Sri Lanka

Mitch Arthur officially announced as Pakistan team director – The Island

by Rex Clementine

At every juncture, Sri Lanka found good spinners to carry their hopes. It started with Murali for 20 years as the national cricket team built a strong reputation in the country. Then, when he moved away, Rangana Herath came along and won many matches domestically and occasionally overseas, such as Durban in 2011, a historic victory for our cricket. Prabath Jayasuriya seems to be doing the same.

Unlike Murali and Herath, Prabath did not rise from the center of cricket. There are plenty of cricket matches in Kandy and Kurugla, the hometowns of the two former greats. Prabath is from Matale, an area where hockey is more popular than cricket. But he moved to Colombo to pursue his cricket interests and got off to a good start.

Prabath now has 43 wickets in six Tests. The record for fastest Sri Lankans to reach 50 wickets in a Test is shared by Dilruwan Perera and Ramesh Mendis, who both reached the milestone in 11 Tests. All indications are that Prabath will hit the milestone at double pace in his next Test match.

Australian Charlie Turner holds the world record for the fastest 50 Test wickets delivered, which he broke in his sixth Test match in 1888. That was 135 years ago. The second quickest to reach 50 was Briton Tom Richardson and South African Vernon Philander, who both got there in seven Tests. Prabath may join them in Galle next week.

Prabhat was a late bloomer. He was supposed to make his Test debut two years ago, but failed the skinfold test and was ineligible for selection and had to wait another year. Ultimately, he was 30 when he got his Test cap against Australia. One wonders whether Sri Lanka is heading in the right direction, as there are plenty of other young spinners on the tour, not least two bright left-arm spinners in Lasith Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama.

What convinced Captain Dimuth Karunaratne was Prabath’s control. While all other spin bowlers have the ability to hit the ball in favorable conditions, they relieve the pressure by throwing a loose ball or two at a time. Disciplined and in control, Prabath won the nod against others last year and played a key role as Sri Lanka recorded comeback wins over Australia and Pakistan to tie the series.

These are early days for Prabath and it remains to be seen how he does business when games are played at other centers such as SSC, which are more batsman friendly. Even the P. Sara Oval or the Pallekele, venues that don’t help spinners from day one. More importantly, it remains to be seen how he fares when he sails out to sea in Sri Lanka.

But in the space of a year, Prabhat has won Sri Lanka’s main goalkeeper. Bowling for long periods of time in lean times and relentlessly keeping hope alive are the marks of a good bowler. Like Herath and Murali before him, Prabath has no drama. He’s content to do the job effortlessly for the team.

Prabath needs to be commended for not giving up on his dream during the difficult journey from Matale to Colombo. It looked all was lost when he was axed after the skinfold debacle and Praveen Jayawickrama made a fantastic debut against Bangladesh. But his style has rebounded and he is Sri Lanka’s most trusted spinner after just six Tests. If Dimuth Karunaratne is asked that question at next week’s press conference, he’ll say yes.

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