Dinesh Chandimal is a lonely backpacker. From crediting witch craft for Sri Lanka’s series win in UAE to waging a lonely battle at the crease, Chandimal has been weird in non-Sri Lankan terms.
Much of the ruckus during the Delhi Test surrounded the smog and Sri Lanka’s appalling query to stop the innings owing to it. While Delhi is foggy and the pollution scale is tilted to the wrong side, the visitor’s convenient way of laughing at Kohli’s declaration and coming out to bat in the very same smog belies logic.
However, take a moment to spare a thought for their valiant skipper, who leads a few uncouth individuals who do not even possess the professionalism to appreciate what the opposition skipper did. Instead Niroshan Dickwella and Lakshan Sandakan opted to enjoy a joke of their own while millions on air watched the farce unfold.
And when Lanka did come out to bat, they realised that the track was a beauty to score runs on. Angelo Mathews, who could barely put bat to ball in the past two years, was suddenly batting like he did in 2014 during that victorious England series and Dinesh Chandimal, with three consecutive scores of 50+ behind his back, continued in the same vein of form, this time more confidently owing to the support from the other end.
A striking aspect of the Chandimal – Mathews stand was the manner in which they stepped on to the front foot, put on their dancing shoes, and countered the spinners. On a pitch that did not overtly turn or bounce, there was more assuredness in judgement from the Lankans who had shown little of the fight in five Tests against India spread across four months.
But spare Chandimal, for he seems to have been visiting his secret witch school quite often these days. Since 2016, the Lankan batsman has scored five of his 10 centuries and averages 41.91 with a career best of 164.
Runs have come quick and fast off Chandimal in the past two years. That Sri Lanka have endured their most torrid time in cricketing history in these two years is no fault of Chandimal the batsman. Runs have come as easily to him as Niroshan Dickwella’s sarcastic laugh.
The five hundreds he has scored in the past two years is comparable to that of the likes of David Warner, Hashim Amla, Joe Root and Azhar Ali, all of whom have five during the same time frame.
Now that we have put things into perspective, we should probably check why Chandimal has been successful when most of Sri Lanka, including their clueless selectors, have faltered.
I should probably say it in just one word. Captaincy.
Did you miss that? I repeat. Captaincy.
The lily-livered Sri Lankan selectors decided that one captain a series was the way to apparently move forward when they appointed Thisara Perera as the skipper for the ODI and T20 series against India.
Then this from SLC… how can you have consistency and continuity? 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/IsqFq3W1xU
— Mahela Jayawardena (@MahelaJay) November 29, 2017
Sri Lankan Cricket CEO, Ashley de Silva, announced that Lanka would now be appointing skippers on a tour by tour basis.
— Azzam Ameen (@AzzamAmeen) November 29, 2017
In the cricketing world, the decision is outlandish. But, in hindsight, it is pretty much in line with every single decision Sri Lankan cricket has taken since the retirement of the stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena.
Why in the World would Lanka appoint someone with a batting average of 17 and bowling average of 45 when they have Dinesh Chandimal whose average has got a considerable boost in Test cricket since being appointed as skipper? Well, “because it is Sri Lanka” seems appropriate and to the point explanation.
Chandimal has averaged 50+ since being appointed Test skipper and though his recent ODI returns haven’t been the best, it certainly remains better than Perera.
“We didn’t just start playing together in the last couple of days; we’ve been in the same teams since we were about 15. We have a good friendship and we know each other’s games. When I speak about something, he knows exactly what I mean, because we have a very good understanding. As cricketers and now captains, we talk a lot about what needs to happen for us to win games”, Chandimal had said in an interview some time back.
But has he quite donned the role of a leader yet? NO.
While his batting returns have been exceptional and his captaincy worth putting time into, calling him a leader is a stupidity. He hasn’t been able to rally together his troops and bring about maturity and seriousness into their approach.
So does that mean he should step down? NO.
Chandimal is the right man to lead this Lankan outfit across formats. He has the right attitude and the runs to back that up but Sri Lanka need a leader more than a mere captain now. Someone capable of prepping them up, giving a timely boost and extracting the best from within them. The short answer is Chandimal hasn’t done it yet but has shown every sign of doing it given the time and a proper guide.