My best is yet to come, says Chandimal | Page 3 | Daily News
Bedrock of Sri Lanka’s batting:

My best is yet to come, says Chandimal

Dinesh Chandimal defensively solid as ever
Dinesh Chandimal defensively solid as ever

Thursday - Handed the Test captaincy of the country at the age of 27 following Angelo Mathews’ resignation in July, Dinesh Chandimal has in that short space of time improved greatly not only as a captain who believes in leading his team from the front but has also improved his batting in leaps and bounds with the added responsibility.

Chandimal began his reign as captain with a stutter when he was ruled out with pneumonia in his first Test. He actually took over from the second Test of the home series against India but could not make much headway as India proved too strong making a clean sweep of the Test series 3-0.

However, unperturbed by the losses Chandimal motivated his team to a stunning 2-0 win against Pakistan in the UAE inflicting on the hosts their first-ever series loss at the venue they have now made their home.

The brilliant right-hander led the way with a match-winning century – an unbeaten 155 not out in nine hours at Abu Dhabi against a varied Pakistan bowling attack that comprised Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah and Hasan Ali. He followed it up with a half century in the second Test which Sri Lanka also won and finished the series with an aggregate of 224 and an average of 74.67.

On the current tour to India, Chandimal has again been in the forefront again leading his side to prevent another whitewash at the hands of India who had to be satisfied with only a 1-0 win in the three-match series.

Chandimal’s batting grew during the series so that he finished with an average of 61 aggregating 366 runs. Following twin fifties in the second Test at Nagpur which Sri Lanka lost by their biggest margin in Test cricket (innings and 239 runs), he scored a monumental 164 in eight minutes under eight hours in the third and final Test at Delhi overcoming the threat of air pollution to help his team draw the Test. It was the time that Chandimal spent in the middle that denied India of a chance of victory. He has in recent times become the bedrock of the Lankan batting.

“I’ve never played in conditions like this before, a huge challenge. I was feeling exhausted after day three,” said Chandimal. “But if you love the sport, you have to do the job for your team. I have worked extremely hard on my game. When you lead your country you have to be proud. You are representing 20 million Sri Lankans and our people take a lot of pride in our cricket. That brings the best out of me. It is a good knock, but I am not satisfied. I will produce my best knock soon.”

Asked if captaincy has changed his approach to the game Chandimal replied, “The problem is whenever I go out to bat in recent times we are 30 for three or something. That has forced me to put my head down and play the anchor role. I try to play as straight as possible, at least for the first 30 runs. But then if the situation demands, I will make a call and go for it.

“I played one sweep in Delhi actually.

It fetched me a single. This was a good wicket. On a good wicket, you have so many other scoring options. On a wicket that is turning, perhaps you can bring out the sweep and stuff like that.

The sweep is a high risk shot,” said Chandimal. “Then also, remember, I had got out in Nagpur in the first innings playing a reverse sweep. I felt like kicking myself after that. So I was determined to play as straight as possible here.”

It was Chandimal’s partnership of 181 with former captain Angelo Mathews that gave Sri Lanka a first innings total of 373 and helped them avoid the follow-on.

“Angelo is one hell of a player. He can change games in a couple of sessions. We depend a lot on Angelo and Rangana Herath. They are our main match winners. He is also the senior most batsmen in the side. He has played some unbelievable knocks over the years. All the youngsters look up to him, how he trains, how he plays and how he goes about things,” said Chandimal.

“There’s a lot to learn from that knock for the young players. How he absorbed pressure and how he makes it look all too easy when he is on song. Even I learn a lot from the way he bats. He is very good at reading situations.

He gives you some smart tips, a very clever bloke and good a student of the game.”

It is no secret that after former Sri Lanka cricketer Thilan Samaraweera took over as batting coach, there has been a vast improvement in the Lankan batting which had become a sore point with the constant collapses occurring.

“Personally for me, Thilan has been of immense strength as he also used to bat at number five throughout his career. He gives the team confidence.

He tells us what to do in situations,” said Chandimal. “His practice sessions are extremely useful. For example, when the openers are batting in the nets, he would bring up an off-spinner and a left-arm spinner, then give them two new balls and tells the openers to imagine that Ashwin and Jadeja are bowling with the new ball and to play accordingly. He tries to replicate match situations at training. He’s a great asset to us.”

Being dropped from the ODI team has hurt Chandimal, but being the determined cricketer he is prepared to take it on the chin and fight back.

“I am not disappointed as such. I think I had got a decent outing in UAE in ODIs, but I failed to make an impact. But I will fight my way back.

I love ODI cricket. It is a challenge for me now. I do have a few flaws. I will sort them out. I will work even harder and I will be back playing ODIs,” Chandimal stated determinedly.


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