x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Kerala could be way for all-rounder to make Sri Lanka return

Kaushalya Weeraratne, the highest-profile player of this season's Kerala Premier League is keeping his 'fingers crossed' about an international comeback, writes Amith Passela.

Kaushalya Weeraratne has represented Sri Lanka in 20 limited-overs internationals. Jaime Puebla / The National
Kaushalya Weeraratne has represented Sri Lanka in 20 limited-overs internationals. Jaime Puebla / The National

Kaushalya Weeraratne has not given up hope of returning to the international fold with the Sri Lanka squad, but in the meantime he is concentrating on performing to his maximum in the Kerala Premier League (KPL) in Dubai.

Weeraratne has 20 international appearances for Sri Lanka, but his chances of a recall have become increasingly difficult now that his place as an all-rounder in both the ODI and T20 squads seems to have been filled by Angelo Mathews, who was named Twenty20 captain, and Thisara Perera.

"They are both doing well and it has become hard to get a recall to the Sri Lanka squad," said Weeraratne, 31.

The left-handed batsman and right-handed medium-pace bowler is concentrating on club cricket and any opportunities that come his way to play overseas.

One of those has been the KPL, where Weeraratne is the highest-profile foreign player competing. Teams in the competition must field three local players from Kerala who carry UAE residence visas and one Under 22 player. They may also select two overseas players.

Weeraratne smashed 56 not out in 28 deliveries to guide Palakkad Harvestors to a 64-run victory over Alleppey Ripples in the opener but could score only 15 in the next as his team crashed to a six-wicket defeat to Kollam Kernels on Sunday.

"I think we have a pretty decent side and our objective at the moment would be to go beyond the group stage, and then we'll see what's next for us," he said.

Weeraratne is no stranger to the UAE. He first travelled with the Sri Lanka team to play in Sharjah in 2000 and has made additional visits to play for local clubs.

"It is the first time for me in the KPL," he said. "These types of competitions are always good because it provides more playing opportunities and encourage the local players.

"There are some pretty good cricketers, some of them who have played at higher levels in India and Pakistan. And the concept of playing an Under 22 player in the playing XI in each team also provides them good exposure."

Weeraratne says the T20 format is no more than a strategy in which batsmen try to hit each and every ball. "It has now become an art," he said. "More and more players are adapting to this format because of the popularity of the T20 format. We see both batsmen and bowlers improvise and making this work as an art."

Weeraratne has played in 15 ODIs and five T20 internationals for Sri Lanka, and counts more than 100 first class and List A games on his CV.

"I can only keep performing and stay at a good level, which I am doing right now. You never know what's around the corner. So fingers crossed," he said.

Mohamed Lokhandwala, the honorary secretary of Dubai Cricket Council, has pointed to the example of players such as Virender Sehwag and Ajay Jadeja of India, and Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka, who were dropped from their national teams but got back after a stint in the UAE domestic tournaments.

"They played in the Ramadan Cup in Sharjah where teams are allowed to hire players of their choice from abroad. Let's hope Kaushalya, too, gets a similar break," Lokhandwala said.

In addition to his time in Sri Lanka, Weeraratne has also played six years in England, mostly with minor counties. He was in the Lancashire League the past two seasons, a competition made up of clubs from the English county.

He is also employed at Seylan Bank but has been granted leave to play full-time cricket. He plays for Ragama in Sri Lanka's Premier League and for the provincial team Wayamba, led by the national captain Mahela Jayawardene.

apassela@thenational.ae

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