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Chamara Kapugedera: Burgeoning promise; partly fulfilled

Chamara Kapugedera © Getty Images
Chamara Kapugedera © Getty Images

Chamara Kapugedera, born on February 24, 1987, is a Sri Lankan batsman. Considered as one of the finds of Sri Lankan cricket, Kapugedera was thrust into international cricket before his 19th birthday. After a promising start to his career, Kapugedera has fallen by the way side due to inconsistent performances. Shrikant Shankar analyses his career so far.

Chamara Kapugedera was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka. He started playing cricket very early in his career. He played for the Dharmaraja College in Kandy. His father Lalith Kapugedera also played for Dharmaraja. Kapugedera was no doubt a stylish and aggressive right-handed batsman. He captained most of his junior teams. He was then picked for the Sri Lankan Under-19 side for their tour of Pakistan. He essayed some great knocks against then Under-19 champions, Pakistan. Kapugedera also performed well for Sri Lanka A against New Zealand A.

Kapugedera was getting a lot of praise from his coaches and the Sri Lankan selectors decided to thrust him into the national side before his 19th birthday. Kapugedera made his One-Day International (ODI) debut for Sri Lanka against Australia in Perth on January 29, 2006. This was in a tri-series involving South Africa as well. He scored a quick-fire 22, batting lower down the order, but Australia won the match. Sri Lanka made it to the three-match final. Kapugedera scored a valuable 38 runs in the first final in Adelaide. He struck two fours and three sixes, as Sri Lanka beat Australia by 22 runs. The loss was Australia’s first in a three-match final series at home for nine years. But the then reigning world champions would win the next two finals with ease to clinch the series.

 

He scored his first half-century against Pakistan, while opening the innings in Colombo on March 22, 2006. Pakistan, though, won the match. His good showings in ODIs earned him a spot in Sri Lanka’s Test squad for their tour of England. He made his debut in the first Test at Lord’s in May 2006. But he would not have a grand debut as he was out LBW first ball. But rain and bad light helped Sri Lanka to a draw. He was not selected for the second Test in Birmingham, as Sri Lanka lost by six wickets. Kapugedera returned for the third Test in Nottingham and scored an important 50 in Sri Lanka’s second innings. Muttiah Muralitharan took eight wickets in England’s chase and Sri Lanka won by 134 runs to draw the three-match Test series 1-1.

Kapugedera then played in Sri Lanka’s 2-0 series win over South Africa at home. He scored his second half-century in the second Test. His 63 runs in the first innings would help Sri Lanka eventually to win by one wicket in Colombo. But after that his Test performances began to decline, he lost his spot in the Sri Lankan side by the end of 2006. In ODIs though, he got an extended run in the team. But he could not make it into Sri Lanka’s squad for the ICC World Cup 2007 in the Caribbean. Sri Lanka were impressive and reached the final of the tournament. They came unstuck in the final, as Australia won their third consecutive World Cup title.

After the World Cup, Kapugedera made his return to the Sri Lanka ODI side, but only briefly. He missed out on the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa as well. But in 2008, Kapugedera had a good run in the ODI side. He scored his second half-century in an ODI against India in Hobart. He then scored 95 runs coming in at 49 for five against West Indies in Port of Spain on April 10, 2008. He guided Sri Lanka to 235, but West Indies managed to get over the line on the last ball of the match. This was followed by scores in the range of 40 to 70.

Towards the end of 2008, Kapugedera lost his form again, but managed to keep his place in the side. He made his Test return in January 2009 against Bangladesh in Chittagong. He scored 96 runs in Sri Lanka’s first innings of the second Test. He then scored an unbeaten 59 in the second innings, as Sri Lanka eventually won by a big margin of 465 runs. His next Test assignment was against New Zealand in August 2009 in Colombo. Kapugedera scored 35 and seven not out, as Sri Lanka won the match and the two-match Test series 2-0. But this would turn out to be Kapugedera’s last Test as of date. He has only played eight Test matches and scored 418 runs at an average of 34.83. Kapugedera has scored four half-centuries with a highest of 96.

Chamara Kapugedera has amassed 1,521 runs in 92 ODIs. He has also accrued 418 runs in eight Tests for Sri Lanka © Getty Images
Chamara Kapugedera has amassed 1,521 runs in 92 ODIs. He has also accrued 418 runs in eight Tests for Sri Lanka © Getty Images

Sri Lanka were building a team for the ICC World Cup 2011, which was jointly hosted in the island nation. Kapugedera was part of the plans and got selected in the squad. He had very little to do in Sri Lanka’s journey, as he only played against Canada in a Group A match in Hambantota. But in a highly surprising decision, Kapugedera played in the final against India in Mumbai on April 2. He came in at No 6 and scored only one run as Sri Lanka posted 274 for six. Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni then guided India to a six-wicket victory.

Kapugedera was then dropped from the Sri Lanka side and nearly had to wait a year to get back into the team. In the five ODIs that he played during his comeback, Kapugedera didn’t do well. His only noteworthy score was 62 in the Asia Cup 2012 against Bangladesh in Dhaka as Sri Lanka won by five wickets. His last ODI as of date was against India in Pallekele on August 4, 2012. He scored nine runs, as India won the match and the five-match ODI series 4-1. That was the last time Kapugedera represented Sri Lanka in any format.

Till now, he has played in 92 ODIs and scored 1,521 runs at an average of 22.04. He has scored eight half-centuries with a highest of 95. Kapugedera has played 21 Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) for Sri Lanka and scored 295 runs. His highest is 47 with an overall strike-rate of 115.23.

One could say that Chamara Kapugedera has not lived up to the potential, he showed early in his career. Constant shuffling in the Sri Lankan batting order has also not helped his cause. But with him being only 27 years of age, Kapugedera has a lot of time on his side. Sri Lanka are also in a transition phase,  as Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan will not be there forever. Kapugedera could still go onto achieve great things with Sri Lanka in the future.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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