An uphill task for young skipper Chandimal

Dinesh Chandimal has an onerous task at hand; to motivate an untested side in international cricket and find ways to compete with the Indians in their backyard, fresh from a successful outing down under. How will the young Sri Lankan captain view an Indian side that will not have the name of Virat Kohli in the team sheet?

Captaining the side in Lasith Malinga's absence, Chandimal will be without the services of Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep and DIlshan.   -  AP

Dinesh Chandimal has an onerous task at hand; to motivate an untested side in international cricket and find ways to compete with the Indians in their backyard, fresh from a successful outing down under. How will the young Sri Lankan captain view an Indian side that will not have the name of Virat Kohli in the team sheet?

The Twenty20 format of the game is a great leveller — like a veteran cricketer across all formats, Shane Watson, being pursued by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for Rs. 9.5 crore and a rookie left-arm spinner Pawan Negi being bought for Rs. 8.5 crore by Delhi Daredevils at the IPL season 9 auction on Saturday. These are the ways of Twenty20!

Underdogs

Chandimal's Sri Lankan side will enter the fray as an underdog in the three-match T20 series to be played at Pune, Ranchi and Visakhapatnam. The 26-year-old Chandimal appeared as a bright spark amidst a new crop of Sri Lankan cricketers some six years ago, but somehow he has not been able to sustain his form with the bat across all formats.

Twenty20 is not a format a batsman of the class of Chandimal should be judged on, but his highest score of 22 he scored against Pakistan two years ago doesn’t reflect well as a captain. The bold and brave wicketkeeper-batsman has much more value than his average of 13.46, in 31 outings, suggests.

The Sri Lankan selectors were certainly not wrong in assessing the quality of his cricket. Chandimal brought in an attitude of fearlessness to a side that was altogether dependent on Tillekaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

There was class written all over his 111 against India in his second ODI in Harare in June 2010 and his second century in his sixth ODI confirmed his potential when he uncorked an unbeaten 105 against England at Lord’s in July 2011. However, he hasn’t notched up a ton ever since, hence his average is only a little over 30.

But he’s been consistent in Test cricket, where he’s racked up an average of 45.88 in 25 matches that includes five centuries and 10 half centuries.

Seniors unavailable

The young cricketer has been thrust upon the leadership in the past and he’s captaining the team in the absence of Lasith Malinga, who is yet to recover from a knee injury. Also absent is Angelo Mathews, who has been laid low with a nagging groin and to add to Chandimal's cup of woes, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and fast bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and Nuwan Pradeep are also unavailable.

Sri Lanka's top wicket-takers in T20 are Malinga (74), Ajantha Mendis (66), Kulasekara (48), Mathews (32) and Thisara Perera (27). With none of them in the squad, the visiting team is handicapped in the bowling department. The selectors were forced to recall Dilhara Fernando, who last played for the team in the winter of 2011.

Sri Lanka will also be without Dilshan for the first match in Pune. The experienced opener is recovering from a hand injury and it is reported he may fly to Ranchi. As of now, Thisara Perera is Sri Lanka’s top T20 batsman with 503 runs and he is followed by Chamara Kapugedera (393) and Chandimal (323).

As the team went through its first training session at the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Chandimal will be mulling over one too many facets of the game his team will have to excel, in order to surprise Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team. Sri Lanka, under Chandimal, lost both Twenty20 matches to New Zealand at Mount Maunganui and Auckland in January this year.

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