Dasun Shanaka’s Captaincy Central to Lanka’s Success

Rex Clementine, in The Island, 11 September 2022, with this title  “Captain Dasun has helped Sri Lanka turn things around”

Cricket’s most successful captains had some remarkable factors that made them successful leaders. Mike Brearley was a good thinker. Clive Lloyd was inspirational. Imran Khan had a good eye for picking talent. Arjuna Ranatunga was a fighter and two of his prodigies Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene had factors unique to them. While Sanath led by example, MJ was a brilliant tactician. All successful players don’t become good captains either. Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Inzamam-ul-Haq are cases in point.

Sri Lanka’s white-ball captain Dasun Shanaka has been the subject of discussions by cricket analysts for turning the fortunes of an inexperienced, young and underperforming Sri Lankan team into a successful unit. Last week he sealed the fate of Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the Asia Cup and this week he provided another shock when India were sent home packing. What makes him successful?

Dasun wasn’t the choice to lead Sri Lanka when the national selection panel benched half a dozen seniors two years ago. He wasn’t even the deputy. Kusal Perera turned out to be the chosen one with Kusal Mendis as his deputy. The selectors argued that KJP was the only player in the team who was sure of a place. That argument is ancient. When you try to be progressive, you don’t stick to age-old theories. For a selection panel that had been ruthless in leaving out so many seniors, they needed an equally aggressive captain. When you have revamped a team you needed a new direction.

KJP is one of the nicest blokes you’d come across in cricket, but his leadership qualities were found wanting. To start with he was injury prone. He’s also a bit of an introvert. The new captain found himself in a bit of a storm following the contract crisis coupled with injuries and that experiment didn’t last long.

Dasun had become captain by default with the team in total chaos. A heavy defeat in England in 2021 saw commentators ridiculing the team and to make matters worse three players were sent home for breaching COVID protocol. When Dasun agreed to take the captaincy it was demanded that he signed contracts. He agreed. This was a gamble and perhaps angered some of the players who were on the war path with the board. He was on a tightrope. The initial few series were tough but he gradually turned things around.

Dasun-Mickey Arthur combination worked well. Although their disagreements were once seen in public the duo were quick to patch things up and move forward. They picked young players and backed them and more importantly persevered when things were falling apart.

“Dasun is special in that he has great belief in himself and empowers the team. He leads by example in his performance, training and practice and has the ability to take people on the journey with him,” Arthur told Sunday Island.

As captain, he’s not the sharpest guy when it comes to tactics. His strength is his focus and getting others to focus. He’s also not the most naturally talented player. He’s one of the fiercest hitters in the team but his defence can be breached. The best thing that has happened to Dasun the batsman is he has identified his strong areas and sticks to them. You don’t see him cutting, but you’ll see him clearing the boundary with straight hits or pulling over mid-wicket. Those are strokes that he has mastered and they fetch most of his runs.

As a bowler, he doesn’t cover himself in glory. Again, his strength is that he puts in the hard yards and wants to improve.  Those are Dasun’s strong points. Since Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup in 2014, it’s been all downhill in white ball cricket. Leave alone winning tournaments, the team is nowadays struggling to qualify for events like the World Cup. Dasun has given new hope to the nation with his unique leadership qualities. He needs to be backed.


ALSO NOTE …. BIO-DATA in ESPNcricinfo 

Madagamagamage Dasun Shanaka

BORN = September 09, 1991, Negombo

AGE = 31y 6d

BATTING STYLE =  Right hand Bat

BOWLING STYLE = Right arm Medium

PLAYING ROLE = Allrounder

HEIGHT = 6ft

EDUCATION = St. Peters College – Negombo, Maristella College

An explosive middle-order batsman, and steady right-arm seam bowler, Dasun Shanaka worked his way into Sri Lanka’s T20 side through several seasons of good performances for Sinhalese Sports Club. Born and educated in Negombo, Shanaka made his T20 international debut against Pakistan in August 2015, but it wasn’t until the following domestic season that he achieved wide acclaim. Batting at No. 4 in an AIA Premier T20 match against Saracens Sports Club, Shanaka struck a Sri Lankan record 16 sixes in an innings worth 123 from 46 balls. That wasn’t even his biggest T20 score of the last week. He had hit 131 off 48 balls against Galle Cricket Club one week earlier.

But it was with the ball that Shanaka first made his mark on the international stage. He took 3 for 16 on a Pune greentop, against India, having only taken two domestic T20 wickets before then. He played bright cameos in Sri Lanka’s 2016 World T20 campaign, and in April he was picked in the Test squad – for Sri Lanka’s tour of England – for the first time, largely on his potential, rather than his first-class record….. Andrew Fidel Fernando

Career Averages
Batting & Fielding
FORMAT Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100s 50s 4s 6s Ct St
Test 6 12 2 140 66* 14.00 276 50.72 0 1 9 7 4 0
ODI 42 39 3 887 102 24.63 938 94.56 1 3 67 33 8 0
T20I 74 70 16 1126 74* 20.85 950 118.52 0 4 82 54 20 0
FC 65 94 10 3337 130 39.72 4900 68.10 9 18 309 113 45 0
List A 130 108 18 2300 102 25.55 2486 92.51 1 7 163 95 48 0
T20 158 147 32 3320 131* 28.86 2343 141.69 3 14 237 194 48 0
FORMAT Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10w
Test 6 8 762 431 13 3/46 5/112 33.15 3.39 58.6 0 0 0
ODI 42 22 498 502 14 5/43 5/43 35.85 6.04 35.5 0 1 0
T20I 74 35 354 480 20 3/16 3/16 24.00 8.13 17.7 0 0 0
FC 65 73 3585 2213 64 6/69 8/84 34.57 3.70 56.0 0 1 0
List A 130 71 1813 1622 57 5/43 5/43 28.45 5.36 31.8 0 1 0
T20 158 78 940 1378 49 3/6 3/6 28.12 8.79 19.1 0 0 0

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