A promising all-rounder taking giant strides in world cricket, Wanindu Hasaranga is without a shadow of a doubt the future of Sri Lanka cricket. Picked by the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for the second half of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, Hasaranga’s inclusion in the IPL comes as very little surprise. The question however remains, how can he be used in this RCB side?
With just seven wickets in the 39 overs bowled between RCB’s primary spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar – in IPL 2021 this season so far, there’s no doubt that their form is a cause for concern. Chahal, as a result, did not get picked in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup, but the second phase could be a lease of life for him to prove his worth.
The fact that the second half of the tournament is in the UAE could work in his favour given that he was the best spinner last season, with 21 wickets to his name.
While Hasaranga could walk into the team as a direct replacement for Chahal, he also eats away an overseas spot. While there’s no benching AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson, the tussle will be for that one overseas spot.
RCB have solid options this time around. With Joshua Philippe and Daniel Sams pulling out, RCB could go in for all-rounder Daniel Christian or one of the other two recent acquisitions Singapore batsman Tim David or fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera.
Whatever chances Adam Zampa would have gotten in the IPL, the opportunities will now fall to Hasaranga, who adds another dimension to the side with his batting skills.
Given that Hasaranga is a wicket-to-wicket bowler, it comes as little surprise that he has close to 39% of his wickets in T20Is have been leg-before – the highest among anyone with 15 wickets or more in the format. Furthermore, 21 of his 36 T20I wickets have either been bowled or leg-before, further proving his prowess of being an accurate bowler at the highest level.
One of the problems RCB faced in the previous season – also held in the UAE – was the fact that they could not get going in the middle-overs, which they looked to address by signing Maxwell. While their run-rate in the middle-overs has risen from 6.9 in 2020 to 7.5 this year, they have done so by compromising their runs per wicket (24.9) and balls per wickets (19.9) which is the worst in overs 7-15 this season.
How does Hasaranga solve this issue? Well, he doesn’t. But in T20 cricket, Hasaranga could be an option at No. 5, given that he has struck at a strike-rate of 157.2 in 13 innings in that position. However, since 2020, he has batted just once in that position and has in fact batted most times at seven scoring at around 125.
Following the acquisition of Hasaranga, RCB coach Mike Hesson said, “We certainly not surprised by his success in recent times. We like his skill-set. We like the fact that he is a multi-skilled cricketer and offers to bat deep as well if we plan to play an overseas spinner along with Chahal.
“That gives us an exciting option. The fact that he performed against India is great but not surprising at all,” he added.
His stock certainly went up after he picked up seven wickets at 9.57 along with an economy rate of 5.58 in theT20I series against India, but Hesson insists that RCB have been scouting Hasaranga for some time now.
“We have a scouting programme that has been in place for at least last two years. We know every player is playing cricket at a decent level. We have an extensive scouting programme and Wanindu has been on our radar for a long time.”
“If we needed a replacement last time, Wanindu would have been the person, we would have called upon,” he explained.
If we take the time frame of the last two years, the time since RCB have been scouting Hasaranga, you can understand why it is such a big deal. Since 2019, Hasaranga has 70 wickets at 13.8 along with an economy rate of 6.1. He has struck once every 13.7 deliveries in this time period.
The Lanka Premier League (LPL) 2020 perhaps turned out to be a crucial tournament for Hasaranga. He picked up 17 wickets at 11.29 and a miserly economy rate of 5.18 – a feat that earned him the player of the series.
In an exclusive interview to Cricket.com last year, England all-rounder Samit Patel, who played for Dambulla Vikings in the inaugural LPL last year was especially impressed with Hasaranga in the tournament.
“I’m very happy with the Lanka Premier League. The local guys have been good. (Wanindu) Hasaranga from Jaffna Stallions has been the standout for me, he has knocked me over twice,” Patel had said.
One of the wicket-taking deliveries for a wrist spinner are his googlies. Hasaranga had used them extremely well in the recent past and has been a thorn in the batsman’s flesh.
A clever operator with the ball, who can provide the team with some quick runs, Hasaranga has what it takes to shine in his debut season for RCB. He could be a valuable asset for RCB this season as the franchise look to secure their maiden IPL title.