India entered the series against Sri Lanka a day after the Indian Premier League (IPL) player auctions. Every India player arrived in Pune with hefty sums assigned against their name. Sri Lanka players by contrast were the least favoured in Sunday’s auction, may be only ahead of the Pakistani lot who were not even part of the auction process.
Only two Sri Lanka players – Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera – will be part of the IPL this time.
Forward to Tuesday and all the depleted Sri Lanka required were two greenhorns to leave an India side, fresh from defeating Australia 3-0 in their den, reeling.
A spate of injuries has meant there are quite a few inexperienced players in the Sri Lankan ranks. Stand-in skipper Dinesh Chandimal handed debuts to two players and gave chance to a third who had played just one Twenty20 international.
Two of those experiments paid off immediately as pace bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Dasun Shanaka picked up three wickets apiece to give India’s strong batting line-up a reality check ahead of the WT20.
Rajitha, who was given his maiden international cap, made most of a difficult batting pitch. The 22-year-old picked up two wickets in his opening over to announce himself. Shanaka, 24, known more as a batting all-rounder, also did justice on return to the national side, after being dropped following a one-off game against Pakistan last year.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Rajitha and Shanaka’s claim to fame were their performances in the low-profile Twenty20 domestic series in Sri Lanka.
In fact, Rajtha’s first-class bowling average is a terrible 101.75. Rajitha, 22, though had impressed after claiming 23 wickets in the 11 T20s he has played so far. Rajitha, who plays for Baduraliya SC in Sri Lanka, was the highest wicket-taker during the 2014/15 Inter-Club T20 series, claiming 19 wickets in eight matches.
Shanaka earned his call-up after finishing as the highest run-scorer in the Club T20 series, tallying 348 in seven matches including two centuries. His shining moment came when he smashed 16 sixes during one of those innings, breaking the domestic record for most sixes as well as the highest T20 score in the Club T20 series ---131. On Tuesday, it wasn’t his bat but the ball that did the talking.
Shanaka combined well with Rajitha to foil the India batsmen. The two used the conditions to their advantage, tossing their hats in the ring for a possible call-up when the defending WT20 champions announce their squad.