Cold-shouldering Thisara Perera defies logic |

Cold-shouldering Thisara Perera defies logic

11 Jul 2014, 1740 hrs IST,  ,  
Cold-shouldering Thisara Perera defies logic
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The fault is not entirely Thisara's. His vast talent has been totally mismanaged.
At a time when Trevor Bayliss was keenly searching for a reliable seamer allrounder to balance the side, he struck a goldmine when Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera came along at almost the same time. Both hailed from the posh St. Joseph's College, built by the French OMI missionaries and the school has a rich cricket tradition.

Five years on from being introduced to the world stage, their cricket has taken opposite directions. Mathews was the more serious of the two and has gone on to become a successful Sri Lankan captain and a reliable middle-order batsman. Thisara, perhaps the more talented of the two, has failed to find a regular spot in the side. The fault is not entirely Thisara's. His vast talent has been totally mismanaged.

Thisara remains a favourite among various T-20 league franchises in all parts of the world. However, he is an automatic choice for the national team only in T20s. For ODIs, Sri Lanka's selectors prefer other options. Take the on-going ODI series against South Africa. The selectors have preferred playing a spinning allrounder - Ashan Priyanjan at number seven instead of Thisara. But that wasn't what the selectors said a few months ago. Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya had conceded that with the next World Cup taking place in Australia and New Zealand, the selection panel is keen on trying out seamer-allrounder combinations.

Thisara shouldn't be in the side merely considering where the next World Cup will be played, but he should be an automatic choice after the big three (Sangakkara, Jayawardene Dilshan) and Mathews and Lasith Malinga. Here's why.

If you take into account how many Man-of-the-Match awards a player has won to gauge his effectiveness, here's a startling statistic! Thisara has been Man of the Match for Sri Lanka in seven ODIs; Angelo Mathews, however, has won the award only on six occasions, although he has played 53 more ODIs than Thisara. Even the indispensable Lasith Malinga has only seven Man-of-the-Match awards.

Why Thisara has been continuously cold-shouldered could be due to reasons beyond his impact for the team. During the Champions Trophy in England last year, in a low-scoring game against New Zealand in Cardiff, Thisara was dismissed playing a poor shot. Kumar Sangakkara was fighting a lone battle and Thisara was required to hang in there with plenty of overs left. But he was caught attempting to clear long-on and Sri Lanka were bowled out for 138 and obviously lost the contest.

The selectors on tour weren't impressed with his application and not only was he left out for the next game but was also dropped from the following tri-nation tournament in the Caribbean. Since then, his place in the side has come under regular scrutiny. But that kind of stubbornness is not helping the team. Thisara is not the sort of carefree character who takes life easy. He puts in quite a bit of effort to improve his game and should be drafted back into the squad without much delay.

His monstrous hitting has clinched Sri Lanka some key games over the years. A few months ago, Sri Lanka were struggling at 67 for 8 against Bangladesh. In walked Thisara and smashed 80 runs off 57 deliveries with four fours and six sixes to give the bowlers something to defend. Sri Lanka ended up making 180 and bowled out Bangladesh for 167.

Two years ago, against South Africa in Kimberley chasing an imposing 300 to win, Thisara walked in at 194 for four with the team requiring a further 106 in 15 overs. A couple of sixes earlier on put the pressure back on the Proteas and in the end Sri Lanka went onto win with eight balls to spare. Thisara made 69 off 44 balls with three fours and five sixes.

The Proteas certainly will be happy that Thisara is not playing. Less than a year ago, he simply went after their slow bowlers. In the third ODI in Kandy, he smashed Robin Petersen for 35 runs in an over that included five sixes and a four. The reason why Thisara hasn't fully blossomed as a batsman is partly due to the selectors refusing the experiment. There have been suggestions to make use of Thisara's brutal power-hitting when the Powerplays are on, but we have hardly seen him moving up the order from his customary spot of number seven. In the aforementioned game against Bangladesh, he was batting at number nine.

Not with just powerful batting, but even his bowling has shaken up the best of teams. Sri Lanka have been playing ODI cricket for almost 40 years now and only four players have taken hat-tricks. Thisara is one of them. The great Chaminda Vaas is the second highest wicket-taker for Sri Lanka in ODIs. But even he took only four five-wicket hauls in a career that involved 321 ODIs. And Thisara has already taken three five-wicket hauls. Strange are the ways of Sri Lanka's cricket selectors.

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