COLOMBO – Ashantha de Mel, Sri Lanka’s chief selector, heaped praise on the national team’s youngsters, who came to the fore to deliver a 3-0 win in the T20I series against world No 1 Pakistan.
Sri Lanka travelled to Pakistan for a full series for the first time in a decade, but without several key players, who pulled out of the tour. However, their young brigade came together, often pulling the team out of tough situations, to sweep Pakistan in their own backyard.
De Mel was especially impressed with Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who made his international debut in this series, Oshada Fernando and Wanindu Hasaranga.
"What I was impressed with the youngsters is that they took the opportunity they were given with both hands," de Mel said. "Bhanuka was debuting, and Oshada was debuting as well, and they played out of their skins. We have watched these players, but to really come out and perform against the best T20I side in the world - their bowling is one of the strongest - for the way they played, it was amazing."
Rajapaksa made scores of 32, 77 and 3 in the three-match series. The second of those was a 48-ball effort, featuring four fours and six sixes, and lifted Sri Lanka to 182/6. Oshada played only at the start and end of the tours. After being dismissed for 1 in the second ODI, which was the first game in the tour to take place, after the first was washed out, Oshada was brought in for the final T20I, where he made over 50% of Sri Lanka’s runs, scoring 78 of their 147 runs. Hasaranga played a defining part through the series, picking up eight wickets in three games at an average of 9.87.
"He [Oshada] took no risks. He reminded me of Mahela, just placing it over extra cover, very risk-free batting," de Mel said. "As a chief selector, I was happy because we were able to give these guys a chance. Because sometimes what happens is we take them on the tour but we're not able to actually give them a chance.
"For me, Wanindu is the most improved player that I've seen this year. Whether it's batting, bowling, fielding, the confidence he has is now fantastic." –ICC