“The Asia Cup is not just a golden opportunity for Dickwella, but also for Sri Lanka to show that are much stronger than they were in the last year or so. With the talent they possess, there is no reason why they cannot go all the way”

Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella got a lifeline when he was picked in the Asia Cup 2018 squad, after Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out due to injury. Dickwella was kept on standby but was not in Sri Lanka’s initial squad for the 6-nation tournament, scheduled to be held in the UAE from September 15. Having Chandimal in the team no doubt would have been a huge boost for Sri Lanka, who has been in rich form with the bat in all three formats of late – both at the international and the domestic level. The fact that he could keep wickets too certainly adds more depth in Sri Lanka’s XI.

With Dickwella named as his replacement, there is no doubt that he will be the one donning the wicketkeeping gloves for Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, despite the presence of another wicketkeeper Kusal Perera – who has kept wickets only in 7 out of the 78 ODI matches he has played for Sri Lanka – in the squad. Dickwella scores run at a quick pace and whether he opens or plays lower down the order, he is known to have a great impact on the team.

In the 2-3 ODI series loss at home against South Africa, Sri bounced back incredibly well in the last two ODIs, after losing the first three. They won the final two matches against a power-packed side and that will certainly give them the confidence and the momentum in the Asia Cup, where they take on Bangladesh in the tournament opener and then face Afghanistan couple of days later. In that series, returned to his opening position after a brief experimentation at Nos. 4 and 5. Frankly, the opening slot is where Dickwella belongs. He has the ability to take on the fast bowlers early on and can take a toll on the fielding side during the fielding restrictions.

Dickwella managed to score 158 from 5 innings at 31.60 in the 5-match ODI series against South Africa. In fact, his 69 in the third match at Dambulla, was his first fifty for Sri Lanka in ODIs in 17 innings. Not to forget, Dickwella has also dropped from the T20I side ahead of the Nidahas Trophy tri-nation series, also featuring India and Bangladesh owing to poor form in that format. His poor run before the South Africa series could be one of the reasons he was just on standby for the Asia Cup.

With this golden opportunity handed to him, the group matches will be extremely crucial for Dickwella. Although Dickwella surely remains in Sri Lanka’s plans for the World Cup, a couple of good knocks in the Asia Cup will vindicate the selectors’ and the captain’s faith in him.

Right from a young age, Dickwella was considered to be a talented player. A tad unorthodox, but an effective batsman who scored tons of runs right from his college days. Incidentally, as Chandimal was busy on international duty, Dickwella got a chance to play for Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC) on a regular basis and established himself as an integral player.

The South Africa series would have given Dickwella a lot of confidence, however, if he can look back some of the best innings – like the back-to-back centuries against Zimbabwe – he would know that he is capable of playing some big innings. It could also be a matter of time before we see Dickwella back in the T20I side. He is already an integral member of the Test squad and with more experience, he will get better and better.

One cannot deny the fact that Dickwella’s averages in the 50-over format have dropped in the least season or so. In 2017-18, Dickwella averaged just over 18 with the bat for Sri Lanka and in the ongoing season (2018), he will look to improve on those numbers after getting off to a decent start against South Africa at home.

With Sri Lanka having undergone a tremulous year in 2017, they seem to have found some stability with Angelo Mathews leading them in the limited-overs and Chandimal leading the side in Tests. They seem to be a much better unit now and how they perform at the Asia Cup will be a litmus test as to how they might fare in bigger tournaments.

The Asia Cup is not just a golden opportunity for Dickwella, but also for Sri Lanka to show that are much stronger than they were in the last year or so. With the talent they possess, there is no reason why they cannot go all the way.

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