'I have a team I can work with' - Karunaratne sees good signs for the future

July 31, 2019

In many ways, this was a low-octane bilateral series. It came on the heels of the World Cup. There was no major hype around it beyond Lasith Malinga's retirement. There was a sense of fatigue around Bangladesh's performance, and they were missing their best player in any case. But, despite all that, could the 3-0 result be a new dawn for Sri Lanka in ODIs?

There is no clear answer to that, because they have had false dawns, of course, and there is increasingly no such thing as linear progression in Sri Lankan cricket. But their new captain, at least, believes the team's ODI stocks to be in decent health as he contemplates building a team into the next World Cup cycle. The third ODI, in particular, featured encouraging performances from relatively young players who had not featured in Sri Lanka's World Cup squad. Dimuth Karunaratne thinks this is reason to be hopeful.

"The young players grabbed their chances really well - the four players whom we put in the team today put up their hands and did a great job," he said. Those four were allrounder Dasun Shanaka (30 runs off 14 balls, and 3 for 27), seamer Kasun Rajitha (2 for 17), allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga (12 not out off five balls, and 1 for 16) and Shehan Jayasuriya (13 off seven balls at the death).

"If there's a lot of competition and there's a strong bench, if a player is injured I can easily bring another player," Karunaratne said. "I think this is the way we have to build a good line-up. This is the time we have to bring some youngsters for the next couple of years. We've had an issue recently where we didn't have that strong bench. But players are now ready, and they'll grab the chances that come their way."

Apart from the pool of players that performed well during this whitewash, there are others, who could play an important role in the next World Cup cycle, Karunaratne said. "Beyond this team, there are others around as well, who are unable to break into this side at the moment - players like Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka.

"You need a lot of players to build up that competition within a team, so that players are constantly putting pressure on each other to perform. If you have a strong bench, the players who are in the team have to take that responsibility. There are a lot of players trying to get that chance, so there's pressure on the XI. I have a team I can work with. The youngsters have a great energy about them as well."

Despite his optimism, he did point out an area of particular concern - the bowling. With the retirement of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka have lost their most penetrative ODI operator, and will now seek a new spearhead. "We need to find bowlers who can get us wickets," Karunaratne said. "We have to find those players who deliver in tough situations. Today, pretty much everyone had a bowl, and they came up with wickets. That's what I expect when I make a bowling change - that whoever comes on will build pressure and make those breakthroughs."

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