In nine years since making his debut, Thisara Perera has been one of the regular features in Sri Lanka’s ODI set-up, without ever completely sealing his position as a no-brainer for the team management. And despite nearly a decade in international cricket, Perera has failed to show long periods of consistency. It is only the skills that he brings to the table, displayed in bouts of wow, that allows the selectors to persist with him, and recall him quickly after axing.
A batting average of 18.57 after 102 innings doesn’t do justice to his abilities, even as a strike rate of 112 is more symbolic of his impact.
However, Thilan Samaraweera, Sri Lanka’s batting coach, believes the 29-year old has improved as a batsman in the last six months. The assessment is justified with his recent exploits – be it his 61 for ICC World XI or the 177 runs in three innings for Sri Lanka A. Even in the first ODI against South Africa, his 30-ball 49, to help Sri Lanka recover after being reduced to 36 for 5, was one of the rare high points for Sri Lanka.
“In the last six months he’s improved a lot as a batsman,” Samaraweera said. “I gave a lot of space to him, and he’s getting there. The good thing is, after his dismissal, he showed a lot of disappointment in the dressing room, because this was one of the best opportunities for him to get an ODI hundred.”
Much like his batting, his bowling too has been plagued with inconsistency. On good days, he is a fine option to have in the death overs. With Angelo Mathews no more being the allrounder he once was – with limitations in bowling and deserted form in batting – Perera remains a vital cog in the ODI set-up heading to the world cup.
There is no denying that Perera’s impact performances can change the course of the game in quick time, but the fact that he has only one first-class and one List A hundred, none coming in international cricket, is reflective of his inability to play defining innings. With the ball, however, he can be costly but has bagged four 4-fers and three 5-fers in ODIs. This year, especially, he has been highly impressive picking up 11 wickets in 6 matches at an average of 17.63. Even his economy rate his dipped sharply from to from career’s 5.78 to 4.85.
Samaraweera is happy with Perera’s development and credited bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake for the turnaround. “We had a lot of discussions, and we emphasised to Thisara how important he is to the 2019 World Cup.
“I think you have to give a lot of credit to bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake also. He changed Thisara’s bowling approach. He was very slow to the crease before Rumesh came, and in the last seven months, we can see how much faster he is to the stumps. We had strong discussions, and sometimes disagreements. But Thisara is heading in the right direction at the moment.”
Speaking about the loss in the first game of the series, Samaraweera said that the plan was to see through the opening bowlers and then attack, as there isn’t much experience after Kagiso Rabada in South Africa’s bowling attack. The plan, however, backfired with Rabada striking thrice in the first five overs. Kusal Perera and Thisara counterattacked and relieved a bit of pressure but couldn’t do enough to turn the game in Sri Lanka’s favour
“We talked about what South Africa’s strengths were, and their strength is in the first eight to ten overs – we have to get through that period,” Samaraweera said. “After that, they have a very inexperienced bowling attack. Unfortunately, they got five wickets. We were thinking a score of 275-280 would be good because we have three spinners to defend that. But when you are 30-odd for five, it’s very hard to win games from there. We recovered well, but the match was decided in the first ten overs because of our very poor batting.”
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