Mickey Arthur sees young stars Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka as pivotal to Sri Lankan cricket going forward, hailing them as the batting leaders of the country’s ‘generation-next’.
Asalanka starred in Sri Lanka’s victory over Bangladesh in their opening Super 12 match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, smashing an unbeaten 80 off 49 balls.
Along the way, he enjoyed a 69-run second-wicket stand with Nissanka.
Asalanka’s unbeaten 80 was his first T20I half-century and his fourth across 35 T20s.
It was the first real glimpse of the batter who has thrived for Sri Lanka’s ODI team since debuting in June.
Earlier in the tournament, Nissanka notched his maiden T20I half-century against Ireland, with his best cricket thus far coming in the Test arena.
For Arthur, oft-hailed for his ability to nurture young talent, it is imperative both players get the chance to play as much as possible given their enormous potential.
Arthur said, “I’ve watched every cricketer now in Sri Lanka, including some of the under-19 bowlers, which are quite exciting to see some of them coming through. But I don’t see batting talent like Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka. For us as a coaching staff, for us as the selection panel, we’ve got to keep giving opportunities to these two young players, because in the next couple of years they’re going to be the leaders in the batting department for Sri Lanka. Pathum, Charith, Praveen (spinner Praveen Jayawickrama), these are going to be guys that are going to be very good for Sri Lanka going forward.”
Nissanka notched a century on Test debut earlier in the year but up until his 61 against Ireland, success in the shorter formats had evaded him.
Nevertheless, Arthur says they will be backing him all the way across all three formats.
“From the first time I saw Pathum, I think I’ve been quoted as saying I think he’s a wonderful talent. He’s got his balance, his feet movement, when he attacks and defends are great. He’s got it all. He’s a really good player. We saw that on Test debut. He’s played every form now over the last sort of nine months for us. And he’s going to play every form because I really think him and Charith are generation-next for Sri Lanka in terms of batting.”
Like Nissanka, Asalanka is a newcomer to the Sri Lankan set-up and Arthur takes huge joy from the rate at which he has improved.
Arthur said, “To see Charith’s development has been incredible. I remember Charith arriving in our bubble just before we went to England, and then we had the England trip. And to see Charith’s journey from England to where he is now is a credit to himself, the way he’s gone about his work, the professionalism he’s shown. His preparation in every game has been fantastic. To see a young player like Charith get better and better has been very, very rewarding for us.”
Sri Lanka are in action on Thursday night against Australia in Group 1 of the Super 12.