Bhanuka, Oshada have addressed power hitting deficiencies – De Mel


by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel is happy that the tour of Pakistan enabled them to identify several players with power hitting abilities. Sri Lanka whitewashed the hosts 3-0 in Lahore and will tour Australia for a three match series later this month.

Over the last two years, the national cricket team had performed poorly in the shortest format of the game and had slipped to number nine of the official rankings. Following the pull out of several senior players from the tour of Pakistan, a young team was picked and some of them impressed. De Mel, who has requested Sri Lanka Cricket to employ an expert power hitting coach from England is happy that the tour enabled the selectors to identify those with the ability to clear the ropes.

"One thing is that they are playing as a team and that was the reason why we won 3-0. Youth has fast legs and obviously fielding has improved too. So is running between the wickets which I thought was excellent," commented the former fast bowler.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s big hitting abilities was one of the highlights in Lahore. "He is a six hitter. Not just sixes but he clears the ropes by a good distance. We sent him to India with the ‘A’ team and he scored a hundred in hundred balls in an unofficial Test match. In T-20s, you need players who can play like that. After the pull outs, we felt to try him out. We told him to not to get bogged down and just play his natural game. He hit eight sixes in two games which is outstanding. Spinners had no chance against him. He was sweeping them for sixes. Then he was cutting fast bowlers for sixes. This is one of the best attacks in the world mind you. He was hitting them over extra cover for six as well. The knock he played was unbelievable. He shared a 77 run stand with Dasun Shanaka. He was on 65 and Dasun, who is a big hitter as well, was on 12. It was just natural shots not slogging. The Mahela like drives over extra cover were fabulous to watch," noted De Mel.

The Lahore leg of Pakistan tour also dispelled myths that Osada Fernando is ideally suited for Test cricket. "Without having a look, we should not make a call on the player. We gave him the cap in the morning and he grabbed the opportunity from both hands."

"We have had issues with power hitting in the past. You don’t need to have a huge amount of strength to hit the ball. Your bat speed and your body weight has to be right. These are skills you can develop. It is more like golf swing. If you want to clear 90 meters, you need to have 83 miles per hour bat speed."

The exploits of Wanindu Hasaranga overshadowed the two batsmen as the leg-spinner was named Player of the Series. "Wanindu has been the find of the year for us. He is so heartening to watch and has a bright future ahead. He has got very good control which is important in limited overs cricket. The good thing is when he gets hit, he doesn’t get rattled. You have to have some character to do that. His catching has been top class too and with the bat he can get you a quick 20."

Despite the positives, De Mel admitted that there are areas the team needs to address.

"Shehan Jayasuriya, Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka all need to lose weight. Avishka is some 84 kilos. He is as same weight as me and he has to cut down. Oshada needs to work on his fitness. Our fielding needs to improve and we are looking at the possibilities of bringing in someone like Jonty Rhodes. Then, when batting, we tend to give away too many dot balls, which is another area that we need to address."

Lasith Malinga is expected to retain the captaincy for the upcoming series against Australia despite a series of humiliating defeats under his charge. He was axed as ODI captain before the World Cup but has been retained as T-20 skipper despite calls for Dasun Shanka to be handed the T-20 leadership.

Sunday Island learns that 12 players who toured Pakistan will be retained for the Australian series while three other players who didn’t tour Pakistan along with Lasith will form the 16 member squad.

"Some players didn’t want to go as their families had concerns about security. That is their right. I told them that we are not going to put pressure on them if they don’t go but reminded them that there is a risk that you might not get a place immediately. It is a healthy sign because all would be on their toes," concluded De Mel.

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