“As far as ODIs are concerned, for a technically sound batsman, who likes to spend time at the crease, a top 3 position is ideal. It will be a case of another talent gone waste if Sri Lanka do not recognise that”
Dhananjaya de Silva finally got a chance in the crucial third ODI against South Africa at Pallekele. He was overlooked in the first two games and was thrown in the deep end in the do or die game. He top-scored for Sri Lanka with 84 off 66 in a match where they were chasing a mammoth 364 to stay alive in the competition. After a comprehensive performance in the Tests, Sri Lanka have come crashing to the ground and now risk a chance of being whitewashed at home once again. They have already lost 10 continuous ODIs at home and things do not seem to be turning around for them.
When things go your way – when your team is winning – teams do not make many changes. However, that is not the case with Sri Lanka. Their poor form is a cause for concern and needs to do something really soon about that. While Angelo Mathews seems to be the right man to lead the team at the moment, they have not clicked as a team. Mathews must take responsibility for yet another series loss. Right from the team selection to the playing XI and also not playing players in the position they need to has led to Sri Lanka’s downfall.
De Silva is still new at the international arena. He has played less than 50 international games for Sri Lanka. But with whatever we have seen, he is certainly not short of talent and is a promising player for Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lanka have not exploited him well. Out of his 17 innings in ODIs so far, he has played 7 innings at No. 6 or below. He has opened the innings for Sri Lanka on 6 occasions and as slammed 249 runs at almost 50. Most of those knocks came against relatively weaker sides like West Indies and Zimbabwe, but that shows de Silva’s potential. He likes to play his shots and batting at the top might just give him the freedom to do such.
Sri Lanka do have Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella opening the innings. They have been great performers for Sri Lanka in their own right, but de Silva can make a case for himself at the top, with one of them dropping down the order.
Tharanga has scored almost 6,000 runs opening the batting, while Dickwella has played 26 out of his 37 innings as an opener and has tasted success. With the series lost, Sri Lanka can experiment with de Silva opening the innings and have Dickwella bat at No. 6. He can don the role of a finisher and might do a good job as one. Playing de Silva at 6 or 7 will be wasteful. Sri Lanka have experimented with their team in the series and this particular shuffle in the batting order could be a good move.
Not to forget, de Silva can be a useful option with the ball as well. He can chip in with a few quiet overs and if he manages to pick up a wicket or two it’s a bonus. He can be what Suresh Raina was for India in the ODI team – Bat in the top 3 or 4 and play as the sixth bowler.
Brought into the side as a batsman, who can bowl a bit of off-spin, de Silva made his international debut in a T20I against Pakistan in 2015. Within the next year, he made his ODI and Test bow for Sri Lanka. He has been in and out of the team, but with the talent he possesses, he needs a long run and can transform himself into a valuable asset for his team. De Silva has been consistent in the Test arena, where he has made vital contributions for his team in the last two years. He has already shown that he likes to play the long innings and can be counted upon in tough situations.
De Silva can perhaps work on his bowling a bit more in order to become a more regular starter in limited-overs. While Sri Lanka already have quality spinners, another decent option wouldn’t hurt, would it? After claiming 32 wickets in the First-Class tournament for Colombo in 2015-16, he has not managed to reached similar heights with the ball. If the captain shows a little more faith in his abilities, he could hone himself into a better bowler perhaps. Regardless, his primary role in the team is that of a batsman and his focus should be on getting better at that at the moment. He gets juggled around a fair bit even in Tests but has always dug deep to come out on top thus far.
As far as ODIs are concerned, for a technically sound batsman, who likes to spend time at the crease, a top 3 position is ideal. It will be a case of another talent gone waste if Sri Lanka do not recognise that.