Dinesh Chandimal is injured again!
One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Sri Lanka are evidently the weakest side going into the Asia Cup. They are desperately seeking some revival of fortunes and a massive turnaround across formats. But, in saying so, one cannot afford to underestimate what they are capable of. The potent side have shown immense signs and have sprung surprises in the recent times, but consistency is what they have been looking for most dearly. They have only won 10 out of their last 39 ODIs, which speaks about the ineffectiveness they have had in this format.
Sri Lanka’s 16-man squad has been announced, where they clearly backed experienced players. The Asia Cup would be an ideal platform for every side to figure out their core team for the World Cup, which is just few months away. Sri Lanka have a lot of questions to answer in their line-up but they continue to rebuild and did well against South Africa. Their head coach Chandika Haturusingha has done some basic things right and one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Sri Lankan cricket is heading in the right direction.
Just when things were looking good, Sri Lanka suffered a heavy blow with their key batsman Dinesh Chandimal being ruled out of the Asia Cup after he failed to recuperate an injury. Chandimal fractured his right middle finger during a domestic T20 tournament and has failed to recover on time. Niroshan Dickwella has been called in as a replacement for Chandimal in the prestigious league.
Chandimal’s absence will be huge for Sri Lanka; he has been one of the vital cogs in this line-up and a prolific run-scorer over the years. He played just a solitary game in the series against South Africa and missed most of the matches due to spirit of cricket violation (the six-match ban). His presence stabilizes the middle-order and has immense experience in his basket. With Sri Lanka looking to rebuild, Chandimal would have played a key role in a tournament as big as Asia Cup. More importantly, he will definitely be on the plane to England next year, and this would have been a good podium for him to prepare himself for grandest stage of ODI cricket.
Chandimal’s recent run may not be confidence-boosting, but he certainly has more in him than what his numbers portray. Since matches starting from 2017, Chandimal has only averaged 23.52 in 20 games along with a solitary fifty. This is not the kind of benchmark Chandimal sets; he is a far better player than that and his Test average of almost 45 corroborates the belief. Although a different format, but he has the potential to do well in ODIs, and has won games for his side on numerous occasion. Although his absence didn’t hurt Sri Lanka badly against South Africa, but he is a big match player and his temperament would always be handy in a big tournament. His ability to step up in crunch situations will be missed the most by Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka have named Niroshan Dickwella as the replacement, whose exclusion in the first place raised a lot of questions. He looked in good touch against South Africa and started gaining momentum, but wasn’t included in the initial 16-man squad. But a mistimed injury to Chandimal and lack of recovery has paved way for Dickwella into the side. The fact that Chandimal is a middle-order batsman while Dickwella has been playing the role of an opener lately might create a problem for Sri Lanka. They need that firepower and stability in the middle that Chandimal would have provided. They do have potent batsmen in the line-up, but the challenge lies in how they stand up under pressure.
Dickwella can consider this as a golden opportunity to cement his spot in the line-up. He started gaining momentum in the series against South Africa and should look to continue the good run in the tournament as well. Sri Lanka have had some serious trouble with their top-order in ODIs, Dickwella could provide a long-term solution to this. It would be interesting to see how well he grabs this opportunity and makes it count? At times, an injury to a key player turns out to be a boon for someone; can this be Dickwella’s tournament? Well, only time will provide definite answers.
Dickwella’s belligerence could come handy at the top. Every team in the tournament have good bowling attacks, which makes the role of top-order batsmen crucial. India and Pakistan by far have the best bowling attacks in the world, which will pose challenges of a different kind to Bangladesh and Sri Lankan batsmen.