The irony was too much to miss. In the game that the 34-year-old Chaminda Vaas scalped his 400th ODI wicket, topping off a long and distinguished career, a 27-year-old left-arm seam bowling Thilan Thushara announced himself with 5 for 47 and a more-than-useful 40. The newcomer from Balapitiya has eased a serious headache for Mahela Jayawardene. If Ajantha Mendis is Muttiah Muralitharan’s heir, then surely Thushara can fill in Vaas’s boots.
With injuries plaguing Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando, the stage was perfectly set for Thushara’s re-emergence as a serious fast bowling option. He brings to the team that extra pace that the attack needs and his clean hitting while keeping a cool head has impressed one and all.
Although he first hit the international scene in 2003, in a Test match, his appearances for Sri Lanka have been limited to three Tests and 10 ODIs. He has been in and out of the team, but a consistent performance in this five-match series makes him a player any captain would like to have in the mix. In five games he has ten wickets, the highest on either side, and the five-for he bagged on Wednesday proved that he has it in him to run through a team. On top of this Thushara managed 104 runs in the series, striking the ball cleanly and attacking even when the cause was as good as lost. Had it not been for his contributions, at least two of the ODIs would have been complete routs.
India will just be happy that Thushara was not given a go in the Tests that preceded the ODIs. Sri Lanka chose to stick with Nuwan Kulasekara, accurate and dependable and someone who provides a reverse-swing option when the ball gets old. Then, when they needed that extra bit of pace, the hosts gave Dammika Prasad his debut. However, when Sri Lanka next play Tests, against Bangladesh away in December, Thushara is sure to figure prominently in selection plans.
“He is heading in the right direction,” Jayawardene said in encouragement of Thushara.
“We wanted him to be a good bowler first, but he is also turning out to be a good batsman lower down the order. The more he plays and the more exposure he gets, the more he will develop into the kind of cricketer who can serve the team well for long periods.”