and Charith are generation next for Sri Lanka in terms of batting."
Asalanka himself had only made his Sri Lanka debut on the tour of England in June, this year. In eight ODI innings since then, he's made three half-centuries. But in the shortest format, his record remained unremarkable, particularly in domestic T20s. The fifty against Bangladesh was his first in T20Is, but also just his fourth in T20s, in 33 innings.
"To see Charith's development has been incredible," Arthur said. "I remember Charith arriving into our bubble just before we went to England, and to see Charith's journey from England to where he is now is a credit to himself. The way he's gone about his work, the professionalism that he's shown, and his preparation for every game has been fantastic. To see a young player like Charith get better and better has been very rewarding for us."
That Asalanka's innings came from No. 3 was particularly encouraging for Sri Lanka who had had problems finding a consistent performer in that position. When the tournament began, Sri Lanka were playing Dinesh Chandimal in that spot, but following Asalanka's innings on Sunday, he has likely made the place his own. Asalanka suggested it was the position he was most comfortable batting in.
"I haven't been able to play a lot of matches for Sri Lanka at No. 3," he said. "But then we changed the batting order, and Avishka Fernando moved down. But I personally like playing at No. 3 in T20s. Since when I was much younger that's where I've played."

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