BAN vs SL 2021 – New ODI captain Kusal Perera wants young Sri Lanka to play ‘fearlessly’ against Bangladesh
Also said that selectors have told him to go beyond just scoring half-centuries in ODIs
Fearlessness. If there’s one change Sri Lanka’s new ODI captain Kusal Perera would like to usher in, it is for his team to play as he says he does: completely unafraid.
Perera has been appointed leader of a young squad, which is without several big names, including Angelo Mathews, and now has the opportunity to turn around Sri Lanka’s poor form in the format – the side having slipped to ninth on the ICC rankings. Perera has long been one of the most aggressive batsmen in Sri Lanka’s ranks, and early indications are that he would like the team to embrace that ethos.
“We have to fearless cricket to win matches,” he said, a day after his appointment as captain was made official. “You can’t be fearful about losing. If you’re worried about your place, you aren’t going to give 100%. What I’m going to tell the players is to go and give it everything. If we play fearlessly even when we are practicing, then you will be able to play the same way in a match. That’s what I’ve told the team. If we are fearful, we will fall even further. I’m trying to build a culture where the players have a lot of confidence.”
Perera’s own most notable innings have been aggressive ones. In Tests, his 153 not out off 200 in Durban is now counted among the format’s greatest knocks. In ODIs, he has hit the second-equal fastest half-century – off 17 balls, against Pakistan, in 2015.
“I really like to play fearless cricket personally, and that’s where my success has been. Whenever I’ve played with fear, it hasn’t worked for me. I want everyone else to play like that. You can’t guarantee that you will go right playing this way, but the chances of things going well are greater.”
“But you have to practice well to instill that fearlessness. Because if you are 100% certain about the shot you’re playing, you can play without fear. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Where does the ball need to be for me to hit it? Will I get myself in trouble by hitting there? You need to have that understanding. If you’re a bowler, you need to know which ball can get you a wicket, and which will help you bowl a dot. These things help you play fearlessly. As a fielding unit, you have to carry that same ethos as well, and I have big hopes for the upcoming Bangladesh series about our fielding.”
Although Perera has sparkled briefly, however, his overall record as a batsman is modest. After 96 ODI innings, he averages 31.04, with a strike rate of 92.04. The responsibility of leadership, he hoped, would bring bigger personal scores as well.
“What the selectors told me when they appointed me was that I often get a 50 or a 60 and get out without getting to a 100. I accept that. If I score a hundred, the chances of winning the match go up. You can’t get a 100 every game, but when you get a start, you need to make sure you convert. They expect me to take that responsibility.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf