“Sri Lanka will bat again in the ongoing Chittagong Test and it is about time Karunaratne steps up and justified his talent up the order”.
They are two different players from two separate countries. One is a right-handed batsman, whereas, the other is left-handed but both are opening batsmen. However, these two have had a certain issue in common that has hurt their respective countries of late – their inconsistency in Test cricket and the two batsmen are Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne and New Zealand’s Martin Guptill. Karunaratne’s score of nine-ball duck against Bangladesh in the first Test on Thursday was the testimony to that these guys have the knack to score big and then follow it up by a few disappointing innings and those series of flops by an opener will always have the knack to shake up the entire team strategy up the order.
The last time Karunaratne touched triple digits in Test cricket was last year in October when Sri Lanka toured UAE to play Pakistan in three-Test series. The opening batsman scored a brilliant 196 in Dubai Test that helped the visitors to post a decent total of 482 in the first innings. In reply to that, Pakistan were restricted to 262 that gave Lanka a lead of a healthy 220 runs. They were glad about the lead before in the subsequent innings, the same side that scored almost 500 runs were bowled out cheaply for 96 runs, where Karunaratne contributed only seven runs. However, the failure in the second innings did not stop him from getting the Player of the Match when Sri Lanka sealed the Test by 68 runs.
After that duck, Dimuth Karunaratne averages 17.84 in second innings of Test matches, behind averages of 44.65, 39.6 and 44 in first, third and fourth innings in his Test career.#BanvSL
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) February 1, 2018
Since the 196 in Dubai, Karunaratne has batted in eight more innings and has reached a fifty only once. When Sri Lanka needed their opener to give them those crucial starts against the World No. 1 Indian team in November, he finished with scores of 7, 8, 1, 51, 18 and 0 in the three Tests against India, where the Lankans ended on the losing side (0-1). Karunaratne should take a lesson from Guptill’s axing from the Test side for his instability in scoring runs. After Guptill’s 156 against Sri Lanka in 2015, he had not reached the three-digit figure in more than year before he was dropped and New Zealand had opted to give Jeet Raval his debut.
Guptill had scored just one fifty in his last 10 innings, meanwhile, Raval has already scored six fifties in the nine Tests he has played so far, opening the innings. Batting in 15 innings, he averages 44.50 and all he has to do is convert so 70s and 80s into centuries and once he begins to do so, it will be very difficult for Guptill to make a comeback into the Test side.
While New Zealand found Guptill’s replacement just in time in the longest format, Sri Lanka, on the other hand, cannot afford to drop Karunaratne. Considering that, the latter must take as an opportunity to rectify his weaknesses and get back in form. Sri Lanka had a tough 2017, across the formats. In the 50-over game, they won only five ODIs from the 29 they played and in Test cricket, they were whitewashed 3-0 in South Africa and then played back-to-back series against No. 1 India. While they suffered a 3-0 clean sweep in the home series, the away leg was much better as they were able to draw two out of the three Tests, losing one.
Prior to the Bangladesh tour, Karunaratne has said that 2018 would bring the best out of the Lankans, irrespective of the format. By winning the Tri-series which also included Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka have begun their ODI journey on a winning note and now its time to do the same in Tests as well.
“It was very satisfying to draw the Delhi Test match last month. There were some good efforts by new guys like Dhananjaya de Silva and Roshen Silva. There is also young Kusal Mendis, who has returned to the side and he is very exciting. As the senior group, we know that even if we had a bad game, there are new players who are able to take up responsibility. That allows us to play our shots with more freedom. That will do a lot of good for the team’s confidence,” Karunaratne said. But, the senior guys like him can afford to have a bad game and that should be restricted to one and not stretched to a few bad games.
Sri Lanka will bat again in the ongoing Chittagong Test and it is about time Karunaratne steps up and justified his talent up the order.