Upul Tharanga as you all will agree is a talented, experienced and dominating batsman when he gets going. How could we forget his best innings? There’s his 174 against India, 202 run partnership with Mahela against Pakistan in 2009. Then there are devastating partnerships between him and the great Sanath Jayasuriya. Have we all forgotten those? No, a true fan will remember those.
I mean I rewatched that insane partnership with Sanath Jayasuriya against England in 2006 with absolute awe. Yeah, I rewatched it many times, as recently as a month ago. We only got old videos like this to satisfy our cricket craziness.
The Sri Lankan team is looking for a solid opening pair for ages. We have tried so many players it’s ridiculous. A player like Upul Tharanga should be an automatic choice considering all the players we’ve tried.
Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilake, Dhananjaya De Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Avishka Fernando. There’s probably more, that I’ve missed. Clearly, someone like Upul Tharanga with his talent and experience will fit in nicely at the top. Yeah, I would agree to that as well.
Fans of him have lots of stats to show. Like these:
2009: 13 in /523 r/ 40 Av/1 X 100 – 4 X 50 – UT was dropped for 6 months – due to 2-Odis lean-period in Jan.
2010: 22 in /707 r/ 37 Av /1 x 100*-5 x 50 – dropped again for 5 months – due to 2-Odis lean-period in Jan, despite scoring 100*+.
2011: 21 in /826 r/ 46 Av /4 x 100 -2 x 50
2012: 26 in /752 r/ 30 Av / 8 x 50
2013: 11 in/287 r/ 28 Av – 1 x 100
2014: Just 5 Random innings months apart / 111 r/ 22 Av (seems like a deliberate move to tarnish his record, without providing any substantial window to settle)
2015: Just 4 Random innings months apart / 68 r / 17 Av (seems like a deliberate move to tarnish his record without providing any substantial window to settle)
2016: 10 in/ 214 r/31 Av – 2 x 50 (sending to bat all over from No 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 in the tail)
2017: 25 in/ 1,011 r/ 48 Av – 2 x 100 – 6 x 50 ( First decent opportunity with consecutive matches he got after facing 5yrs of virtual pause of his career – He got back his regular spot to open 4.5 yrs) Most productive year of his entire career.
Then there are screenshots:
These are all great. But it’s missing the bigger picture.
But, can we really say that he really stood up in this tough time with all our experienced batsmen retired and the next best batsman Angelo Mathews injured every other day?
Some say we give chances to tried and failed players like Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella at the top. Yes, that’s true. These players have failed to grab that opening spot over and over again.
But so has Upul Tharanga.
If the players that we tried above failed for 14 years. I would write like this on them just as I’m doing for Upul Tharanga.
How many world cups have these above players played? How many champions trophies? How many Asia Cups? How many Bilateral Series? How many overseas tours?
Definitely less than Upul Tharanga.
I have no agenda. I’m not against Upul Tharanga. Even now when he is selected and plays, I have my fingers crossed and hope the Tharanga we know and love will stand up. I hope he cements his spot in the final IX in every tour. In the future, if he gets selected to play I will continue to support him.
But we have to be honest with ourselves. I have my favorite players but a player is as valuable as the contributions he makes.
I am a HUGE fan of Sanath Jayasuriya. When he was dropped from the team a few times, I was really upset.
Many were upset. Because we all knew how devastating he is when he bats.
But, each time he came back to the SL IX, he performed and cemented his spot. Fans didn’t have to write blog posts over and over again. Some might have. I certainly didn’t. But that’s not what cemented his spot.
SJ walked into the team and performed. His 2006 England tour and those partnerships with Tharanga was after he was dropped and recalled.
We also have another example of Lasith Malinga. He was dropped due to his fitness and performance. But I would also argue at the time he was dropped, players were dropping catches off his bowling almost every game.
Malinga is not the same as the old Malinga. But as we can still see he is still better than or at least at level with the next best bowler in the Sri Lankan team.
So, what am I trying to say? Players will always have ups as well as downs in their carrier. But a great player will/should walk into the IX and perform.
Upul Tharanga will perform in the domestic tournaments. I would even bet my money that in the current 2019 Premier tournament organized by the SLC, before the world cup – He will make a ton of runs. And some people will ask why he’s not in the team. Maybe I would agree too, considering we need experienced players in the team for the world cup. It will be his last hoorah.
Unfortunately, Upul Tharanga, when selected in the national team, makes 50’s and 100’s against teams like Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe or the odd game at home against a better team. But that’s where it ends. He hasn’t stood up when we really needed him to perform against better opposition and crucial must-win games for the last few years.
He performs in the domestic tournaments and against lesser ODI teams. But finds himself dropped more than I can remember to count when the going gets tough.
Watching Upul Tharanga carrier is like an F1 race car going in circles. He performs in domestic, gets picked, gets dropped.
Maybe we need to stop this cycle that’s been going for 14 years, ending the Upul Tharanga saga.
Hopefully, I don’t have to write like this about his replacement in another 14 years. Because I will. If he ends up being another Upul Tharanga.