Fast bowlers have always had a quizzical connection with the game. Such are the demands of the skill in question that it has a unique and damaging effect on the human body. Nevertheless, the sight of a fast bowler running in with long and fearful strides presents quite an arduous task for batsmen. The pace quartet of the West Indies back in their golden era made even the best shudder merely at their sight. McGrath has caught batsmen napping. There was a reason why Allan Donald was called white-lightening.
Vaas and Fernando were a little less intimidating than Ambrose and Walsh, but both pairs got the job done. So what does one think of when the name of Suranga Lakmal appears?
Suranga Lakmal of Sri Lanka may not have the imposing persona of a quintessential pacer but he plies his trade with aplomb and effectiveness.
There are fast bowlers that scare you. Then there are those whose consistency does if not the physicality.
In the given context it has to be asserted that unlike Pakistan Sri Lanka has never had any lineage or tradition of fast bowlers in their cricketing history.
Here’s an interesting case in point.
Chaminda Vaas may not have always played a key role in scripting Sri Lanka’s one-sided victories in the past. But, he had no problem in playing second fiddle to Murali on turfs where there was limited assistance for fast bowlers. Sri Lanka have always banked on their strength in the spin department to win matches for them at home and even abroad. But, in the present scenario, Suranga Lakmal has quietly risen as a silent and steady performer.
Recently, Sri Lanka found themselves in the eye of the storm when their skipper Dinesh Chandimal was banned for one test following his involvement in tampering the ball in the Second Test of the recently concluded Test series against the Windies.
Lakmal- true to his quintessential silent ways, made the ball seam and do the talking. Still, despite taking 10 wickets, much of the attention rested with his captain in exile. Yet, he carried on.
With no Chandimal around, Suranga Lakmal was asked to lead the side at a time where the series was already lost. In Chandimal’s absence, albeit in a makeshift arrangement, Lakmal’s quiet dignity shone brightly for his Sri Lanka.
It clearly implies that he has been successful in making the administrators trust his abilities as a leader.
He was first included in the national squad for the tainted tour of Pakistan in 2008-09 when he found himself injured as a result of the Terrorist attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus which subsequently led to the cancellation of the tour. Which upcoming fast bowler would’ve liked such a welcome? He eventually made his debut for the national side in 2010 against the West Indies at the R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo.
Thereafter, Sri Lanka’s last tour of South Africa was a disastrous one for the visitors as they failed to acclimatise with the conditions. But, Lakmal was a shining performer as managed to scalp 12 wickets and showed good control over both the new and old ball. His biggest asset is his disciplined line and length and he also uses his height to his advantage. He showed that recently in the Caribbean, wherein the final Test at Barbados, Lakmal led Lankans to breach the hosts’ fortress at Gary Sobers-land.
Presently, he has 117 wickets to his credit from 48 tests at an impressive average of 40.47. Moreover, in 80 ODI appearances, he has 103 wickets. Bowling mostly on unresponsive wickets, Lakmal has proved his utility in all formats of the game. Looking ahead at the World Cup; Srilanka’s bowling hopes would hinge around Suranga Lakmal’s form in the marquee tournament.
Sri Lankan fans would hope that Lakmal rises to the occasion. Can he do it for the island nation? Well, let’s not forget here’s a bowler that nearly ran down India’s top and middle order on his own at Kolkata.
Remember his 7-for from the Eden Gardens Test right before Sri Lanka’s Delhi nightmare in 2017? Some attack with imperious fury. Other, quite simply weigh in through a quiet effectiveness. You know where Lakmal belongs, isn’t it?
Going by his potential and present form, the answer should be in the affirmative.