Matches (25)
IPL (3)
USA vs CAN (1)
SA v SL [W] (1)
WI 4-Day (4)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
ACC Premier Cup (6)
Women's Tri-Series (1)
Feature

Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka's Kapil Dev-lite, does it again

A player who's always up for a cricketing fight, as he's proven repeatedly, Sri Lanka have never had an allrounder - or a captain - quite like him before

Wanindu Hasaranga exuding main-character energy  •  AFP/Getty Images

Wanindu Hasaranga exuding main-character energy  •  AFP/Getty Images

It's October 2021, and there's been a top-order collapse. Sri Lanka have lost three wickets inside two overs and things are looking bleak. There's Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne all left to come, but Sri Lanka have instead opted to promote Wanindu Hasaranga ahead of them.
And Hasaranga is about to pretty much single-handedly rip away a historic chance of a World Cup upset from Ireland. He takes a little time settling in, seven balls to be precise, and then he punches one through extra cover. Ah yes, extra cover, you'll be seeing a lot of that watching Hasaranga bat.
Nine boundaries and a six later, he departs for a 47-ball 71, the platform laid for a winning total and a crisis deftly averted.

****

It's August 2023, Hasaranga's Kandy side is floundering. He'd been signed and handed the captaincy in 2022 but the season proved underwhelming both for the team and him personally. Now, a season later, they've started off the LPL once more with a whimper - two losses in the opening three games. Something needs to change.
In a chase of 118, against reigning champions Jaffna Kings, that change manifests in the form of experimentation - promoting Hasaranga up the order. Coming in at one down just after the end of a fairly conservative 31-run powerplay, he proceeds to dismantle the bowling with a belligerent 22-ball 52 to make light work of the target on a tricky surface.
In their next game, Hasaranga floats down to No. 5, this time providing the finishing flourish as his 27-ball 64 takes his side to a dominant 203. And then two matches later, his counter-attacking 21-ball 40 takes Kandy from 27 for 2 at the end of the powerplay to 70 for 3 by the end of the 10th. They would fall short in that chase, but Hasaranga had given them a fighting chance.
Finally, in a must-win second Qualifier, playing on virtually one leg with a torn hamstring, he strikes a 30-ball 48 to take his side to a fighting 157, before grabbing two wickets on the way to a 34-run win.
This in a nutshell is Hasaranga, all action, all the time. Sri Lanka to be clear have had allrounders before, but none quite like him.
In all, Hasaranga ends the tournament with 279 runs and 19 wickets, topping both the runs and wickets charts. Oh, and those runs come at an astounding strike rate of 189.79. To put that in context, of the next 10 highest run scorers not one scored at a rate better than 140.
That injury, though, is unfortunate. It ends up requiring surgery and rules Hasaranga out for several months, including last year's World Cup.

****

It's February 2024, Sri Lanka have started well against Afghanistan but they've stumbled to 55 for 4 inside the first eight overs. Enter Hasaranga, now national captain. This time he takes just one ball to settle in before carving the next through point. The one after that, floated up outside off, is lofted over extra cover - his front foot well out of the way, facing long-on.
Yeah, that's a common Hasaranga trait too, frequently clearing that front leg and looking to access the offside; in fact, of his seven boundaries against Afghanistan, six were either in front of or behind square on the offside.
His 32-ball 67 eventually proves to be the difference, with only three other Lankan batters getting into double digits - the next highest being 25. His four overs with ball also cost just 20 runs as Afghanistan fall narrowly short.

****

This in a nutshell is Hasaranga, all action, all the time. Sri Lanka to be clear have had allrounders before, but none quite like him. Perhaps an early-years Angelo Mathews comes to mind, but he was never quite as explosive with the bat nor as game-changing with the ball. Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan are strong shouts, but their bowling exploits were more supporting cast than main character.
Hasaranga though exudes main-character energy. With the ball, while many modern-day legspinners like to keep trajectories flat and fast, Hasaranga frequently tosses it up - almost looking to buy a wicket. It's a high-risk strategy for sure, but it's what makes him so effective. He is a competitor in every sense, he wants to make something happen. It's Hasaranga.
With the bat, that almost comical intent to target the offside is allied with equally adept wrist-work. And if his most recent LPL outing is any barometer, it's an option that comes off more often than not. But more than that, it's the look in the eyes when he has to prop up the order, that sense of undiluted purpose and determination. Make no mistake, Hasaranga was certain he was going to take Afghanistan apart well before he'd set foot on the field.
It's also no coincidence that both his LPL performances and the recent rollicking show against Afghanistan came as captain. Leadership comes in different forms, and in Sri Lanka they've seen quite a few of these. From the brash, get-under-your-skin, master-of-mind-games style of Arjuna Ranatunga, to the more tactically astute methods of Mahela Jayawardene. But they've not quite had someone like Hasaranga. Almost Kapil Dev-lite. Someone who let's his work on the field do most of the talking.
Indeed, when you listen to Hasaranga in interviews, or ask him for post-game analysis, there's not much by way of lengthy answers. Why'd you lose? Well, the batters needed to do better. Was there anything that could have been done differently? Yeah, we shouldn't have given away so much at the death. What do you want improve on? We need the players to take more responsibility. Safe to say, it's not much for the headline writers to work with.
But for all his brevity off the field, on it Hasaranga is a well of emotions. His wicket-taking celebrations are never boring - in fact any wicket is cause for an animated fist pump and a shout to the heavens - and boy does he love a good celebrappeal.
Hasaranga is your quintessential lead-from-the-front cricketer. He is the man for a crisis, whether it's coming in to bowl inside the powerplay or counterpunch out of an early collapse. He's the first pick in your schoolyard match. No, scratch that, he's the one doing the picking. Watch him play and you can see the foundations are there, the levels are rising. Has he self-actualised? Maybe not just yet. But watching him get there might be just as fun.