Dinesh Chandimal was out of the SL ODI team following disappointing outing in the Champions Trophy. He was in the centre of much criticism most of his career. Even when he scored bulk of runs, most by a Sri Lankan in 2016, he was criticized about his strike rate.
He was appointed vice captain and T20 captain of the Sri Lanka team but those titles were taken off from him later, while his poor form sometimes cost him his place in the team too. But in Test cricket, Chandimal has proved he is the backbone of Sri Lanka team. His 132 against Australia when Sri Lanka were 26 for 5 last year was a prime example. And now SLC has trusted him with Test captaincy, one of the highest honours SL cricketer can receive in his life time.
“I’m very happy about the Test captaincy. I have to thank the board and the selectors for trusting me with this responsibility. As a player and captain I will sacrifice my time and my effort to make sure Sri Lanka reclaims a good place. I need a little time for that. I am hopeful that with the players that I have, I can take Sri Lankan cricket to where it used to be,” said Chandimal ahead of his maiden Test as captain and as Sri Lanka’s 15th Test Captain.
Chandimal said his prime target will be taking Sri Lanka to number one position in Test cricket, but first it will be about climbing one position at a time. Sri Lanka is presently at 9th position in Test ranking while Zimbabwe is tenth.
“My final goal is to take the team to no. 1 in the world. We can’t do that in one day or one year. We have to work hard with our cricket to get there. We have young players, and we have to give them experience along the way. We have to take it step by step – go to no. 6 first, then 5 and so on.”
One of Sri Lanka’s biggest problems in cricket has been its fielding and Chandimal said he has few ideas to improve on it.
“I’ve thought about how we became so weak in fielding and tried to work out how we can fix it. I talked with the coaches as well.
Even in training, if we catch 100 flat catches, 100 high catches and 100 ground fielding balls, the pressure that we have in the game will disappear. I talked to the coaches and told them that what I want is to do those drills under something similar to match atmosphere. Then we have a target and feed off each other’s energy. In the last few days that’s what we did. I think we’ll be able to improve a lot in our fielding with those measures,” said Chandimal.
Chandimal said he worked hard on some of the weakness during recent times.
“There was a little issue with my bat grip. My top hand was turning in too much. I worked that out and also worked on my head position.”
Meanwhile, Chandimal recalled memories about his T20 captaincy in 2014 which was not a pleasant one as he opted out from the team and later he lost his captaincy.
“I had the T20 captaincy in 2014. I always thought that my team and my nation were no. 1. I always thought about who were the best XI. Sometimes I couldn’t showcase my talents because I put the team at no. 1. I especially remember that when I was captaining, I batted at no. 6, where you only get two or three overs to bat sometimes. I could have, as captain, gone up to open and hit the runs that I needed. But I didn’t think about it like that. I looked at what was needed for the team to win and worked on that basis. I learned a lot from that captaincy, and from stepping away as captain. I have all that experience to call upon in my Test captaincy. I want to try and lead well using all of that knowledge.”
Chandimal was praised a lot by fans back in the day when he refused an IPL contract but Chandimal said he actually did not reject IPL.
“I didn’t reject the IPL. When I went the first time, I stayed two weeks in India and didn’t get a game and I felt like I wouldn’t get to play. So at that time I talked to the manager and said I can’t stay here doing nothing. I want to go to Sri Lanka and train. So I got that permission. Second time, I was T20 captain. In the first round of the auction I wasn’t picked, but the second time when a player was injured, I was chosen. But at the time I’d committed to some English classes and I thought: “I’m the captain now. If I go after being selected on the second round, that would not be good for the country. So I decided to do the things I wanted to do instead of going there,” concluded Chandimal.