Lakshan Sandakan: Continuing the legacy of mystery bowlers to emerge from Sri Lanka
The small island of Sri Lanka may be undergoing a transition phase ever since the retirement of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and owing to this are struggling to compete with teams at the International levels for almost 2 years now, more so in Test cricket. Their batting has been underperforming and the new crop of players look far from settled at the top most level.
However, Sri Lanka has been a land which keeps dishing out mystery bowlers, bowlers who are unique in many ways, and bowlers who befuddle the batsmen by the trickery all along. Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis spring to mind when we mention mystery, and even as the batting has struggled in the recent times, the bowling has held its own. Much along the same lines, we are now seeing the emergence of Lakshan Sandakan, a chinaman bowler who has already grabbed attention on his debut in which he has picked up 4 wickets against Australia.
Here, we take a look at few interesting facts about Sandakan.
Not a very great start to his career
Hailing from Colombo, the diminutive spinner did not have a very promising start to his cricketing career, as in his debut first-class match he could only pick up a solitary wicket and gave away 77 runs in 26 overs for Saracens Sports Club in 2012 . He struggled to find the correct the line and length and tried too much and lost his control in the process.
He has the ability to turn the ball both ways, and the young man lost his plot trying to do too much in his debut. However, success came when he made his move to Colombo Cricket Club.
Career takes off at CCC
His decision to move to Colombo Cricket Club in the following season was a brilliantly thought out move as the wickets in Colombo suited his style. Success came as did the wickets and the left-arm chinaman bowler picked up 54 wickets in the 2013-14, thus emerging as the highest wicket-taker in the first-class season. This performance did not go unnoticed as he was selected in the National team for the series against England in 2014. However, he did not make his debut.
Sandakan, however, continued his impressive run in the next season as he topped the charts with 45 wickets at 24.28.
Selected into the 'A' squad
After having impressed the selectors, Sandakan was drafted into the Sri Lankan A team touring England. The mystery bowler immediately had an impact as he claimed 5 wickets for only 40 runs in a limited overs match against Derbyshire. He was rewarded with another spot in the National squad.
The much-awaited debut for Sandakan came against Australia during the ongoing first Test match at Pallekele. And he could not have asked for a more opportune moment. Batting first, Sri Lanka were rolled over for a paltry 117 in the first innings. The pitch was offering assistance to the spinners, and the Sri Lankan bowlers had to step on the gas if the hosts were harbouring any hopes of a comeback.
Rangana Herath started the fight back, but then Sandakan came on and proved that he has the game to be successful in the highest format. His skiddy and whippy action was proving to be a hot soup for the Australian batsmen who kept playing along the wrong lines.
Sandakan's first wicket in Test cricket was of Mitchell Marsh, and it was ample proof of the ability of the young man. It was a googly which pitched on middle and off and then beat the forward prod of Marsh only to clatter into the off-stump. Picture perfect for any chinaman bowler.
He then went on to pick Mitchell Starc, Stephen O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon and ended with figures of 4 wickets for 58 runs in 21.2 overs. Along with the veteran Herath, Sandakan has done his bit to keep Sri Lanka in the game, as Australia were bowled out for 203 in their first innings.
It might be too early to take a call on his career, but he certainly has potential and the required skill set to be successful in Test cricket.