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Amid injury turmoil, Sri Lanka unearth Dilshan Madushanka

Last updated on 10 Jul 2023 | 11:13 AM
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Amid injury turmoil, Sri Lanka unearth Dilshan Madushanka

The left-arm pacer made quite an impact in Sri Lanka’s World Cup Qualifier, picking up eight wickets at 15 to go with a miserly economy rate of four

Sri Lanka’s fast bowling stocks are fast diminishing. Injuries had taken a toll on the Sri Lankan bowling unit. In fact, they lost three of their frontline seamers in the World Cup Qualifier alone, which tested the depth of Sri Lanka’s fast bowling attack.

The absence of Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, and Kasun Rajitha, forced Sri Lanka to dig deep but they seemed to have found a more than capable replacement to take over the mantle and, in fact, has further made it difficult for him to be dropped in the next assignment.

In his four games at the World Cup Qualifier, Dilshan Madushanka picked up eight wickets at 15, to go with an economy rate of four. In the Qualifier, he was most effective in the first 10 overs, picking up seven wickets, with only Brandon McMullen (8) and Chris Sole (8) picking up more wickets than him, but they played three games more than Madushanka.

Madushanka bowled at pace, hit the right lines and moreover, his left-arm angle provided the team with an X-factor. In ODIs nowadays, it is no longer about batters making the best of the fielding restrictions and scoring briskly. In fact, they are more inclined towards keeping their wickets intact and exploding in the last 13-15 overs.

That is where bowlers like Madushanka come in. They are genuine wicket-takers especially in the powerplay, leaving batters to play catch-up in the latter stages, especially where they would have liked to go on the attack.

Madushanka made it to the standby list for the World Cup Qualifier on the back of some impressive performances for Sri Lanka A. He finished as the leading wicket-taker in the List A matches against the visiting South Africa A side, with nine wickets at 12.33 to go with an economy rate of well under five.

Just a few months ago, he was also the most expensive signing in the Lanka Premier League (LPL) history with Jaffna Kings securing his services for USD 92,000.

In an otherwise forgettable Under-19 World Cup campaign for Sri Lanka three years ago, the only silver lining perhaps for the side was Madushanka’s performance in the campaign, where he finished with 13 wickets, almost double of the next best bowler from his side.

With just three first-class experiences behind him, he was called up for the Test tour of South Africa. Before that, he had already shown his prowess in youth ODIs, accounting for 27 wickets at 23.37, 13 of which were incidentally in South Africa at the Under-19 World Cup the same year.

Covid restrictions meant players had to spend a significant amount of time in the bubble and as a result, visiting teams usually took a few extra players as back-up, which therefore allowed Madushanka to gain some valuable experience.

He made it to the Test squad against Bangladesh and Pakistan over the next couple of years, but he was thrown into the deep end in the Asia Cup last year, making his debut against Afghanistan in Dubai. He saved his best for the tie against India, picking up the prized wicket of Virat Kohli for a duck, cleaning him up with an inswinger, and removed power-hitters Deepak Hooda and Rishabh Pant at the death.

While he continues to feature regularly for Sri Lanka in T20Is, he made his 50-over bow for Sri Lanka against India earlier this year at the back of just one List A game. The selectors deemed him ready to take this format on as fish to water given his exploits in the youth ODIs.

Ahead of the Qualifier, he had played just a couple of ODIs, but injuries to three frontline seamers meant he was given an opportunity to play in the tournament. For the sheer impact he had in a short span of time, he was also named in our team of the tournament, ahead of someone like Richard Ngarava, who had six more wickets than Madushanka.

Sri Lanka in the past have dug raw talent out of nowhere, right from Arjuna Ranatunga making his Test debut after just one first-class behind him in the early 80s or more recently, Lahiru Kumara playing red-ball cricket for Sri Lanka after just a couple of domestic games. In fact, Kumara went on to make his ODI debut with no prior List A experience, but today, he is among the top fast bowlers in the country.

Madushanka has shown what he has to offer Sri Lanka in his short career so far. The 22-year-old has ensured that he could very well be in the scheme of things when it comes to picking the World Cup squad. Of course, he will have to fight off competition not just from Rajitha, Kumara, Chameera, but also other pacers like Asitha Fernando, Pramod Madushan, Nuwan Pradeep, and others, who have been part of the set-up for the last couple of years.

But, as things stand, Madushanka has certainly made the right noises and will be hard to improve going forward, at least in the near future.

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