IPL’s liking for Sri Lankan players is well-known. Unlike Australian or South African players, cricketers from the Emerald Island can easily cope with Indian conditions. Also, as players bewitched by Tillakaratne Dilshan’s ‘dilscoops’ or Ajantha Mendis’ mystery spin would attest to, their reputation for being a pioneering bunch is well-earned. IPL has surely become richer by their presence.
Not surprisingly, when a political controversy left their IPL participation on the brink, several franchise chiefs were nervous. But IPL-6 hasn’t been very productive for Sri Lankans so far, and more often than not they have flattered to deceive.
Cold hard numbers reflect the downturn in their fortunes. No Sri Lankan player finds a mention in the list of top 10 run-getters or wicket-takers this season. They are conspicuous by their absence in the best bowling charts too.
Even Lasith Malinga, who is considered to be one of the best bowlers in the T20 format, hasn’t managed to live up to his high standards. The 29-year-old, whose distinct sling-shot bowling action and untamed locks have made him a fan favourite as well, missed the early part of the tournament for Mumbai Indians with injury. Since his return, he has bagged five wickets from five matches. For a player who in March this year destroyed England with figures of 5-31 in a T20, these numbers would ring alarm bells. Luckily for Mumbai, the 2011 Purple Cap winner still remains a threat in death overs – as his economy of 6.15 will show. But he needs to shed his inconsistency quickly.
Dilshan, whose flair helped him take over the mantle of Sri Lanka’s most dangerous opener from Sanath Jayasuriya, too has not lived up to expectations. His best performance this season came in the match that witnessed Chris Gayle record 175 not out from 66 deliveries. He contributed 33 in the 167-run opening partnership with Gayle. He has struggled to hold his place in the starting XI for Bangalore. Ditto spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan, who finally seems to be showing signs of age.
Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka’s batting mainstays in every form of the game, too are finding the going tough, though the latter has fared considerably better with two fifties, but with an average of 24.62.
But certain players have managed to beat the gloom. Thisara Perera has enhanced his standing as a fine seam-bowling all-rounder with a penchant to finish off games. Perera is Sunrisers Hyderabad’s top run-scorer and has picked up nine wickets. It is his ability to come good in crucial situations that sets him apart. He showed that against Kings XI, with three sixes in the 19th over that took SH home. He is Hyderabad’s X-factor.
Off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake, meanwhile, has had a moderate IPL season for Kolkata Knight Riders, taking five wickets in five matches. He was surprisingly bought for $625,000 at this year’s auction. Senanayake, who had an impressive domestic season, brings more variety to the side, which already has match-winners like Sunil Narine and Jacques Kallis. If he is fielded on a consistent basis, he can play a part in KKR’s revival.