Prolific Karunaratne seeks consistency


Opener Dimuth Karunaratne had a prolfic 2017 where he made more than 1000 runs, one of the six players in the world to achieve the milestone. He is looking forward for a equally succesful 2018.

by Rex Clementine

Amidst the disappointments of 2017, where Sri Lankan cricket hit new lows, one consoling fact was the prolific run scoring of opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne. A sharp thinker of the game and earmarked as a future Test captain, Karunaratne turned 29 last year and came up with some consistent performances making three Test hundreds and five half-centuries. There were six batsman who made over 1000 runs in the calendar year in 2017 that included Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. Karunaratne was one of them. It was the first time a Sri Lankan had made four figures in a year since the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara. Karunaratne has promised more in 2018.

"Last year was a very successful one for me. Immensely satisfied with my returns. I wasn’t thinking too much about it until I was very close to the milestone. I was trying to be consistent and extremely happy. Hopefully 2018 will be equally good," Karunaratne told Sunday Island on Friday before leaving for Dhaka for the two match Test series against Bangladesh that gets underway later this month.

One of Sri Lanka’s high points in 2017 was the team ending Pakistan’s unbeaten run in UAE. Since the gulf region became Pakistan’s adopted home in 2010, many teams had tried and failed to beat Pakistan. Sri Lanka secured a 2-0 series win and the main architect of the victory was Karunaratne. He was named Player of the Series.

The opener produced a sublime 93 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi before being run out and in the second Test in Dubai, batted for over nine hours to produce a career best 196.

Until then Karunaratne had poor returns in the first innings. He went to UAE determined to make amends and both his 93 and 196 came in the first innings.

"To be honest, the first innings was a big worry. However much you score in the second innings, if you were to win a Test match, you have got to score runs in the first innings," Karunaratne explained.

"I changed my game a bit. Worked with Hashan (Thilakaratne) our Batting Coach a lot. He showed me the stats and I felt very bad. What was perhaps lacking was the positive intent. I was probably thinking too much on stuff like what was happening with the wicket and so on. But you improve with experience. Hashan not only gave me confidence but a few options as well. Things like, spend some time in the middle, hang in there, concentrate and then build the innings were valuable. The other important aspect was using the feet and being able to play spin well and to have different options when they have blocked your strong areas by placing fielders," he added.

Still there are areas for improvement for Karunaratne. Playing left-arm quicks, particularly when they bring the ball into the left-hander remains an area that he needs to work on. He was one stroke away from making a maiden double hundred when he dragged a Wahab Riaz delivery onto the stumps in Dubai. In the upcoming series, Mustafizur Rahman, the Bangladesh left-arm quick will be someone to watch out for. Karunaratne has a few plans up his sleeves

"I need to keep things simple and play with a free mind. This year we have lot of Test cricket. First we will see off the Bangladesh series. On this tour, more than anything, playing spin will be key. I played a lot of domestic cricket this season and the conditions will be similar in Bangladesh with low bounce and stuff. The preparation has been excellent and I am looking forward for the challenge."

After the two match series in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka’s Test cricketers have a three month break before they go to the Caribbean in June to play a three match series. This will be Sri Lanka’s first Test tour to West Indies in more than a decade. Sri Lanka are yet to win a Test series in the Caribbean and this will be an ideal opportunity.

Then they will host South Africa in a two Test series followed by England’s visit here in October for a three match series. In December Sri Lanka will head to New Zealand for two Tests and from there to Australia for another two Test matches.

Of all three formats, Sri Lanka’s best ranking is in Test cricket where they are placed sixth. Just six rating points separate sixth placed Sri Lanka and fourth placed New Zealanders. A good showing in Test cricket will enable Sri Lanka to finish among the top four this year.

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