Cricketers aren’t the only famous Sri Lankans in India at the moment. Shehan Karunatilaka, who won the prestigious Booker Prize just three months ago, was, in fact, in this city till a couple of days ago.
Karunatilaka, whose debut novel Chinaman:The Legend of Pradeep Mathew is rated by Wisden among the greatest books on cricket, is now in Kozhikode for the Kerala Literature Festival. At the inaugural ceremony of the festival on the Kozhikode beach, he spoke of how similar the landscape and the people of Sri Lanka and Kerala looked.
The Lankan cricketers, who have arrived here for the final ODI against India, are likely to feel at home in similar-seeming environs, as they try to stop the host from completing a clean sweep in the three-match series, having lost at Guwahati and Kolkata in rather convincing fashions.
If India batted the Lankans out of the first ODI, the bowlers came to the fore in the second, dismissing the visitors inside 40 overs. With the host looking in such intimidating form, Dasun Shanaka’s men need to up their game considerably at the Greenfield Stadium on Sunday.
The Lankan captain has looked good in good knick on this white-ball tour. He scored his second ODI hundred at Guwahati and before that, had scores of 45, 56 not out and 23 in the T20Is.
23-year-old Nuwanidu Fernando, who made 50 on his debut before being run out in the last match, has shown promise. But Sri Lanka’s top-order – especially someone like Kusal Mendis - has to bat deeper, against a side that features some exceptional batters, including two who are among the game’s all-time greats in the format.
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had put on a scintillating display in the only ODI at this venue, against the West Indies four years ago. The fans may not mind an encore. They would also be looking forward to the strokeplay from the likes of Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and K.L. Rahul.
And let’s not forget Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel, who seems to be getting better and better with the bat. Not many might envy Sri Lanka’s bowlers.
Indian bowling has shown its depth in the series. The fiery Umran Malik and the skilful Mohammed Siraj have fired.
In the last match, Kuldeep Yadav yet again made his chance count, with a Man-of-the-Match performance. That meant Karunatilaka wasn’t the only one who reminded us about that rare species in cricket- Chinaman.