Captain Dhananjaya de Silva wants to make winning a habit for Sri Lanka after well-rounded first show

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It was only apt that a Sri Lankan fast bowler sealed a 2-0 series win in Chattogram. When Lahiru Kumara yorked Khaled Ahmed, it was 11.15am local time on the final day. It was always going to be a quick end to the game after Sri Lanka took seven of Bangladesh’s fourth-innings wickets on the fourth day.
Kumara finished with a four-wicket haul to take their fast bowlers’ tally for the series to 33 scalps. It is the most by a Sri Lankan pace attack in a two-match Test series. The fast bowlers’ success was well complemented by a strong showing by their batters.
Not only did Kamindu Mendis get adjudged Player of the Match and Player of the Series, but the team also totalled four hundreds and eight fifties. Bangladesh, on the other hand, managed only four fifties. The other big difference between the two sides was the number of batting partnerships that lasted at least 20 overs. Sri Lanka had six, and Bangladesh just the one.
Apart from Kamindu, it was captain Dhananjaya de Silva who stood out with the bat. While they dominated the Sylhet Test without much support from the other batters, the issue was resolved with six of Sri Lanka’s top-seven batters reaching fifties in the first innings in Chattogram.

“We are very satisfied with the win,” Dhananjaya said. “There are many areas for us to improve, and I have talked about those with the team and the coaches are working towards that. If we can learn day by day and raise our game by 1%, we can make winning a habit. When we came to Bangladesh, we know it was going to be good for the batsmen. Their idea is always to get runs. They were disappointed because they didn’t get runs in Sylhet. But they came back, and it was pretty easy for me to handle the other things.”

“These are the best players for Test cricket in Sri Lanka,” he said. “They’ve been performing in the domestic arena as well. Kamindu had to wait a little while. He got a fifty in his first innings, but when the replacement came in he had to go back. But he has been practicing well.”

Sri Lanka are shaping up a batting unit that doesn’t necessarily have to only depend on the experienced trio of Dimuth Karunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, and Angelo Mathews. The captain however wants them to continue for a long time, as they also help him in leading the Test side.

“They have been great servants for Sri Lanka for a lot of years,” Dhananjaya said. “I don’t know how long they will play. I’d love to play with them for 3-4 years into the future. They have been performing well in the past and they have been great in these series as well.

“They didn’t interfere with my captaincy. They just give me their ideas. It is very helpful in Tests, because you have to play five days. Sometimes my mind goes here and there, so getting that advice from them is very valuable.”

Dhananjaya’s captaincy also stood out during this Test series. He embraced the conditions in Sylhet which favoured the fast bowlers. He said it excited him more. He also handled Bangladesh’s fast bowling well as a batter. In a more batting-friendly Chattogram, he devised tight fields to keep the Bangladesh run rate down. It worked wonders as the fast bowlers responded well too.

Some also observed that Dhananjaya didn’t shy away from being a tough taskmaster with his team-mates when needed. “Sometimes you have to be a little aggressive. In a country like this where you are playing in heat, sometimes some players get lethargic.

“But if in the field me or someone else dives around a little bit and makes a good stop, everyone gets a little boost. I’m trying to keep the other 10 players in the game. I’m not saying I need to be harsh, but I do think you need to have a bit of aggression when you lead,” Dhananjaya said.

It has been quite a first tour as captain for Dhananjaya. He scored runs and led well but also calmed things down when the talk of rivalry surfaced during the Test series. Visibly on the field too, the teams didn’t clash in the Tests, like they did in the limited-overs series. Dhananjaya’s insistence that “it is not a rivalry” kept the situation calm, and allowed for a smoother time on and off the field.

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