By Harsha Amarasinghe
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has been receiving heavy criticism for having too many clubs in the top flight which understandably weakens the competitiveness of the leading domestic tournaments, yet the teams mainly regarded as minnows have occasionally proved why they deserve an opportunity at the highest level. One fine example is Kurunegala Youth being able to play a semi-final in the recently concluded SLC Twenty-20 Tournament.
While SLC should be commended for giving such teams the opportunity, they must take a look at the players who have performed in the elite tournament and develop them to be better cricketers.
Cricket is a team game of course, but Kurunegala Youth, making the semi-finals, was down to the brilliance of one sensational batsman – Gayan Maneeshan.
Gifted and stylish, the former Maliyadeva left-handed opening batsman has been a consistent performer for such a long time in the domestic arena, but he made his mark in the tournament powering his team to the semis against all odds and in the process, he also became the highest runs-scorer of the tournament having scored 258 runs in seven matches at an average of 51.60 and maintaining a strike rate of 130.
The DailyMirror managed to speak to the batsman in regards to his recent success.
Q: You became the top runs-scorer in SLC T20. What are your thoughts about your performance?
A: I am personally so pleased about my performance. It was a great T20 season for me with the bat and finishing as the leading runs-scorer of the tournament was a big achievement with big tournaments like LPL coming ahead.
Q: Kurunegala Youth are perhaps not considered as a top contender but you were able to lead your hometown club to a semi-final. What does that mean to you?
A: Yes, we were the underdogs of our group. Most clubs came to beat us easily. We didn’t have big names, but the young team had the hunger to win. We beat most of the Tier ‘A’ clubs which helped us to qualify for semi-finals - underdogs ending up as the surprise package of the tournament. The credit should go to KYCC coach Mr. Buddika Ellepola and our trainer who did a great job behind the screen. We didn’t have a big pre-season as a team, there was not much time for preparation for this tournament, but from whatever the time we had, I thought we were prepared for the tournament, so the management should be given the credit for their role. For me personally, I just carried out my form with the bat and at the end of the day we had good results beating top clubs in the league.
Q: You have been a consistent player right throughout but this is surely your breakthrough season. What did you do differently this time around?
A: The main reason I think is coming back to Kurunegala. We haven't had cricket for over one year, but personally I never stopped my own schedule of training on my fitness and skills. I did my whole workout plans at home, went to gym regularly, and went to nets with my brother whenever it was possible until we had the green light from SLC to start cricket. So, when the tournament started, I was well prepared mentally and physically. It had a big impact on my performance this year. Also, it was very easy to work with the coach as he gave me so much freedom to play my natural game.
Q: Your recent performances brought about some opportunities away from Sri Lanka as well. Talk us through that.
A: Yes, currently I am playing in Ireland where they have started off with a T20 League, with cricket of high standard being played. I also have few Irish national players in my team. It’s just always a good experience playing with these players in different conditions. I have a few years of experience over the UK and this is another opportunity for me. LPL is coming ahead to which I am looking forward to and also few other franchised T20 leagues to be conducted too after the last SLC T20 league. It was an eye opener for everyone I guess this last season.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: As a cricketer, I have my dream to play for my country, that is my biggest plan. I was in the setup for a few years, being among the SL U19’s, Development squads and SL ‘A’ squads. I still have the plan on the big picture to play for the national team in the shorter format, so until then I will keep on working hard.