by Mahinda Wijesinghe
Colombo|7 March 2012
Has a new ‘star’ emerged in the Sri Lankan cricketing scene?
Well, experts on the game and statistics certainly seem to indicate that Dinesh Chandimal, the right-handed batsman/wicket-keeper, qualifies for this often-misquoted title of ‘star’. Indeed one should be cautious when making such predictions. When Australian batsman Ian Craig, at 17 years and 239 days, made his Test debut against the South Africans in February 1953, he became the youngest to play for his country at Test level. The Australian media was quick to hail him as the next Don Bradman. Touring England later in the same year, he averaged a dismal 16.5 and did not come back to the Test arena for three years. Craig did return to Test cricket and captain Australia on five occasions, but ended his international career with a woeful batting average of 19.8. Hardly Bradmanesque.
100 Test matches after Craig made his Test debut, the Australian media dubbed another batsman the ‘next Bradman’ when Norman O’Neill, the New South Wales right-hander, made his Test debut during the first 1958-59 Ashes Test at Brisbane. Incidentally, this was the first Test in Australia to be televised. In fairness, O’Neill had a far more fruitful career at the top but statistics reveal that his eventual Test batting average was 45.5, commendable – better than Aravinda de Silva’s 42.97 – but less than half of The Don’s staggering average of 99.94. So, another ‘would-be’ Bradman bit the dust. In recent times, the Indian media was trying hard to elevate Tendulkar to the same level dubbing him the ‘Little Master’ but his recent struggles, extending to an year, and a current Test batting average of 55.44 hardly entitles him to the same one-man league of Bradman.
It is most unlikely – in this regard let us hope the writer is proved wrong! – that Chandimal would repeat the staggering exploits of The Don. However the right-hander’s exploits on his maiden overseas tour to South Africa, and now to Australia, shows promise of better things in the future. After all, to have received baptism in countries where it is accepted as the toughest opposition in world cricket and to emerge victorious is a feather in the youngster’s cap; feats that have not been achieved by any previous Sri Lankan.
Good start to both Test and ODI career
On his Test debut against South Africa at Durban, Chandimal scored twin half-centuries, but more importantly Sri Lanka beat South Africa, and Chandimal was involved in both innings in 100-plus-run partnerships. In the first innings it was with Samaraweera, and in the second he joined hands with Sangakkara, which contributed greatly to Sri Lanka’s historic success. Currently, he is the most successful batsman in the CB series. Chandimal is the only batsman to score more than 300 runs – he has scored 306 runs in six innings at an average of 61.20 – in the tournament. In effect, the former Ananda College schoolboy has indicated that he is adept at both forms of the game.
Polishing the gem
Of course the 22-year old has a few rough edges to smoothen. This is where professional advice is needed. Just as a gem found in the pit cannot be worn without ‘cutting and polishing’ by the experts, Chandimal needs the expert counsel of coaches to become the real McCoy. Chandimal does not possess the panache of an Aravinda de Silva or the class of a Roy Dias but currently – sans injuries and if he can keep a good head on his shoulders - he promises to deliver the goods.
About the Author: Mahinda Wijesinghe (MW) is one of Sri Lanka's foremost cricket experts. He served on the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation executive and on the Sri Lankan Board in various honorary capacities. He was the regular Sri Lankan contributor to the Cricketer International Magazine. In the mid 1980s, he was the first to propose the use of the third umpire in what's now known as the Umpire Decision Review System.
Dinesh Chandimal's unbeaten 105 guided Sri Lanka to a resounding 6-wicket victory against England, giving the tourists a 2-1 lead in the five-match series. Sri Lanka, chasing 247, finished on 4-249 with 10 balls to spare. The win was built on a second-wicket stand of 112 between Chandimal and opener Mahela Jayawardene (79). Earlier, England's total of 7-246, which featured captain Alastair Cook's career-best 119, never looked enough.3rd ODI (Lords), July 2011
21 year old Dinesh Chandimal's unbeaten 105 helped Sri Lanka to a six-wicket victory but his quest for a Lord's century was only possible after Angelo Mathews had played out a deliberate maiden at the other end. An angry Kevin Pietersen had a pointed conversation with umpire Nigel Llong. Skipper Cook was obviously irked by what he seemed to take as an insult to his team when he stated "They're perfectly entitled to do it if they want," he said. "But you never know, the cricketing Gods might look down at that in a bit of disgust.". Nasser Hussain also got stuck into the duo saying "dont mess with the game, it will bite you". The Lankan skipper, Dilshan, was also dismayed stating "It was disappointing for me that they didn't take the singles,". 3rd ODI (Lords), July 2011
Thilan Samaraweera and Dinesh Chandimal steered Sri Lanka out of trouble while Mahela Jayawardene joined the 10,000-run club. Samaraweera and debutant Chandimal constructed an impressive 111-run sixth-wicket partnership to lift Sri Lanka out of danger after Marchant de Lange, South Africa's new fast bowler, had ripped out three of Sri Lanka's leading batsmen. Sri Lanka 289 for 7 (Samaraweera 86*, Chandimal 58, de Lange 4-60). 2nd Test. Day 1 (Durban), Dec 2011
Sri Lanka completed an emphatic eight-wicket bonus-point victory after chasing a rain-revised target of just 152 in the 41-overs-a-side contest. Mahela Jayawardene (61 off 67 balls), Tillakaratne Dilshan (45 off 41) and Kumar Sangakkara (30 off 29 balls) shone with the bat. Earlier, Australia struggled to 158 all out, its lowest score at the SCG for 15 years. Sri Lanka 152 for 2 (Jayawardene 61*, Dilshan 45) beat Australia 158 (David Hussey 58, Maharoof 2-18, Perera 2-29) by eight wickets.CB #6 ODI (SCG), Feb 2012
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