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Upul Tharanga has been reinstated in the opening batsman position to re-strengthen the batting prowess in the Sri Lanka team. He is one of the most experienced players who bear major responsibility in the team. Nevertheless, healthy mix of old and new players is essential to revive and energize the team.

His cricket debut was on December 18, 2005 against in Ahmadabad, India. So far, he has played 26 Test and 198 ODI matches. Though he was a successful opening batsman, in recent times, he was given a place in the middle order without being allocated a permanent slot in the batting order, playing 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th positions at various times mostly in ODIs.

It is an outstanding achievement of Upul Tharanga in Test matches, scoring the first century on Lankan soil at the Galle Esplanade. He scored his maiden Test century in 2006 at Bogra against Bangladesh. He scored a brilliant 165 runs in 304 balls including 19 boundaries and two sixes and was crowned Man of the Match. Playing at No.5, he bagged his second century in Harare, Zimbabwe.

After a long recess as the opening Test batsman, he scored 115 runs in 171 balls that included 11 fours and 2 sixes in the second innings at the recently concluded first Test match against Bangladesh in Galle.

Upul Tharanga says that he can confidently return to the opening batsman position after scoring his third century in Galle. “I was included in the team continuously for the last eight months which enabled me to improve my batting skills. I was always keen to return to the opening batsman slot. At the very start, I joined the National team as the opening batsman but subsequently I was moved to play in the middle order. It was a decision of the cricket control body to which I willingly acceded and I extended my fullest support to the team. Certainly, it is a real challenge to adjust your mind to face the changed batting order,” asserts Tharanga.

“Playing as the opener or middle order player is two vastly different roles. For an opener, initial two hours are very vital to the game. It is a real mental challenge to the player,” Thranga admits.

In his early cricket career, he opened the game with the present Cricket Selection Committee Chairman, Sanath Jayasuriya, and later with T.M. Dilshan and gained vast array of experience thereby. Today, he opens Test games with Dimuth Karunaratne and with Niroashan Dickwella in ODI and Twenty20 versions.

He admits that a player loses his self-confidence when he is out of the game for a certain period. During the last two to three years, he was either in or out of the team. “When I look back, since 2014 I have done badly only in one match. I scored well against both South Africa and Pakistan. Though I scored 92 and 45 runs respectively in both innings against Pakistan, I was not even among the first 15 in the next matches against New Zealand. There are ups and downs in a player. So, a player cannot be assured of a place in the team which depends on his current performance. For an opening player scoring 40 to 50 is not adequate to qualify. What is expected of an opener is a long inning,” Tharanga explains.

Tharanga admits that he was mindful of this responsibility and he built up the second innings though his first inning was an utter failure in recently played Test match in Galle.

With playing experience in Zimbabwe and South Africa as the captain in one day matches as well the captain of Twenty20 match series in Australia, he has become a formidable player. If Tharnaga keeps up his scoring trend in his pet position, he would be an asset to the Sri Lanka Cricket.

Courtesy: The Sunday Rivira  
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)