The appointment of Dimuth Karunaratne as the Sri Lanka ODI captain for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England marks a significant turnaround as the country looks to change its one-day fortunes in the game’s showpiece event. The appointment, ratified by the Minister of Sports Harin Fernando, while signifying the need for new pastures opted by the national selectors headed by Chairman of Selectors, Asantha de Mel in giving the nod to Sri Lanka’s most consistent run getter in test cricket has also been influenced by Karunaratne’s magnificent leadership in registering a historic first ever 2-nil series triumph over South Africa in their own backyard. That apart, on a personal note it marks a new chapter in the career of the 30-year old left hand opening batsman who had been virtually viewed as Test match material. In comparison to 60 Test appearances aggregating 4074 runs inclusive of 8 centuries and 22 half centuries, he has played in 17 ODIs for a run tally of 190 with a highest of 60.
But the high point of the former St. Jospeh’s College product and SSC player was the splendid form he displayed in the just concluded Super Provincial Limited Over Tournament when he struck scores of 86 not out off 74 balls, 44 and an unbeaten 35. By and large Karunaratne has succeeded in imbibing a satisfying streak of confidence in sparring with new ball attacks upfront . In that vein, while it is significant that the left hander has converted his career from a Test batsman to worthy one-day material his flair as a consistent batsman with the ability to blunt bowling attacks has made him the most suitable option to open the batting. That he has blended it in raising his stocks to virtual overnight fame as a captain by the manner he dented the South Africans in that epic Test series win are apparent double plus factors in his favour.
He has therein succeeded in winning the selectors faith for the overly big task of leading Sri Lanka in the 12the edition of the World Cup that gets underway from May 30 to June 14. Having made his ODI debut versus England in 2011, he played his last ODI match also against England at Wellington in the 2015 World Cup. Interestingly, in that game, Sri Lanka thrashed England by 9 wickets in a high scoring affair chasing down 309 for 6 with Lahiru Thirimanne striking an unbeaten 139 and Kumar Sangakkara an unbeaten 117 in a total of 312 for 1.
Indeed, Karunaratne’s elevation is an interesting move by the selectors in looking at new vistas with the rest of the 15-member squad to be named on Thursday, April 18th.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-
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