An unconvincing start
It was the winter of 2017, when Sri Lanka had picked a young dashing player for the Colts cricket club against Pakistan and later on tour to India. He had a very successful season with his club and the team had hoped him to cash on his form. It however turned a disastrous tour to the UAE and India for the youngster.
From 4 Tests and 8 innings, he could only score 125 runs at an average of 15.62.
However, that wasn’t all.
In 3 ODI’s, he scored 42 (at 14) and in 5 T20 Innings at the average of 17, he could muster only 85 runs.
The lack of runs from his bat was not concerning; rather the manner in which he was getting out was more worrisome.
The gaps between bat and pad were massive and his habit of slashing at everything out of off stump was a point of concern. These technical flaws in his game wereconcerning.
Fast Forward to 2023
What do we see today?
The biggest event in the sphere of one day internationals is on, something for which many a fan has already undergone sleepless nights.
The youngster of yesterday is now the mainstay of the team’s batting.
In fact, he is the highest run-getter for the team.
The young batsman is no one else but “Wedagedara Sadeera Rashen Samarawickrama”.
With scores of 23, 108, 8, 91*, 65*, and, Sadeera has ensured that Sri Lanka remain in the tournament and punch above their weight on a few occasions, at the very least.
The team has lost four games having played 6 already.
Mendis and Samarwickrama for a team on the mend
While the remainder of their games shall in no way be easy, his form (6 matches 331 runs at 82.75) means that he will be the key to Sri Lanka’s chances for the semi finals.
Even as Kusal Mendis has been in good touch, having scored the first 2023 ODI World Cup century from the Sri Lankan contingent, the kind of assurance that Samarawickrama provides probably no other batsman in the team has been able to do provide.
Mendis, who needs 17 more to reach 3,500 ODI runs, is a capable and at the same time, known face of the side.
On the other hand, the 28-year-old from Colombo is yet to play his thirtieth one dayer in a Sri Lankan jersey.
But despite the dearth of experience of big ICC games, he has looked assured against the spinners, attacking them right from the start. At the same time, his shots against pacers, remember the contest versus Pakistan, have been eye-catching.
Along with Kusal Mendis, it is Samarawickrama who’s been the only other batsman in fine touch. That’s when the island nation has names like Karunaratne and the returning Angelo Mathews in addition to Kusal Perera.
But how did the big chance for Samarawickrama arrive?
After being dropped from the team after a tough India tour in December 2017, Samarwickrama went back to the domestic cricket and worked on his game.
In order to ensure he could adapt to varying positions, he adapted to different batting positions in domestic games.
But a period of difficulty was soon going to strike the man behind the strikingly good strokes.
It was not easy going for Sadeera Samarawickrama at that time given in 2018-19, he could play only one match for his team, i.e., the Colts Cricket Club. Furthermore, in 2019-20, he could muster only 186 runs at 23.25 in 5 games.
The lows and highs and the Pandemic
In 2020, there came 251 runs at 35.86.
And then came about a heartbreak in 2021, where thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, the domestic matches were called off. The world had come to a standstill.
Despite all of it; the burst of cricket and then having no cricket at all much like the rest of the world; Sadeera Samarawickrama didn’t stop there.
He didn’t let the changing vagaries of cricketing life get to him.
What followed thereafter was a stellar 2022-23 season in which he scored 1022 runs in 12 matches at 51.10 brought him into limelight. A fantastic season of the Lanka Premier League (LPL) was enough for the selectors to believe that he can be rewarded with a comeback.
Sri Lanka have had a rough patch between 2015-2021;the team’s graph has fallen down.
Sri Lanka were once recognized as among the potent forces in the game due to their impressive performances in the ICC Cricket World Cup, which lest it is forgotten, came only after having to qualify for the mega ICC event.
But their present is a bit different to how it is for teams like India, Australia or England.
This is a team that’s, once again, on the mend. Having had to defeat a Windies, Zimbabwe and others in the 2023 World Cup qualifiers means they’ve had to fight it through again having fallen to the lows on their own.
If Sri Lanka are to regain that respect once again, they will have to ensure that they cash in on every opportunity that comes along.
For this, players like Samarawickrama have to ensure that they fulfill the promises made to the Sri Lankan cricket and its public.
In 2022 and 2023, the team has seen an upward curve, but there’s a need to perform well in order to ensure favourable results, especially in the global tournaments come along.
But could there be a greater satisfaction in seeing that there is someone like Sadeera Samarawickrama at one end, at the very least?
– with contributions from Dev Tyagi