There is a need to think sri lanka’s young prospect case with utmost care. When young Angelo Mathews came into national team for first time against a weak opponent Zimbabwe, played at Harare sports club on 2008, many people were not sure about his abilities. They had their own doubts- hey; he is just 21 years old and just an all-rounder, who bowls medium fast and bats in middle order. Prior to Mathews, selectors had experimented with many fast bowling all rounders, including fervez mahroof, kaushlya weerratne, but it never paid off. So, peoples felt that Mathews is just another “come and go” kind of all rounder.
But now, after just three years, Mathews is amongst modern cricket’s best all rounders. Even, if he doesn’t bowl because of any injury, he is a permanent fixture of lanka team. It means- maybe Angelo was not much talented than others, but with sheer determination and hard work, he developed his own game.
That’s where, another young prospect of sri lanka, Chamara Kapugedera falls flat.
Kapugedera, a naturally aggressive right-hander, was one of the fewest lucky players, whom selectors unearthed from Sri Lanka’s Under-19 set-up. They picked him, when he was just 18 year old, because they identified him as a future player. In his early career, kapugedera had also shown glimpse of his talent. How can sri lankan’s supporters forget the mighty sixes by kapugedera on Brett lee’s bowling. He was devastating against all Australian bowlers, during that series, against Australia in 2006. So obviously, he immediately impressed with his composure and attacking abilities. That time, kapugedera was a star in making.
But, good beginning often turns out just a half victory, if you don’t have a right plan and execution. That’s the case of kapugedera. Now, after five disappointing years, he is out of the team. And also, out of the favor. His statistics- average of 22.20 in 87 one day internationals, 19 point something in 20 twenty-20 matches- shows that he hasn’t convert his talent into performance yet. In his 87 one day matches so far, he has managed to score just seven half century, with not a single century. Even merely seven matches’ old dinesh chandimal scored two centuries, but kapugedera still remains without a century. Supporters can argue that he is a dasher, a hard hitter in slog overs. But even than his strike rate of 72 doesn’t justify it.
So, what to do with kapugedera? Is it time to ignore him and look for new exiting players? Well, you can say it, considering his poor record. But actually, it’s not as simple, if you watched his some innings over the years. Like sixes against Brett lee, last ball six against ashish nehra in last twenty-20 world cup proves that he has the talent. Even, greats like kumar sangakkara, mahela jayaweredene and former chief selector arvinda de’silva have mentioned time and again that kapugedera can surpass all the sri lankan batting greats. They believe that kapugedera is not only a good batsman for one day and twenty-20, but he can be successful in test matches also. But, obviously, there is no point to believe in those comments, if kapugedera isn’t able to deliver.
So, last option is- why not try kapugedera properly? In his career so far, mostly he batted at no. 6 or 7. Point is that, if you are playing him as a pure batsman, why use him so late. Sometimes, even Angelo Mathews and thisara perera comes ahead of him. Clearly, it has no sense, when kapugedera can be as destructive as Mathews and thisara are. If there is no place for him, no problem, don’t play him. But if he is playing, he should bat at no. 4 or 5 or even at no. 3. He opened in one match against Pakistan and managed a fifty, also has opened for domestic teams as well. So, there is no harm, if team management uses him as an opener occasionally, in the absence of regular openers. It would give him great confidence.
Post 2011 world cup, sri lanka is looking for new blood. Kapugedera still in his early twenties, so there is no point to ignore him. Over the years, selectors have invested 87 matches on him. So, it is time to pay back. And kapugedera will pay back, no doubt about it. All he need is- right treatment in the bating order.