PALLEKELE, Monday: Two years ago when Dhananjaya de Silva made his Test debut against Steve Smith’s Australians and in only his third Test scored his maiden hundred he was spoken highly of as one of the bright sparks of the Sri Lanka team along with team mate Kusal Mendis.
Following that success De Silva also made it to the Sri Lanka ODI side and started to contribute in that format as well. However due to circumstances he has not been able to hold onto a permanent place in the national eleven especially in the ODIs although he has been a member of the overall squad.
With the 2019 Cricket World Cup less than ten months away it is imperative that a player in the calibre of De Silva’s class is given a permanent slot in the ODI team so that he can establish himself for the battles ahead.
In the ongoing five-match ODI series against South Africa, De Silva was overlooked for the first two matches and when the selectors finally decided to slot him into the third game played at Pallekele on Sunday he responded with a career best knock of 84 off 66 balls.
Where the top order batsmen failed to take advantage of a good batting pitch De Silva showed his team mates what they had missed out on by carving out a magnificent innings that had all the hallmarks of a class batsman.
“When I came to bat at no .7 my main focus was on how to get close to the big target that South Africa had set us with their bowling attack. I was down to play at 6 but because the team wanted a left-right combination batting I had to come at 7. I wanted to bat as long as possible,” said De Silva.
“There was nothing wrong with the wicket it was a 350 plus wicket. I think because we lost early wickets the target became difficult for us to achieve, otherwise it was a wicket that we could have got those runs if we had wickets in hand,” he said.
De Silva said if he had come to bat higher up the order he could have scored more runs and added: “I have to play according to the team’s requirements but whichever position I play I try to score as many runs as possible.”
De Silva admitted that not being given a permanent place in the ODI team puts pressure on him as a player.
“There is some pressure on me because I know if I don’t score runs that I will be dropped from the team. It is part and parcel of Sri Lanka cricket but we as players must know to grab whatever chances that comes our way and make the best use of it. I have been told that my position in the ODI side is 6 or 7 so I practice accordingly and wait for the opportunities to come,” said De Silva.
The fluent 26-year-old right-hander regretted missing out on scoring a maiden ODI hundred when he was dismissed for 84 after hitting two sixes off three balls from Andile Phehlukwayo.
“I am very disappointed because you’ll never get such opportunities to score a one-day hundred. I tried to score as many runs as possible like around 15 runs an over before they brought back Rabada and Ngidi. Rabada is really good. He is no. 1 ranked at present and with his skill and the way he thinks for his age is good. It is not easy facing upto him,” said De Silva.
One of the finest innings that De Silva has played in his budding career is the Test hundred he scored against India at Delhi last year.
“I gained a lot of confidence scoring that hundred. A hundred against any country is not easy. To score a hundred in India in the fourth innings gave a lot confidence to me and the team. I am hoping to score more runs in the future, De Silva said. “I do not have big goals but try to make use of the opportunities that come my way.”