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Shaminda Eranga could be the torch-bearer of Sri Lankan attack in years to come

Shaminda Eranga © AFP
Shaminda Eranga © AFP

Shaminda Eranga once again delivered in a Sri Lankan victory, albeit against Bangladesh. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the silent rise of the man who could well be the torch-bearer of the Lankan attack in the years to come.

As it with almost all Sri Lankan cricketers, the full name of Ranaweera Mudiyanselage Shaminda Eranga is fun to pronounce. Batting against him, on the other hand, isn’t: he is one of those fast bowlers who always provide the initial breakthrough and round up the tail – or, in other words, the kind captains crave for.

Let us get the facts out first: Eranga has picked up 38 wickets from 11 Tests at 31.60 and a strike rate of 59.7. These may not be top-notch at international level, but they are competitive: he is comparable to men like Zaheer Khan (32.67 and 60.0), James Anderson (30.67 and 59.3), Stuart Broad (30.31 and 58.3), and Morne Morkel (29.91 and 56.5) who have had better support at the other end. On the other hand his 13 ODIs have fetched him 16 wickets at 27.93 and a strike rate of 30.1.

The following numbers are more crucial, though: if we put a 30-wicket cut-off only Muttiah Muralitharan (22.67), Chaminda Vaas (29.58), and Rangana Herath (30.01) have better numbers among Sri Lankans. Do note that the numbers of Vaas and Herath, though superior, are not significantly superior to Eranga’s.

In terms of strike rate, too, Eranga ranks third among Sri Lankans, next to only Lasith Malinga (51.5), Murali (54.9), and Ashantha de Mel (59.6). The two numbers probably show that (of course, Murali has to be left out of all calculations) Eranga is one of the more rounded-off bowlers Sri Lanka has found till date.

But those are the numbers. How effective has he really been? Eranga was hand-picked at an age of 20 by Champaka Ramanayake and Anusha Samaranayake; he rose through the ranks at a rapid pace, making his way to the Sri Lanka A side followed by the national side. In fact, he performed so well on that England tour (12 wickets at 18.91) that he was flown back midway to play for the national side.

Tests, ODIs, T20Is, you name it

Figures of 7-0-38-2 do not make pleasant reading, but Eranga had lit up Hambantota on his debut with his fiery pace and late movement. Brad Haddin was beaten by pace in Eranga’s first over, while even the experience of Ricky Ponting was not good enough when he was defeated by pace – or rather, the lack of it: the off-cutter spooned up tamely into the bowler’s hands.

It was not a fluke: in the famous “series for debutants” Eranga joined the party at Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), removing Shane Watson — this time in his first ball — along with Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, and Haddin. And then, in his debut T20I, he bowled Gautam Gambhir middle-stump, thus claiming a wicket in his first over in all three formats of the sport.

His numbers went slightly on the wane thereafter, but unlike most bowlers who fade out after a couple of failures, Eranga continued to bloom unnoticed. He never really lost form (barring the Australia tour of 2012-13, where he took a severe pasting. Things seemed to be going slightly downhill for Eranga, but he was always there, producing unplayable deliveries here and there.

The resurgence

Eranga sprang back into prominence during the “Pakistan tour” at UAE earlier this season. Suddenly, with some support from Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep (two more rapidly improving seamers with terrible starts to their careers) the Sri Lankan attack looked quite formidable.

It was his double-blow (where he had Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, the latter falling to a peach) that triggered the collapse in the first innings at Dubai: from 107 for two Pakistan suddenly became 109 for four and never recovered; they were bowled out for 165 and lost by nine wickets.

At Sharjah, too, he combined with Herath, and picked up four for 60 to restrict Pakistan to an 87-run deficit. Once again he provided that now-too-familiar jolt with three wickets in four overs, and from 274 for four Pakistan were bowled out for 341. With 12 wickets at 28.75 and a strike rate of 65.2 Eranga was certainly one of the positives Sri Lanka took home from that series despite the dramatic loss at Sharjah. He is certainly one for the future. When it comes to quality fast bowling from a subcontinent bowler the first country that comes to one’s mind is Pakistan, but Eranga is probably here to change things.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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