Dhananjaya de Silva, bats four, but prefers seven


Rex Clementine reporting from Johannesburg

Long earmarked as a quality batsman with a sound technique and an appetite for big runs, Dhananjaya de Silva’s big moment in his career came when he made his Test debut against Australia last year at Pallekele. At the age of 24, he wasn’t intimidated by the World Champions as he went onto accumulate 325 runs in the series with an average of 65. No other batsman from either side had scored more than 300 runs in that series and he finished with the most aggregate and the best average as Sri Lanka whitewashed Australia 3-0.

After a dream start, Dhananjaya has found it tough going here in South Africa. Like the rest of his team-mates his skill to counter the moving ball has been found wanting. He has 112 runs in four innings so far with a best score of 42.

Dhananjaya opens batting for his club Tamil Union and although he batted at number seven for the national team initially, it was very clear that it was just a matter of time before he was asked to shoulder more responsibility in the batting department.

For the New Year Test in Cape Town, he was promoted to number four. Dhananjaya sees complete contrasts in the two batting positions and says that he has to adjust his mindset accordingly.

"When I batted at seven, a lot of the time, my job was to bat with the tail. I often tried to score quick runs because the tail is vulnerable and we need to get as many as possible for the team. When I go second drop, sometimes I can’t play my strokes, because I’m trying to play a long innings," he observed.

He doesn’t find batting at four too tough, but says that he prefers to stay at seven. "It’s not much of a difference because I’m an opener in the club and in the ‘A’ team. It’s not too different a thing for me."

"I’ve played seven in lots of matches and I think that’s a position in which I can get some runs. At number four, it’s a different role. We have to stay in the wicket and get some runs. I prefer number seven."

Cricketers at times have to abide by tough decisions. They may not like it initially but eventually it will pay off. Take the case of legendary Kumar Sangakkara. He gave up wicket keeping reluctantly in 2006 but eventually ended up as the best batsman of his era. And the numbers don’t lie. As a wicketkeeper batsman, Sanga averaged 40 in Tests. But as a specialist batsman his average was a mindboggling 66. Let Dhananjaya continue at four.

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