Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
As we all know, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are all nearing their retirements, but the question many cricket fans and pundits are asking is who is the future of Sri Lanka’s batting.
While it is clear that Sri Lanka have an abundance of talented batsmen, the main problem is whether any of them are able to rise up and are qualified to replace Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, who have become household names in cricket all over the world. There are a number of batsmen who are currently in the national team that possess all the potential, but they will have to do more than just talk. They will have to let their batting do the talking for them across all three formats.
One name that immediately springs to mind is Test vice-captain, Lahiru Thirimanne. At the age of 24, this is the right time for Thirimanne to stand up and dazzle all of us with his wide array of strokes with the bat. He has represented Sri Lanka in 10 Test matches thus far and scored 526 runs at a respectable average of 32.87. Yet it seems as if the country’s cricket board sees a lot of potential in him, otherwise they would have bestowed the honour of the Test vice-captaincy upon someone else.
But, Thirimanne has age on his side and still has the opportunity to drastically improve his record. Even though his highest Test score of 155 not out came against Bangladesh, it shows that Thirimanne is brimming with potential and should now be showcasing the hunger and eagerness to play a major role in the future of Sri Lanka’s batting.
Another player to look out for is Kithuruwan Vithanage. Even though he is only 23, Vithanage, who is a middle order batsman, has a stunning average of 69.66 in Test matches after scoring a century and a half-century in his first four Tests. Vithanage’s first-class record is also extremely impressive. He has scored seven centuries and 12 half-centuries to attain an average of 44.52. But, the one problem with Vithanage is the fact that he is constantly in and out of the national team, which will only hinder the promising start he as made to his Test career.
Another name that is in the fray is opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne. With Dilshan having retired from Test cricket, Karunaratne has the golden opportunity to cement his legacy as Sri Lanka’s next superstar. Sri Lanka have long been searching for a solid opening batsman and Karunaratne has been given many chances to prove his worth, but seems to fall short every time. Granted he does have an average of 30.21 in Test cricket, Karunaratne has still yet to score his maiden Test century after 11 Tests. This record has got to change if Karunaratne is to have any chance of not only becoming Sri Lanka’s next opening prodigy.
However, Karunaratne is not alone when it comes to opening batsmen as Kaushal Silva and Kusal Perera both pose a major threat. Silva has played eight Test matches to date and has already scored one century and three half-centuries, giving him a solid average of 38. Not only is Silva a classy opening batsman, he is also a wicketkeeper, which makes very similar to Sangakkara. Silva has already got his Test career off to a good start and he needs to continue scoring runs consistently.
Perera meanwhile is the most aggressive and attacking batsman out of all and has already made a name for himself in the limited overs format of the game. Despite only being 23, Perera has already left fans starring in awe at his incredible ability to strike the ball immensely hard and far. Perera has yet to make his Test debut, but don’t let that fool you as he has been in red-hot form when playing first-class cricket. Perera averages 48.01 in first-class cricket and has already scored eight centuries and eight half-centuries, with a high-score of 336. Not only does this show that he is capable of becoming one of Sri Lanka’s most feared opening batsman since Sanath Jayasuriya, but it also shows that he has the patience and poise needed for Test cricket.
Ashan Priyanjan, Chaturanga de Silva and Angelo Perera find themselves in a similar spot to Kusal Perera as they have all yet to make their Test debuts. Priyanjan, who is a middle order batsman, has clearly proven that he can be relaxed and composed in the face of pressure situations. Like Perera, Priyanjan has a very promising first-class résumé as he boasts an average of 39.02 and has scored four centuries and 25 half-centuries, with a top-score of 235. But, the one notable problem with his record is the fact that he seems unable to convert his half-centuries into centuries, which could prove to be fatal in the Test arena. But, only time will tell whether he has what it takes to play Test cricket and become a household name amongst the cricketing community.
De Silva also holds a very encouraging first-class record, having scored four centuries and 17 half-centuries at a brilliant average of 44.73. However, just like Priyanjan, de Silva seems to have trouble converting his half-centuries into centuries, which could prove to be a major barrier for his Test career.
Meanwhile, Angelo Perera doesn’t seem to have a problem with converting his half-centuries into triple figures. This is well documented by his first-class record of seven centuries and 15 half-centuries. As of result of this, Perera averages 45.17 in first-class cricket. Even though his ODI and Twenty20 statistics are nothing to be proud of, Perera definitely has talent and could very well be a Test specialist, should he be given the chance.
Out of all the batsmen that have been analysed, it is safe to say that Thirimanne has the most potential to be the future of Sri Lanka’s batting in all three formats. This is because Thirimanne possesses the ability to attack in pressure situations or go on the defensive if need be. Thirimanne is only 24 and is already vice-captain of the Test team, which shows that he also has leadership qualities. All in all, Thirimanne is a well-rounded batsman and is definitely the man to look out for in the future.