Arthur impressed by all-round skills of Santhush Gunathilaka-by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka are taking several young players to South Africa for the two match Test series and while most of them are there as cover because last minute injury replacements are impossible to be flown in due to the pandemic, the one who perhaps has got a chance to make his debut in the Boxing Day Test of Centurion is all-rounder Santhush Gunathilaka.
The 21-year-old is a top order batsman who bowls seam and he has impressed Head Coach Mickey Arthur.
“Very impressed by Santhush Gunathilaka. We are trying to develop a seam bowling all-rounder for conditions outside Asia. It’s tough to find in Asia someone who bats in the top six and bowls seam and we are excited by the talent set of Santhush,” Arthur who has coached the likes of Jacques Kallis and Shane Watson, top class all-rounders told Sunday Island.
What is ahead of Sri Lanka when they tour South Africa is a daunting task indeed. After they surprised the Proteas last time around becoming the first nation to win a Test series in South Africa, the hosts have given them two of the quickest wickets this time – The Wanderers in Johannesburg and Centurion, half hour’s drive from the capital.
Historically Sri Lankan sides have fared poorly at both grounds with Hashan Tillakaratne being the only batsman to post a hundred at one of those venues. Apparently, during his knock 16 years ago, the South Africans slip cordon kept reminding Hashan that the only drive he was going to get was from the ground to the hotel and back.
The 22 players who will tour South Africa began a week-long residential camp in Pallekele to prepare for the series.
“We have to get back into Test match mode We deloaded them after the Bangladesh series was pushed back. Now we have to get them back to load up. We want to build all over so that the boys get the right amount of work ahead of the tour. You can not ask a fast bowler to bowl four overs in LPL and then to bowl ten to 15 overs in a Test match. Skills simply won’t be at the appropriate level,” Arthur explained.
“Going to South Africa and playing on those bouncy wickets, you have got to get the batsmen’s technique get going. It’s all about preparation. The last thing we want to do is to take a team there without much preparation,” remarked Arthur.
There are nine seam bowlers in the squad, something that you expect when the team tours to South Africa. The return of Dushmantha Chameera is the most talked point in cricket circles. Once the quickest bowler in the country, Chameera has played little cricket since the 2015 World Cup due to injuries.
“Very excited about Dushy in particular going into South Africa. He bowls a good bouncer and hurries the batsman up. We have him and Lahiru Kumar putting a lot of pace into our attack. Then we have Suranga Lakmal who is always on the money. We are having a good pace battery for the tour.”
Also drafted into the squad for the first time is 20-year-old left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka.
“There is a lot of promise there in Dilshan. He is obviously our seventh seamer. We see a future for him and we need to make sure that he learns and works with David Saker, our Fast Bowling Coach.
There is some criticism as batsman Lahiru Udara has been overlooked for the tour having scored heavily in domestic cricket. Arthur explained the reason. “He has certainly not been overlooked. He is in our system. We have conveyed what he needs to work on and he knows that. Why we have opted for someone like Lahiru Thirimanne is that he gives you stability, depth and experience particularly in a place like South Africa.”