What’s the story?
Sri Lankan all-rounder Asela Gunaratne feels that sharing the dressing room with Jasprit Bumrah for the Mumbai Indians franchise during the 2017 IPL helped him counter the death over specialist’s threat during his crucial 22-ball 34 that helped Sri Lanka earn a surprising win over defending champions India in the eighth match of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy on Thursday.
Coming in to bat following Kusal Perera’s inability to continue out in the middle following a hamstring injury and with his side needing 51 runs to win off 42 balls, Gunaratne played a brilliant innings under pressure alongside skipper Angelo Mathews to guide Sri Lanka home with eight balls to spare.
Though he didn’t feature in any of the matches in the 2017 IPL, Gunaratne said that facing the likes of Bumrah and Pandya in the nets gave him a fair idea of what to expect when he headed to the crease. He also added that another Mumbai Indians player in Lasith Malinga also provided him with tips to counter India’s main weapon in the slog overs.
"Bumrah and Pandya were playing alongside me at Mumbai Indians and I had faced them in the nets. So I had a fair idea how they operate and what to expect. Before I went to bat, Lasith Malinga had a quick word and said to expect the slower ball," Gunaratne said after the game.
“I didn't play IPL games, but the time spent with them was valuable," he added.
In case you didn’t know....
Gunaratne, a Warrant Officer in the Sri Lankan army, was picked up by the Mumbai Indians franchise at the 2017 IPL auction following his T20 heroics for Sri Lanka against Australia where he scored consecutive half-centuries to help the Asian side to a 2-1 series victory.
He didn’t feature for the eventual champions during the 2017 edition of the IPL and even a few of the commentators were sceptical when Gunaratne walked in ahead of the more-experienced Dinesh Chandimal in what was an intriguing run-chase. However, the 31-year-old had the final laugh as he proved the doubters wrong with a superb cameo.
Despite the early dismissal of Niroshan Dickwella, Sri Lanka looked well on course for victory when Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis forged a brilliant partnership for the second wicket. However, the needless run-outs of both batsmen put the side under a lot of pressure before Kusal Perera and skipper Angelo Mathews, who was playing his first ODI since August 2016, resurrected the innings with a crucial stand.
Perera was forced to retire hurt though with a hamstring injury allowing India once again a slight glimmer of hope but Gunaratne’s innings quickly wiped out any optimism the Virat Kohli-led side would have had.
The 46th over bowled by Bumrah was an effective game-ender as Gunaratne scored nine runs off five balls including the shot of the match - a stunning sweep for six over square leg to bring the equation down to less than run-a-ball.
In the end, it was a comfortable win for the island nation and one which threw the group wide open and in effect a couple of potential quarterfinals.
Pakistan’s win over South Africa in what was a rain-curtailed match on Wednesday and Sri Lanka’s win over India means that all four teams in Group B are still in with a chance to qualify for the semi-finals stage.
India will take on South Africa on Sunday while Pakistan take on Sri Lanka on Monday with the winners heading to the knockout stage.
While the IPL has provided a platform for youngsters to exhibit their talent, it has also allowed international players to get accustomed to the way players from across the globe go about their preparation for a big game.
Bumrah had an off day as well on Thursday with Gunaratne clearly having the measure of his Mumbai Indians teammate but it is not necessary that the result will be the same the next time they come up against each other.Published 09 Jun 2017, 22:07 IST