Did Wanindu Hasaranga's 4/9 against India play a role in his selection for RCB? Head coach Mike Hesson answers

  • On Saturday, the Sri Lanka all-rounder added another big tick in his box when he was added to the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad to take part in the team's campaign in the remaining half of the IPL.
Sri Lanka's Wanidu Hasaranga.(AP/File)
Sri Lanka's Wanidu Hasaranga.(AP/File)
Updated on Aug 22, 2021 09:31 AM IST
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ByAditya Bhattacharya

He may not be the first name that comes to mind when we talk of utility players, but Wanindu Hasaranga – whose young career has seen quite the meteoric rise – is right up there. From becoming the youngest player to take a hat-trick on ODI debut to finishing as the Player of the Tournament in the Lanka Premier League in 2020, to stunning the Indian batsmen and helping his team clinch a memorable T20I series win, Hasaranga has been doing all the right things. And on Saturday, the Sri Lanka all-rounder added another big tick in his box when he was added to the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad to take part in the team's campaign in the remaining half of the IPL.

As the franchise announced, Hasaranga was drafted in the team as the replacement player for Adam Zampa, the Australia leg-spinner who withdrew from the IPL earlier in the year itself owing to personal reasons. But Hasaranga wouldn't mind. If not RCB, with uncertainty looming over several players and their participation in the remainder of the tournament, he had already become a favourite following the astonishing figures of 4/9 he dished out against India in July.

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Having said that, it would be unfair to think that his performance against India alone had a hand in Hasaranga securing an IPL contract, a notion that was confirmed by Mike Hesson, the newly-appointed head coach of RCB. Besides being a game-changer with the ball, Hasaranga has a decent record with the bat. Against West Indies last year, the all-rounder produced crucial knocks of 42 and 44 in an ODI and T20I respectively to help Sri Lanka to wins and in March earlier this year, notched up his maiden half-century.

More evidence of his useful batting was spotted during Sri Lanka's tour of England, where he put up scores of 54, 26 and 20. Despite Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Fin Allen and Scott Kuggeleijn making themselves unavailable, thanks to Hasaranga, Hesson is not concerned about the balance of the team being affected and in fact, is excited at the 24-year-old's coming on board. With RCB playing their best cricket in years, as seen in the first-half of IPL 2021 – they won five out of seven games to be placed third on the points-table – the all-rounder's addition offers the team depth, reckons Hesson.

"We have a scouting program that has been in place for the last two years where we know almost every player that is playing cricket around the world at a decent level. Wanindu had been on our radar for a long time. In fact, we needed a replacement in the last IPL, he was certainly the person we called upon. It's not a recency factor," Hesson responded to a query from Hindustan Times.

"We are not surprised by his success in recent times, but he has been doing it for a while. We like his skillset, and we like the fact that he is a multi-skilled cricketer. So, he offers us the ability to bat a little bit deeper as well if we choose to play the overseas spinner along with Chahal. And that gives us a lot of exciting options so the fact that he performed well against India in recent times is great, but certainly not surprising."

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Only 20 innings into his T20I career, Hasaranga, 24, had risen to the No. 2 spot in the ICC rankings for bowlers. And a day after, he celebrated his birthday by foxing a team which has historically produced batsmen brilliant against spin. Some may argue his career-best show came against a depleted side that was hampered by Covid-19, but numbers prove it wasn't a one-match fluke. In the third ODI where Deepak Chahar helped India blindside Sri Lanka by three wickets in an epic finish, Hasaranga had claimed 3/37 from 10 overs, where he dismissed Prithvi Shaw, captain Shikhar Dhawan and Krunal Pandya.

And just like that, nine days later, on the night of the big decider, Hasaranga made the India's batsmen wilt. Mixing his googlies, leg-break and slider well, Hasaranga kept the batsmen quiet and chipped away. India had already lost openers Dhawan and Devdutt Padikkal without much on the board before Hasaranga produced the over that turned the game on its head. He had Sanju Samson out LBW to a quicker leg-break and outwitted Ruturaj Gaikwad with a straighter delivery. Later, he ensured India's tail did not wag removing Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Chakravarthy.

Just like that, a total of 10 wickets from five matches, and emerging as the highest wicket-taker in ODIs T20Is combined, the best birthday present Hasaranga gifted himself was ensuring a shot at playing the IPL. Former India cricketers Virender Sehwag and Ashish Nehra were certain that the Sri Lanka youngster would be one player all eight franchises would have their eyes on, and on Saturday, RCB hit the hammer on the head.


    Aditya Bhattacharya is an experienced online sports journalist with a forte in cricket. He has covered the 2016 ICC World T20 in India, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England along with several Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare tournaments across the country. When not working, Aditya can be found either hooked to the PlayStation or sharpening the chords on a guitar, while straddling binge-watching and shadow-practicing like Ajay Devgn on two bikes.

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