Sri Lanka ‘A’ team coach Romesh Kaluwitharana is of the view that Kithuruwan Vithanage, Kusal Perera and Ashan Priyanjan are ready to take the next step into securing a place in the senior national team following the recently concluded unofficial test and one-day series against Pakistan ‘A’.
Sri Lanka ‘A’ won the three-match one-day series 2-1 and drew the three unofficial tests, two of which were affected by bad weather.
“The three of them are good players. Kusal and Kithuruwan were outstanding in the series. Though Ashan didn’t score much he will come up very fast. They will make the Sri Lanka team very soon,” said Kaluwitharana assessing his team’s performances.
Vithanage has already made his mark in Tests and ODIs while Perera has appeared in ODIs and T20Is, and Priyanjan in ODIs, but all of those appearances for the national team have been more or less sporadic.
“Kusal was simply brilliant throughout the whole series averaging more than 100 in the ODIs and 150 in the unofficial tests,” said Kaluwitharana. “His positive batting was one of the reasons for the team performing well, but overall everyone contributed.
“On the final day of the third ‘test’ the captain Ashan Priyanjan and Kithuruwan batted brilliantly. That partnership saved the innings and then Kusal came to the party.”
In comparison to Perera and Vithanage, Priyanjan had a rather lean series with the bat scoring a fifty apiece in both formats.
Kaluwitharana did not reckon the reason for his poor form as the weight of captaincy.
“This is not the first time he has captained the ‘A’ side he has done that before on the last tour to England. It’s not a big burden for him.
“Technically he doesn’t have any issues, he got run out once. It was not the greatest series for him. Those kinds of periods a cricketer goes through during their career. He is a great act it’s a matter of getting runs on the board. I have a lot of faith with his ability to perform,” he said.
Kaluwitharana lauded the performances of his team against a strong Pakistan ‘A’ side. “It was a fantastic effort by the boys most of them who got the opportunity grabbed it.”
“We played a very good and experienced Pakistan side which had about 6-7 Test and ODI players whereas we had a very young side. Overall our boys did really well although we could not win the ‘test’ series.
“A result was not possible in the first two ‘tests’ because we had a lot of interruptions from the weather, but the last match was fantastic because we got four days of cricket. It was good to see the batsmen put up a big effort on the fourth day and make so many runs losing only five wickets.
“Everyone had an enjoyable series. The boys are a good bunch very determined, focussed and disciplined. I am sure they will grab the opportunity when they get it.”
Kaluwitharana however cautioned against pushing the players too early into the senior team before they are ready.
“Looking at the new players who had the opportunity for the first time they showed a lot of promise and talent. They need to be looked at more regularly and given more opportunities and time for them to get adjusted to playing at international level,” said Kaluwitharana.
“We need more tours like this to gauge the consistency of the players and how they perform we can’t gauge them in one series. They should play a few more ‘A’ series to weigh their performances. It’s not only batting and bowling but how they handle pressure, how they feel and how they contribute to the side.
“When they continue to play more matches in the ‘A’ side they will become more comfortable and confident when they are called up to play in the senior side. If you throw them to the deep end straight away they might drown and may never swim again.”
Kaluwitharana stated that Sri Lanka were fortunate that at the moment there is not so much pressure for new players to be introduced to the senior team.
“We are looking at new players very much more long term because we have a lot of good players in the current senior side.
It will be good if we can produce at least one or two players for a year who can be standby replacements for the senior team. It’s a good thing to have players shadowing the national players because it keeps the national player on edge to perform better, to focus more and give more than 150 percent to the team.
Bowling is one area where the national team is struggling to find match-winning bowlers especially for the Test side.
“The fast bowlers did a fantastic job overall. It was a fair call by everyone to give good decent wickets which had some bounce and pace and our boys bowled a better line and length than Pakistan’s experienced fast bowlers. It was amazing to see the bowlers performed especially the fast men,” observed Kaluwitharana.
“Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage bowled brilliantly throughout the series. They have come a long way. For me they are quite ready to take the next step to the senior side. Fast bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake was quite pleased with their performances,” he said.
“As head coach I thought they have come a long way looking at them now one year after. Their fitness levels, attitude and performance levels have improved tremendously.
“Of the spinners (Tharindu) Kaushal has improved a lot from where he was. He is getting more confident day by day. With his ability to turn the ball he will be a very good prospect for the future.”
Kaluwitharana said the presence of Champaka Ramanayake was a real boon to the team especially the fast bowlers. The former Sri Lanka quick has been appointed fast bowling coach to the national team for the upcoming home series against Pakistan, India and West Indies.
Kaluwitharana was also appreciative of the efforts put in by the support staff to ensure the players were injury free and fit. “Their contribution played a huge part in us having a very successful series.”
South Africa ‘A’ are due for series at home next month and in October the Sri Lanka ‘A’ side is to make a tour to New Zealand ahead of the senior team’s visit in December. “That will be a good tour because we are playing before the start of their summer in conditions which we don’t experience here.”