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Pathirana: Sri Lanka's death 'sensation' for T20 World Cup

By AFP

May 28, 2024 11:01 AM


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Young fast bowler Matheesha Pathirana has rattled the world's top batsmen with his toe-crushing yorkers in the Indian Premier League and looks set to boost Sri Lanka's chances in the T20 World Cup.

The 21-year-old, dubbed "Baby Malinga" for an unorthodox slinging style of delivery, reminiscent of compatriot Lasith Malinga, has only played 12 ODIs and six T20 matches for Sri Lanka but has already established himself as a death-over specialist.

Pathirana took 13 wickets in just six matches for Chennai Super Kings this IPL season before returning home early due to a hamstring injury that left his Sri Lanka teammates ruing his possible absence.

But all seems well as the bowler has departed with the Sri Lankan squad, led by Wanindu Hasaranga, for the showpiece 20-over tournament starting June 1 in the West Indies and United States.

"Sri Lanka are banking on Matheesha Pathirana to turn around their fortunes in the upcoming T20 World Cup," cricket writer Rex Clementine wrote in The Island newspaper.

"Pathirana was a sensation in the IPL for Chennai Super Kings. He has showcased (a) glimpse of his skill sending down unplayable death overs," Clementine added.

"If he is able to get his line right without being wayward, he will have a major impact in this competition."

Malinga is equally excited about the prospect of seeing the young tyro using "his pace and his yorker".

"But the biggest thing I see with Matheesha is his big heart," Malinga told Cricinfo.

"He's very positive in the match. Those aren't things we can teach him. Those are things he's got naturally. Even in the year he first came into the IPL, he didn't have any fear, or any doubts.

"If you tell him this is what we need at this time, he has the ability to do that.

"He's got the ability to make a decision. He's quite clear in his thinking."

Sri Lanka's chief selector Upul Tharanga has also backed the youngster to choke opposition batsmen in the final few overs along with 29-year-old pacer Nuwan Thushara.

The prospect of seeing those two in tandem sets Malinga purring.

"In the T20 format you are always talking about the yorker because that's the ball that stops sixes from happening," he said.

"To have two bowlers who can bowl yorkers like the two of them can in the same tournament... That's crazy, that's absolutely mad.

"I think (Sri Lanka's) bowling line-up is the best in the world."

Pathirana returned figures of 4-28 in Chennai's 20-run win over Mumbai Indians this season, taking player of the match honours and overshadowing a century by India captain Rohit Sharma.

He took key wickets including T20 specialist Suryakumar Yadav in the eighth over and then returned at the death to bowl Romario Shepherd with his trademark slinging delivery.

- Father-figure Dhoni -

Pathirana has made a consistent impact in the world's most popular T20 league since joining Chennai and credits his performance to the mentorship of team mainstay M.S. Dhoni, India's former captain.

"In my cricket life, mostly he is playing my father's role," Pathirana said on Chennai's YouTube channel.

"He always takes care of me, and gives me some advice on what I have to do -- similar to my father when I'm in my home," he added.

"He's just telling me small things, but it makes a lot of difference, and it gives me a lot of confidence."

Dhoni last year suggested that Pathirana should steer clear of Tests to focus primarily on the 20-over format.

Pathirana has also been a broadcaster's favourite with a wicket celebration that sees him fold his hands to the chest and look to the sky, which the youngster admits is modelled on Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sri Lanka, who won the title in 2014, begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in New York on June 3 and also face Bangladesh, Nepal and the Netherlands in the group stage.


AFP


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