From cold storage to strolling the park as the Sri Lanka cricket captain holding aloft the championship trophy! It is an apt summing up of 31-year old Upul Tharanga’s international career. Indeed, the left hander, who walked in to the Sri Lanka ODI team on August 2, 2005 against the West Indies in a home series as an opening batsman partnering Marvan Atapattu, soon insulated himself as an aggressive stroke maker in the role. His epoch making double ton partnership pairing with Sanath Jayasuriya versus England in England in a Test match remains memorable to this day. But Upul Tharanga sadly lost his way following a slight lean patch subsequently. Where many batsmen in that situation had benefitted from the selectors nod, in Tharanga’s case, it was not so. Whereas the lad from Balapitiya could have done with more encouragement, it was not to be. Consequently, he remained in the wilderness for quite some time in the best years of his career.
The over 5000 ODI runs and 1000 test runs he had before his name underwrote the class of a batsman who had grafted 13 Test tons and 30 ODI half tons with 2 ODI tons. But when it seemed that the player’s career was good as over, Tharanga did get a recall but has been mainly a stop gap player. His second call up has seen him more in the role of a middle order batsman.
Given the backdrop of having had to play a second fiddle role where he failed to find permanency in the Sri Lanka Test and ODI teams, his ascension to captaining his country to trophy success has with it given him the life glitter in his career that many others would envy. For, one of cricket’s gospel facts is that landing the captaincy of your national side is as arduous a task as finding a needle in a haystack.
For the record, captains come in norm of long periodic gaps following retirement or an axing. True Upul Tharanga was a stop gap ODI captain for the Zimbabwe triangular series also featuring the West indies in the absence of regular captain Angelo Mathews and vice captain Dinesh Chandimal through injury. But grab the opportunity with both arms did Tharanga to rewrite his career in gold by touching sky high success. Not only did he lead an inexperienced young side with much aplomb, but the manner in which he batted particularly in the final when Sri Lanka was somewhat with the back to the wall losing three frontline batsmen cheaply, saw the man rise in character and stature. He batted with great authority to take Sri Lanka to victory remaining unbeaten with a solid half century.
Significantly, Tharnga gives the impression of a stuntman sure of himself as he walks to the crease and plays his strokes. Well, his latest achievement could see a new secure opening by way of permanency for the lad.
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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