Under the SKanner: Niroshan Dickwella
When Sri Lanka won their first series in any format in South Africa in January this year, this wicket-keeper batsman stood out for his flamboyance and flair at the crease. He wasn't a Dilshan, he wasn't a Jayasuriya and he wasn't a Sangakkara, whom he idolizes, but there was something about him that oozed belief in his own abilities.
We are talking about Sri Lanka's wicket-keeper batsman, Niroshan Dickwella. The southpaw ended the T20 series with 133 runs in 3 matches, 69 more than the next highest. His fearless batting at the top of the order got noticed and he won the Man of the Series award.
For a team struggling to maintain its stature as one of the top tier teams, someone like Dickwella symbolises hope.
His numbers at this stage of his career do not inspire too much confidence but like in his school boy days, people have been sitting up and taking notice of this talented youngster who first represented Sri Lanka at the age of 20 in 2014.
Then he made a fighting 72 against the visiting Proteas side at the Sinhalese Sports Club but subsequently poor returns saw him vanish from the side for three long years before he returned in 2017 and thus far, he has been much more impressive than several of the Lankan batsmen.
But, is he technically good yet? What are the chinks in his armour? We analyse all that by placing him “under the SKanner”.
Against fast bowlers
#1 Quick to pick up the length
Niroshan Dickwella has a gifted hand-eye coordination that he uses to whip the quicker bowlers, especially in limited-overs cricket. The manner in which he got stuck like band-aid into Kagiso Rabada in the T20s and ODIs in South Africa is evidence of his superlative ability to dominate any kind of bowler with his quick hands.
#2 Square of the wicket
While his driving and flicking skills are pretty good, Dickwella's smashing cut shots are one to watch out for. He is quickly to read the length and has all the time in the World to rock back and cut the seam bowlers. He is also an adept puller of the ball although he has had his fair bit of troubles with the shorter balls.
During his 74 against South Africa in an ODI in Johannesburg, 30 of his runs came square of the wicket while 18 others came behind square.
#3 The Dickscoop
Dickwella is probably most remembered for ramping Kagiso Rabada in a limited-overs game. He loves to get down and ramp the ball over fine-leg or third man and has used the shot quite often in his short career. The shot, reminiscent of the Dilscoop, has been dubbed the 'Dickscoop’ after him.
“When I was schooling, first I tried that shot in the nets and got hit on the head and nothing happened. And then my fear for that shot disappeared. So, I thought nothing bad could happen by hitting that shot and kept practising. Firstly, I scooped over fine leg when the fine legs were up and then to third man when third man wasn't there. And then I tried to play over the head when both fine leg and third man are there. Now I can play all three scoops (to the fine leg, third man and over the head) intentionally”, Dickwella had stated in an interview as revealed by Ceylon Today.
#1 The sweep shot
This has to be another of Dickwella's trademark shots. He used the shot to brilliant effect in the recently concluded Tests against India. Infact, his coach, Sampath Perera, believes that he earned almost 80% of his runs in the series through sweep shots. But he isn't the least bit surprised.
As a school boy, Dickwella would practise the sweep shot for hours together knowing that most of the Sri Lankan pitches were conducive to spin and he would need to play a lot of sweeps. He even paddle sweeps the spinners and tried a couple of reverse ones as well.
#1 Left-arm pace
He seems to have a profound weakness against left-arm seamers. In a country which boasts of one of the best left-arm pace bowler of all-time, Chaminda Vaas, this might seem a tad surprising.
In 2014, he was dismissed by left-arm seamers thrice in Test cricket. Till date, he has been lbw only twice in Tests and both have come against left-arm seamers, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan.
In 2017, in the South Africa ODIs, Wayne Parnell dismissed him thrice in different fashion while the likes of Trent Boult, Mohammad Amir and James Faulkner have also enjoyed considerable success against the keeper-batsman. He averages a lowly 16.3 against them in Tests.
#2 Eagerness to dominate
For a young, attacking batsman like Dickwella an eagerness to establish his authority over the bowlers isn't a surprising trait. But quite often it has led to his downfall.
In Tests, 12 of his 19 dismissals have come in catches while 8 of the 12 are 'caught by fielders’. In ODIs the numbers go even further up with 14 of his 18 being caught. 11 of them are caught by fielders, an not the keeper, once again illustrating a tendency to try to dominate bowlers even off good balls.