Why Aussies should be wary of Sri Lankan ‘street fighter’ – by Louis Cameron in Sydney
Sri Lanka’s world No. 1-ranked T20 bowler idolises Steve Smith but has been urged to channel Adam Zampa to succeed on Australian pitches in the five-match T20 series
You might not have ever heard of Wanindu Hasaranga but Australia’s T20 team are certainly not sleeping on the world’s No. 1-ranked bowler in the shortest format, a “street fighter” who idolises Steve Smith.
Adam Zampa certainly knows who Hasaranga is having been replaced by the Sri Lankan leg-spinner at his Indian Premier League franchise for the second stage of last year’s tournament despite the Australian wanting to return to Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Kane Richardson was joking when he suggested his close friend might channel Michael Jordan in seeking out a rivalry with Hasaranga in the five-match Dettol T20I series, but the duel between the pair of wrist-spinners shapes as one of the campaign’s most appealing match-ups.
“No doubt he’s one of the stars of their team,” Richardson, speaking on the Unplayable Podcast, said of Hasaranga. “He’s taken the world game by storm in the last the past 12 months.
“He picked up an IPL deal on the back of ‘Zamps’ pulling out, which is a funny one as well. That’s kind of a side story to it all.
“Zamps always has these little battles, especially in the leg spinning and spinning departments.
“He’s almost like Michael Jordan in the Last Dance (Netflix documentary) when he was always looking for some kind of motivation to like beat someone. That’s what he’s like.
“No doubt he’ll be trying to out-bowl him.”
Australian players thought Zampa, three spots behind Hasaranga on the ICC T20 bowling rankings, should have been named player-of-the-tournament at the T20 World Cup they won in November for his 13 wickets and economy rate of 5.81.
Only Hasaranga, who is also a handy lower-order batter and said last year that Smith was his cricket idol, had more victims than the Australian (playing one extra game), taking 16 wickets and only going at 5.20.
“He’s the guy we’ve been relying on as Sri Lankans,” former Sri Lanka batter Russel Arnold told cricket.com.au. “Quietly, he’s been making it. He’s keeping up to the expectations, or the belief that he’s created about himself.
“He’s got a good attitude and, unlike most Sri Lankans, he’s not timid.
“He’s kind of a street fighter, always looking to make things happen and he’ll look to compete. That’s the kind of quality that’s pushing him on and on.”
Hasaranga first impressed Sri Lankan selectors with his batting in domestic cricket but his low, skiddy leg-spinners are what has made him a force at international level.
The right-armer made an immediate impression for Sri Lanka when he destroyed Zimbabwe’s lower-order with a hat-trick on his one-day international debut in Galle back in 2017.
He had to wait another two years to make Sri Lanka’s T20I side and, after a promising start to his career, he hit a speed bump when he toured Australia in 2019 for their T20 series and got pummelled for 60 runs in four overs in two matches before being dropped for the final game of the tour.
More than two years on, Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka believes Hasaranga is now a better bowler.
“The first time you come here, everyone struggles and go through a lot of difficulties as you gain more experience,” Shanaka said on Thursday on the eve of the series opener. “He’s much older now so he’s fit to deliver.”
As a wrist-spinner who doesn’t possess a big-turning leg-break but relies on a hard-to-pick wrong’un, Hasaranga has been urged by Arnold to mimic Zampa’s method that has proven successful on his home turf.
That, believes Arnold, will hold him in good stead for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year when Sri Lanka will be looking to improve on their group-stage exit last year.
“He goes low – he gets the ball to not bounce as much, which works for him,” Arnold said. “Similar to Zampa – bowl wicket-to-wicket and don’t turn it a lot. Just a few slight variations in pace and deviation which gets them in.
“When you come to Australia, he should look at Zampa and see what he does different.”
“The fact is that the type of bowler he is, he doesn’t need too much (assistance) off the pitch. He bowls a good wrong’un and that’s the kind of delivery that a lot of people struggle to pick.
“Considering that the T20 World Cup is (in Australia) at the end of the year, I think it’s ideal timing to see how they go, figure out what they need to work on and improve their game.”
Dettol T20 Series v Sri Lanka 2022
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head*, Moises Henriques, Josh Inglis, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa * unavailable for first three matches
Sri Lanka squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamika Karunaratne, Janith Liyanage, Kamil Mishara, Ramesh Mendis, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Thushara, Dushmantha Chameera, Binura Fernando, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama, Shiran Fernando
All matches broadcast exclusively on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports. Radio coverage by ABC Grandstand