NEW DELHI: Dhananjaya de Silva was a restless kid. His mother struggled to keep him in one place. Wherever he went, he was always up to pranks. This buzzing personality made him the ringmaster of mischiefs at school. It was impossible for teachers to control him. No wonder that he had to be put in four different schools.
Something changed after Dhananjaya moved to Richmond School. Discipline, that was not a part of his system, was instilled. His talent with the bat was so evident that he rose through the Sri Lankan system in no time. Shunted from the national side after labouring to a 47-ball 45 in a T20 against Pakistan, Dhananjaya guided Tamil Union to a first first-class title in 55 years. During the season he scored 868 runs apart from being their leading wicket-taker with his part-time off-spin.
As Sri Lanka’s transition phase began, Dhananjaya was one that the selectors looked at to resurrect the team. Despite being included in the squad for Tests against India, he didn’t get a playing berth in the first two Tests, as vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne was preferred over him.
When he took guard on Tuesday, Dhanajaya knew he had a huge task at hand. But that is not something alien to him, as he had shown in 2016 against Australia in Colombo. Coming in at seven with the total reading 26/5 in the first morning of the Test, he had withstood a fiery Mitchell Starc to score 129. Despite starting as an opener, Dhananjaya was advised to bat in the middle-order in first-class cricket, since there were many openers in the national scheme of things.
But Sri Lankan cricket works in strange ways. After scoring another century at No 6 during the tour of Zimbabwe, he was put at No 3 for the tough tour of South Africa, which many believe rattled his confidence. There is a theory as to why he was moved up the order: to shield the not-so-technically-gifted players.
Presented with another opportunity by captain Dinesh Chandimal, who isn’t a big fan of Dhananjaya’s off-field antics, the right-hander not only played a chanceless knock at Kotla, he showed his teammates how it is done, like he had in Colombo a year ago. Not possessing the best of technique against pace, he was terrific against the spinners as he repeatedly stepped out to smother whatever little turn the track offered. Tightness of back muscles didn’t allow him to run freely or bat without discomfort, but Dhananjaya held on knowing the team needed him.
“It was a really good innings. We picked him after the A team’s West Indies tour where he played some good innings. We had to trust playing him at No 3 and he took his opportunity with both hands,” Chandimal said.