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Believing in themselves



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After a disappointing 2017, Sri Lanka have been impressive this year across all formats of the game.


by Rex Clementine


Sri Lankan cricket has been never short of talent, but lack of self belief after several high profile retirements saw them hitting new lows since 2015. Last year was the toughest, where Sri Lanka were beaten by teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe apart from suffering three straight 5-0 whitewashes in ODI cricket. Since taking over as Head Coach, one of the first things that Chandika Hathurusingha addressed was working on the mental aspect of the game and results have been impressive.


One of the first recruitment Hathurusingha made since taking over as Head Coach was utilising the services of a psychologist. He brought in Queenslander Dr. Phil Jauncey to conduct several sessions with the players. Dr. Jauncey was extensively used by cricket’s most successful coach John Buchanan during his time as Queensland and Australia coach.


After India set a daunting target of 175 on Tuesday in the curtain-raiser of the Nidahas Trophy, most Sri Lankan teams would have cracked under pressure. Chasing big totals at RPS is a tedious task and no team had successfully chased that many at RPS. Sri Lanka created history that night.


One of the main architects of the Sri Lankan victory was all-rounder Thisara Perera. The 28-year-old rather than trying to put away every delivery he faced, was clever with his shot selection and remained till the end to help Sri Lanka secure a five-wicket win. Thisara can hit the ball with brutal power. Despite being selective, he still finished on 22 off ten deliveries with two fours and one six.


At 136 for four, with 39 runs required off 32 balls, the game could have gone either way. Thisara and Dasun Shanaka were involved in a crucial unfinished 39-run stand to see the team through.


Dasun and Thisara are two of the fiercest strikers of the cricket ball in the country. While Thisara is Sri Lanka’s third seamer, if Shanaka were able to make improvements to his bowling, this side can be a formidable outfit during the 2019 World Cup.


Spare a thought for Kusal Janith Perera as well. A player who has modeled his game after Sanath Jayasuriya, with strong bottom-hand play, had emerged as Sri Lanka’s frontline wicketkeeper when disaster struck.


Claims by the International Cricket Council that Perera had failed a drug test forced him home from Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand in December 2015. He was tested positive for 19-Norandrostenedione – a banned substance that was said to be found in the urine sample he had provided in October 2015. Perera was facing a four-year ban.


However, he expressed his innocence and SLC decided to fight his case. His legal team was successfully able to prove that the findings were wrong. Issuing a statement, ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said, "We regret what Mr Perera has had to endure, and would like to commend him for the manner in which he has conducted himself throughout this period. Had it not been for the diligence of Mr. Perera’s legal team and the ICC’s own desire to uncover the explanation for the reported findings, the consequences could well have been different, and that should be of concern to all involved in the fight against doping."


However, the damage had been done. The six-month period that he was forced to stay away from cricket saw him missing on earning his living as he missed several tours. Then the mental agony that he went through was horrendous as there were various theories as to how and why he had taken the banned substance. By the time Perera was able to get back to play cricket, he wasn’t any longer a regular player across all three formats and other wicketkeepers had emerged over him.


He made his mark with a whirlwind 66 off 37 balls that included 27 runs off an over bowled by Shardul Thakur.


Sri Lankan fans will be hoping that there will be more from Perera in years to come.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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