Mature Chandimal (finally) keeps his promise

Mature Chandimal (finally) keeps his promise

Not just the 162* maniac’s Chandimal, sweeping and knocking Sri Lanka out of a third-inning hole, turning a match impossible to turn against India in 2015. Not just the slow-burning Chandimal – the one that hit 155 out of 372 in Abu Dhabi once, or 132 out of 356 to Columbus. Not just the Chandimal of the dynamic 50s in which it’s up to someone else to finish the job.

In the past eight weeks he has gone big with scores like 206*, 76, 124, 69. At 32, 10½ years after his Test debut, he may have entered his most purple stretch deep. He had a year of 1000 runs and hit hundreds against all opposition except New Zealand and South Africa. But look at this list of rounds. He never really chained scores like that.

Watching him right now is a big drama, because in his best innings are all of his best innings. He’s suddenly a mix of that boyish exuberance that once made Sri Lankan fans giddy, with the added fierceness that comes with having been in some wars (and man, has this guy had any). Exactly A week agohe was cleaning up the front leg, throwing every molecule from every cell into a Mitchell Starc forehand, launching it over the aiming screen, over the fence and onto the road, where he briefly spooked some bystanders.

In that inning, he had hit five sixes and had quite a glorious 64 runs in the company of Nos. 9, 10 and 11. But the first 70 runs of his 206 had been tough. He had stalked and pushed his way through, just intensely attached to the idea of ​​being at the fold. When he had nicked one out of 30, he was hanging around, nonchalant. Maybe he thinks he hasn’t been as lucky in his cricketing life as he deserves. There is an ounce of truth in that.

But it was last Monday in Galle. Today there was no struggle. Just a hitter playing close to his natural ceiling, which for Chandimal is higher than most. Defensive as he launches into the innings, but not laboriously slow.
Inspired by more adventurous teammates like Dhananjaya de Silva to try some big shots himself, but secure enough not to go overboard. The slog sweeps started first – some six of Mohammad Nawaz in quick succession. Then, a period of comfortable buildup, as he let Niroshan Dickwella and Ramesh Mendis attack around him.

But no matter what shot he played, no matter what vibe hit him, Chandimal was on top, ally by the kind of form in which there only seems to be a middle of his bat. For someone with that lavish backswing and the propensity to hit the ball, the helmet wobbling like a school cricketer who’s seen a full pitch or a girl he wants to impress, the ball disappearing from his bat until for it to reappear beyond the boundary is a signal that he sees it as a small planet.

Between the big hits, the Chandimal deadbeat, starting wisely, playing late, committing to a line and letting the ball spin past his edge. However, this best version of Chandimal never gets bogged down. He sweeps before the bowler can get him in trouble. And because of the way he hits him, he hits him.

There are a lot of loaded stories with Chandimal. The captaincies, of the T20 and Test teams, it ended badly. Strained relations with some coaches; too close relationships with others. And, you feel it, a constant need to be loved.

But he is 32 now, and in this team, a kind of former statesman. He’s never beaten better than he is right now. And he entered the years when the best become truly exceptional. If he’s using this season as a springboard to becoming the hitter many thought he would be, who knows? The one thing you’ll learn from Chandimal’s career is that expectations don’t always come true.

All we know is right now he’s beating like the best of him has been condensed, the worst of him has been pruned, and there’s no suitable Sri Lankan hitter to each match situation as appropriate.

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