String of low scores has doomed Chandimal


by Rex Clementine

Dinesh Chandimal managed just 85 runs in six innings with a top score of 30 as Sri Lanka were whitewashed 3-0.

When it comes to talent, Dinesh Chandimal has fewer peers in international cricket. But a string of low scores in South Africa has seen him losing his impact and attracting much criticism. Rightly so.

The latest blow came on Tuesday when his NCC colleague Upul Tharanga was entrusted with the captaincy ahead of him for the five match ODI series against South Africa that gets underway on Saturday.

On this tour, after eight innings, Chandimal is yet to make a half-century (before the third T-20 International).

Having made his Test debut in South Africa six years ago, in the historic Durban Test match, where he made twin fifties, Chandimal arrived in Johannesburg for the current tour ready to take on the mantle left by Kumar Sangakkara as the country’s greatest batsman of the next generation. But his returns in South Africa have been miserable with 85 runs in six innings in the Test series with a best score of 30. He looked clearly out of depth during the first two T-20s.

Chandimal is the heir apparent to Angelo Mathews beyond the 2019 World Cup. When Mathews was injured and ruled out of remainder of the series, Chandimal looked to be the natural successor as the vice-captain of the side. But the selectors have been firm. They have backed Upul Tharanga.

In fairness, Tharanga led the team to title victory in Zimbabwe over the hosts and West Indies. Furthermore, he has proved his credentials as captain having led NCC admirably over the years.

But for Chandimal the snub would be a bitter blow.

Tharanga was only stop-gap captain as both Mathews and Chandimal were injured for Zimbabwe. A decent showing with the bat in South Africa would have seen him leading the side against the Proteas when Mathews was ruled out. But that was not to be.

Given the way Chandimal plays, there were always doubts about his consistency. With attack being his natural instinct, you always wondered whether he would ever achieve the consistency of the great Sangakkara. Instead, many felt that he would be like Aravinda de Silva. A live by the sword and die by the sword kind of batsman.

But it appeared that he had turned a huge corner during the third and final Test against Australia last year.

With Sri Lanka searching for a rare 3-0 whitewash over the number one ranked team in the world, their plans suffered a huge setback at SSC. In the first hour of the third Test, a probing spell of left-arm fast bowling from Mitchell Starc saw Sri Lanka slump to 26 for five. Australia were on course to salvage some pride. But Chandimal had other ideas as he cut down his aggressive instincts and batted like Thilan Samaraweera.

When play was stopped for lunch on day one, Chandimal had batted for over an hour and was on seven. He faced 165 balls to his half-century and many were impressed with his attitude of grinding the bowling.

His outstanding knock helped Sri Lanka post 355 in their first innings. He showed patience in abundance batting for eight hours. His marathon perhaps was his best knock as it produced 132 runs with the team in deep trouble. Many were impressed by his attitude, application and taking up responsibility as a senior player. South Africa, however, has brought it all back to square one.

Chandimal, however, is a fighter. You can be assured that he will bounce back.

Lasith Malinga’s tirade ahead of the World T-20 last year attacking Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne had devastating effect. Thirimanne lost his confidence and was shaken up by the Malinga attack. Chandimal went the opposite direction. He used it as motivation to improve his game. The century at Leeds on a green top and the hundred against Starc and others at SSC last year were proof for it.

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