Akila Dananjaya leading Sri Lanka's wrist spin revolution

Ajit Vijaykumar 13:52 16/08/2018
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It’s all about wrist spin at the moment in limited overs cricket. Finger spinners have been all but booted out of white-ball cricket with only those who bat well remaining in the picture.

Having said that, just because you bowl wrist spin doesn’t mean you will succeed. Like any other trade, you need to be good at what you do and wrist spin is one of the harder arts to master.

Which is why getting two young and quality wrist spinners is like striking gold. India have two established and vastly different wrist spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Both have become integral members of India’s white-ball teams and will continue to make an impact for a long time to come.

Sri Lanka are not far behind. The country that produced the original mystery spinner – Ajantha Mendis – now has two wrist spinners who can lead the new age in the country’s spin department.

Right arm spinner Akila Dananjaya is a phenomenon. “He is made of steel,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said after the right arm spinner picked up 6-29 in the fifth ODI against South Africa that secured a 178-run win in Colombo.

Dananjaya had been smashed for 81 runs as the Proteas took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five match series. After the Test series win, it was a setback for the hosts.

Dananjaya didn’t get flustered even when he went for 10 an over in three overs in the next ODI, which Sri Lanka won. The Proteas are always susceptible to quality wrist spin and the 24-year-old proved that in the final match of the series.

Sandakan (l) and Dananjaya.

Sandakan (l) and Dananjaya.

“Akila knows what he’s doing with the ball. It’s hard to take on someone like this when he has so many variations up his sleeve,” South Africa captain Quiton de Kock said of his six-for. “We have batted well against him in this series, but today he bowled really well.”

And that is what quality wrist spin is all about. You think you have it figured out but someone like Dananjaya bowls classic off-spin, leg spin and googlies with almost the same action. You are going to struggle against him.

Last year, bowling in just his third ODI, Dananjaya picked up 6-54 against India and even though he still ended up on the losing side, the spinner had embarrassed top class batsmen like Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma.

His action is deceptive, plus he bowls with a full sleeve, meaning batsmen have very little chance of picking him with certainty if he gets the line and dip going. In 24 ODIs, he already has two six-wicket hauls.

The other spinner who has emerged for Sri Lanka is Lakshan Sandakan. A more classic left-arm wrist spinners, Sandakan picked up three wickets in one over in the one-off T20 against the Proteas which the hosts won.

Left arm wrist spinners are the ‘It’ boys and Sri Lanka can afford to invest as much time as they want to polish Sandakan.

However, it is Dananjaya who offers the most, not only with his variations but with the bat as well. As you can guess, he is an obdurate batsman as well with one ODI fifty. He promises to be the complete package that can carry the country’s spin burden.

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