Heading into the first match of the series against New Zealand, Kusal Perera hadn’t played a T20I in nearly 18 months but come the encounter, the southpaw brought his experience to the fore as his unbeaten 53 played a key hand in Sri Lanka taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Batting at No.3, Perera did not quite explode as his 53 came at a strike rate of just 117 but it proved to be crucial as it helped stabilize the innings at a time the visitors were threatening to implode despite getting off to a good start.
32 now, older and wiser, Perera has plenty of experience under his belt and in the aftermath of the first T20I, which Sri Lanka won via Super Over, the southpaw revealed he’s been advising youngsters to ‘start learning to handle uncomfortable situations’.
"For me, experience means knowing how to handle certain situations,” Perera said.
“There are a lot of young players in the squad, and what I've told them is you have start learning now how to handle uncomfortable situations. Bowlers aren't going to bowl how you like, they're going to analyse you and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. We need to be smart in those situations."
Perera revealed that the key to Sri Lanka’s success, on the day, was every single batter going out to bat with a positive mindset. Perera, Mendis, Hasaranga and Asalanka all played fine hands and that helped the tourists post a healthy 196 on the board.
"It's hard to play a T20 without momentum, and to win in T20 cricket you need a batter to provide that momentum,” Perera said.
"I went ahead with a positive mindset, I wasn't thinking about how long I had been out. Likewise, all the other batters also went out with a positive mindset, and that's how we managed to capitalise on the conditions."
The knock on Sunday was Perera’s first T20I fifty in three years, and while he was satisfied with his showing, the veteran claimed that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
"Of course being out there in the middle and playing, I'm very happy with my performance. More than that I'm happy that the team won. That said I know there's room for improvement and that will only come as I improve my match rhythm."
The second T20I will be played at the University Oval in Dunedin on Wednesday, April 5th.