In an agony to ecstasy turnaround in its cricket fortunes, Sri Lanka has turned a fruity corner in topping the ICC World Test Championship points table with 60 points. It has with it typified the famous adage, ‘the glorious uncertainties of the game’ as the 21-million cricket crazy nation has bounced back in echoing the binding country cricket slogan of, ‘One Team, One Nation’ from a long hibernation when its standings took a beating.
Snowballing back into contention has largely revolved on the Karunaratne oneness – the magical influence of Sri Lanka’s new found captain. Transcending the meat of his bat from the groove of rising to be regarded as the Mr. Reliable in the industry to the new heights of a captain marvel has indeed been the turning point. It has been self stock raising ever since he was thrust the captaincy crown not so long ago that he has admirably turned from a seeming Cinderella with next to no experience in the job to meaning big business in calling the shots as willow wielder and dictating things in the middle. Indeed, the 31-year old former St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and SSC product has drummed up a meteoric Sri Lankan rise from the dumps in the dual captaincy roles of Test and ODI captain that took off at the tail-end of 2018 when the captaincy was thrust on his shoulders on the tour of South Africa. Its culmination in a historic 2-nil thrashing of the South Africans in their own backyard with Sri Lanka the third country to do so proved to be the eye opening high point about Karunaratne’s captaincy ability.
It was to spur on the lean and lanky new skipper with the national selectors quick to identify that here was a man with the acumen to deliver. It hastened his appointment as the ODI world cup captain where Karunaratne acquitted himself reasonably well with 4 wins including bringing down subsequent world champions England and coming good with a telling 96 that nearly brought down Australia. For a player just on the captaincy blocks certainly Karunaratne had imbibed a faith restoring influence which he was to translate into bigger things by the 3-nil drubbing of the Bangladeshis in his next assignment. On the heels of that success his match winning 122 against New Zealand in the home first Test at Galle has thrust him into the limelight of a performer with the guile to lead from the front with the bat and leading the side. Jumping four places in the Test individual player batting rankings to putting Sri Lanka right at the top of the World Test Championship points table with 60 points has been tall stuff. Significantly, Dimuth Karunaratne has literally proved to be an overnight hit. The pleasing thing about him has been the sense of maturity he has imparted into his cricket both as a batsman and leader in changing his country’s fortunes.
By Srian Obeyesekere