Sri Lanka finally got past the Indian challenge in the shortest format in a bilateral series, 2-1 after trailing the series 0-1 post the first T20I. While the Island nation might still need to get past the qualifier stage, this series certainly painted a lot of positives with several lessons learnt.
Dasun Shanaka, the batsman needs to do more
As a skipper, Dasun Shanaka did it all possible, with his only failure in this series coming in the second ODI, where his decision to keep Wanindu Hasaranga late on in the game affected Sri Lanka’s chances of winning the ODI. But throughout the series, Shanaka has been effective with his captaincy, with his field and certainly showed his variety as a bowler. His slower deliveries were the most effective in the series and his fielding certainly triumphed the others on the tour. But as an all-rounder, the unreal focus still remains on his batting, which for most parts of the series was terribly missing.
His last six scores against India read 39, 16, 0, 16, 3 and DNB, which certainly shows that he hasn’t quite lit up the stage with the bat. Mind you, most of these knocks have come at higher in the order. His best form came in the Windies tour, where he scored 33 runs across two innings, at a strike rate of 103. Barring the series against Bangladesh in 2017/18, the right-hander never showed his explosive side with the bat, something that would definitely need to improve if Sri Lanka are going to qualify for the World T20.
Charith Asalanka showed great zeal and maturity
If Sri Lanka really came close in the first T20I and were in contention, they would have to only thank their gods, for having Charith Asalanka in the lineup. Throughout the series, the left-handed Asalanka has been one of the best, if not the best batsman for the Islanders. While he hasn’t ever been used with the ball in the T20I series, he has certainly shown his bowling skills in the T20 leagues, where he has picked 15 wickets with the ball.
But let’s be honest, it was his batting, the sheer nature of taking on the Indian bowlers to the cleaners in the opener which really caught the attention of plenty. Hear me out, scores of 38, 65, 24 and 44 are incredibly special, especially considering that he only made his international debut this year, against England. What’s more special is the way he tackled the Indian bowlers, especially spinners in the first encounter, where his 44 came off just 26 deliveries with three boundaries and three sixes.
In comparison, the rest of the Sri Lankan outfit had scored one six in that contest, with India’s Suryakumar Yadav being the closest with two sixes. That says a lot about Asalanka and how he is one of the biggest finds for the Islanders in this series.
Chamika Karunaratne could be a real all-rounder prospect
He takes the new ball, he strikes the long ball and certainly can field like a gun, reminds everyone about a certain Nuwan Kulasekara. Now that Nuwan’s legacy has been long gone, Sri Lanka desperately needed an all-rounder, who could step up with the ball and later tonk with the bat. Enter Chamika Karunaratne, as Mickey Arthur calls him an ‘X-factor’ in Sri Lankan cricket. Now what is more notable is that the all-rounder only entered into the fray of selection after the entire bio-bubble fiasco, where more players were needed.
While he spent some time in the bio-bubble, his real worth to the national team only came about in the last month, against England, where his runs were crucial for the team. Against India, he added on to his run tally, with scores of 43*, 44* in the first and second ODI before his finisher-like innings in the T20I series allowed for Sri Lanka to spring up a surprise. His 12 included a six and showed that he has the ability to clear the boundaries with ease, which surely makes him a real all-rounder prospect as the Islanders head towards a crucial juncture of the cricketing season.
An abundant pool of spin talent ready to take the world stage
The qualifiers are in Oman, the main tournament in the Middle East, which in hindsight should suggest that the nature of the pitches in the tournament are going to be slow and dry, favouring spinners. Now for Sri Lanka, it’s a win-win situation, not only can they get through the qualifiers stage without much chaos but also could ease themselves in the tournament on the back of their spin talent. In this series, their spin attack was consistently threatening the Indian batsmen, irrespective of Wanindu Hasaranga’s presence in the lineup.
Apart from Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka have utilsed Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Ramesh Mendis and Praveen Jayawickrama. That accounts for four spinners, all of them with varied bowling capacities. Off-spinner, left-arm orthodox spinner, left-arm unorthodox spinner and leg-spinners, Sri Lanka have all bases covered in exquisite fashion. While Hasaranga rules the roost, with 7 wickets, the others chipped in with wickets, showing that this attack isn’t a one-man spin attack.
While Jayawickrama did not get his chances in the T20I series, it is pertinent to note that the left-arm spinner could be utilised and utilised well by Sri Lanka, in tandem with Hasaranga, who is naturally a very attacking bowler. Given that the long list of spinners have done well, with or without Hasaranga, it provides Sri Lanka with a naturally talented base for tackling the spin question.