Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka: Roshen Silva stakes claim to the Mr. 360° tag in Test cricket
AB de Villiers walked across the off-stump even as Dale Steyn was steaming in, goes down on one leg, takes aim and bludgeons his South African teammate into the stands.
The South African's 360° prowess was well acknowledged around the globe but even the most ardent worshippers of the 'de Villiers club' could not believe that he had the best bowler of this generation and his teammate dancing to his music in such ridiculous fashion.
Even as de Villiers grew into his 360° stature, there was this widespread belief that his orthodox shots and solid technique contributed a huge deal in making him the player he is.
In this context, another player, one who can scarcely be compared to the aura and pragmatism of Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is slowly making his mark in international cricket as a late bloomer. It is quite okay if you haven't zeroed in on the name yet, for his gameplay is not even close to de Villiers'.
We are talking about Sri Lanka's new-age war hero, Roshen Silva. The astute middle-order batsman has had a cracking start to his Test career with four consecutive 50+ scores after a duck in his debut innings at Delhi in the third Test against India last December.
More than his tally of 309 runs in 3 Tests at an average of 103, it is the wagon wheel of his runs in the various Tests that deserve mention, for it has raised his stature as a batsman who is capable of playing all around the wicket in Test matches.
At Delhi, in the second innings of his Test career, Silva called upon the spirit of Aravinda de Silva to save Sri Lanka from the jaws of defeat with a gritty, hard-nosed, red-blooded knock that lifted the visitors from the abyss they had found themselves in against a ripped Indian side.
His unbeaten 74 would go down as one of the best knocks by a debutant against India but a more prominent feature of his knock was how he drove and swept the spinners with authority. 24.3% of his runs came through covers while 18.9% of them came through fine-leg. The ability to bombard both the off-side and leg-side equally well put India's much acclaimed spinners to shame at a foggy, polluted Feroz Shah Kotla.
He carried forward his form to Dhaka where the boot was on the other foot in terms of conditions. Met with a rank turner on day 1, Sri Lanka had to ward off some home-bred spinners and Silva was once again at the forefront of the visitor's resistance. His 124 ball 56 was a lesson in patience, tenacity and resolve as he carried the tail with him to take Sri Lanka to 222, a match turning total in the end.
At Chittagong on a placid, neatly tarred road, he switched his game plan and relied on the true bounce from the surface to nurdle the ball through third man and disdainfully thump the ball through mid-wicket. Even as his more reputed colleagues hammered down the Bangladeshi bowlers, Silva's shot selection and immaculate field manipulation and timing stood out.
Yet again his scoring areas were completely different, as shown by CricViz. He used his feet to get to the pitch of the ball against the spinners, cut down on horizontal bat shots and played the ball down the ground more often. 42.8% of his runs came through long-on and long-off, an area he hadn't scored much in the previous two innings'.
The second time around, at Dhaka, his zone changed yet again as he drove more confidently and also swept with more control than before.
With a wide array of strokes, steely persistence and dogged determination, Silva is turning into the guy Sri Lankan cricket was on the lookout for since the retirement of some of their stalwart middle-order batsmen. He is just three Tests old but if his scoring areas is anything to go by, the Island Nation might just have unearthed a gem out of nowhere.