“It will surely be a frustrating time for Sri Lankan fans, but in Chandimal, they have the right man at the helm to lead them through this period. This period can be termed as Chandimal’s peak and Sri Lanka would want this to continue for years to come”
The day might have belonged to West Indies, but Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal led from the front and saved his team from getting bowled out for an embarrassing total. 253 by no stretch of the imagination is a good score in Test cricket, but Hadn’t it been for Chandimal’s unbeaten 119, Sri Lanka would not have made it past the 150-run mark. Credit has to be given for the way West Indies bowled. They kept picking wickets at regular intervals and did not give Sri Lanka any easy scoring opportunities.
At the same time, Sri Lanka need to thank Devon Smith, who dropped Chandimal at slips when he was batting on only 14. Sri Lanka would have further slumped into trouble at that point and with their captain back in the hut even before the team total reached 100 would have been a huge blow. Mind you, Sri Lanka did not have the experience of Angelo Mathews as well in this match. They, therefore, needed Chandimal to dig them out of trouble and take them to a respectable total.
Chandimal has had his ups and downs in international cricket – in all 3 formats – but ever since he has been handed the permanent Test captaincy, he has turned things around for himself and for his team. In his 22 innings as captain so far, Chandimal has 1,063 runs at 53.15, which included 3 centuries and 5 fifties. His unbeaten 155 at Abu Dhabi, 164 at Delhi were two of his best knocks in the last year or so. He once again delivered under pressure at Gros Islet and if his bowlers bowl to their potential, there is no reason why they cannot carve out a slender lead in this Test.
Chandimal’s predecessor Mathews too thrived under captaincy. He averages close to 51 with the bat and as captain and a shade over 37 as non-captain. The same contrast could be seen with his bowling as well. Mathews played many top class innings and gave his side memorable wins. The series win in England in 2014 will surely be the highlight. Not to forget, the clean sweep of the No. 1 side Australia at home too will be up there. However, Mathews is not the same player he was 4 to 5 years ago.
Chandimal burst into the international scene when he was just 21 and has shown promise in all three formats. At 22, he made his Test debut as a wicketkeeper-batsman against the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis at Durban and managed to hold his own, scoring 58 and 54 as Sri Lanka went on to win their first ever Test in South Africa. He had highs and also faced crushing lows, but when he made a comeback into the national side in 2013, he was soon appointed the youngest Sri Lankan captain at the age of 23 in T20Is. Added to that, he was also handed the vice-captain’s role in Tests and ODIs.
After a sub-standard performance in South Africa and before that in England and New Zealand, Chandimal was chosen as the permanent Test captain and has so far done a reasonably good job. The series win against Pakistan in UAE will certainly be one of the high points of his captaincy thus far.
Chandimal has a few exciting players like Kusal Mendis, Lahiru Kumara, Dimuth Karunaratne and other exciting players coming up, but he along with Mathews, being the two senior pros in the team must step up and deliver more often. Mathews battling injuries is not able to justify his role as an all-rounder in the team, but his presence is going to be vital in order to groom the other players coming into the team.
Chandimal now has to rally his troops without the services of Mathews, Rangana Herath and also Dilruwan Perera in a bid to restrict West Indies in their first innings. His wonderful knock should give Sri Lanka some sort of momentum with the ball, but they will have to execute their plans well. They will need someone to put their hand up and take responsibility. If West Indies are as clinical as they were at Port of Spain, Sri Lanka will once again be under the pump.
Sri Lanka currently ranked 6th will drop a place to 7 in the ICC Test rankings. But most importantly, their hopes of winning their first ever series in the Caribbean will be dashed. If a side ranked No. 9 can beat Sri Lanka with ease, it does not auger well for them.
It will surely be a frustrating time for Sri Lankan fans, but in Chandimal, they have the right man at the helm to lead them through this period. This period can be termed as Chandimal’s peak and Sri Lanka would want this to continue for years to come.