A potent weapon in Test cricket, Dilruwan Perera, now wants to grab the Asia Cup opportunity to establish himself in the limited-over format leading into next year’s cricket World Cup.
Dilruwan was last week included for the six-nation Asia Cup tournament starting Saturday (15) in Dubai. It is little more than a year after he played his last ODI against Bangladesh at home. He was part of the Champions Trophy squad but did not get a chance to play.
“I really want to establish myself in the limited-over side,” Dilruwan said, ahead of a training session at the R Premadasa Stadium. The 16-man squad commenced their training on Monday and will conclude tomorrow before their scheduled departure to Dubai on Tuesday.
“I do not want to let this opportunity to slip off me," said the 36-year-old . "This is something I was waiting for and I am extremely happy for the opportunity I got. I am sure the coach and the selectors have a plan and this is why they recalled me to the side. So I will grab it with both hands."
At a time when most coaches look for wrist spinners with variations to strengthen the bowling department, Dilruwan’s inclusion is surprising as he does not have a wide variety of tricks up his sleeve like most of today’s unorthodox bowlers.
Over his 11-year international career, Dilruwan has taken 125 wickets in 31 Tests and 13 wickets off 12 ODIs. He has a prolific record in first class and list A cricket taking closer to 1000 wickets.
“I bowl the off-spin and the arm-ball," he said. "Even if you take Rangana (Herath) ayya, he doesn’t have lot of variations but he bowls at a consistent line and length frustrating the batsman. That was the reason behind his success. You may have so many tricks up the sleeve but if you can’t bowl at the right line and length, you can’t make an impact. I believe my years of experience will help me perform well during the tournament."
Dilruwan’s performance early in the tournament will be crucial for Sri Lanka given that Akila Dananjaya is set to miss the first two matches due to personal reasons.
“He is someone who can walk to the side any time given his enormous experience,” said skipper Angelo Mathews. “He is in our plan for the World Cup and this is why we included him in the T20 league and now in the Asia Cup." Dilruwan is also a decent batsman who has scored 4 first class centuries for his club Clots CC.
Meanwhile Dinesh Chandimal has been ruled out of the tournament due to a hairline fracture on the middle finger of his right hand during Sri Lanka's recently-concluded domestic T20 tournament.
He was replaced by Niroshan Dickwella. The team began their pre-Asia Cup preparations on Monday where they were exposed to match-situation training and a pep talk by Kumar Sangakkara.
“His way of handling things is very practical,”said Mathews, referring to the match-situation training. “It’s important to train with high intensity. I think this is very important. When you go for a game, you can try and emulate those moments and situations."
Sri Lanka, who are pooled in Group ‘B’ alongside Bangladesh and Afghanistan, will take on Bangladesh in the curtain-raiser on 15th September in Dubai followed by the fixture against Afghanistan on the 17th in Abu Dhabi. Group A consists of arch-rivals India and Pakistan along with Hon Kong, the winner of the qualifying tournament.