Wanindu Hasaranga is second in the ICC rankings for T20I bowlers. However, he has not been able to replicate that form in the ODI format, in which he is ranked 26. More than the rankings, the leg-spinners’ lack of wicket-taking effectiveness in the 50-over game has been exposed in the ongoing ODI series against India.
He has gone wicketless in the first two games, going for 67 and 28 runs respectively. Despite being economical in Kolkata in the second match, he was found wanting when Sri Lanka desperately needed wickets trying to defend a target of 216. The Sri Lankan seamers had done well to send four top-order Indian batters to the pavilion but Hasaranga failed to capitalise on that start and let K L Rahul and Hardik Pandya play him out without much trouble.
Hasaranga has taken 89 wickets at an average of 15 from 55 T20I matches. He was the leading wicket-taker in last year’s T20 World Cup with 15 wickets. With 26 wickets, he was second among the highest wicket-takers in the Indian Premier League (IPL). These numbers are in stark contrast to his ODI stats; 39 wickets from 36 games at an average of 37.
He made his debut in the format with a stellar performance bagging a hat-trick against Zimbabwe in 2017 and thus becoming only the third debutant in ODI history to achieve the feat. However, he has failed to live up to that promise in the format since then.
In T20 cricket, when the batters are under pressure to score at a rapid rate, he induces mistakes more frequently to dismiss them. The googly is his go-to weapon with which he has taken a large chunk of his wickets, either bowled or LBW. Bowling mostly alongside Maheesh Theekshana, a miserly customer, also has been a factor in Hasaranga’s success in the T20-over game.
Hasaranga has a creditable economy rate of just 5.05 in ODIs but when batters do not have to take undue risk in search of runs, he has not been able to prise them out, something Kuldeep Yadav has been doing for India, giving them crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs.
In the pre-match press conference, Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood, when asked about Sri Lankan spinners’ ineffectiveness compared to their Indian counterparts, said, “Spin has been our strength in T20Is for a while. It will continue to be our strength, In 50-over cricket, with more time there, they have to learn to vary their lengths. It requires a different type of skill set. We have some very good spinners in this format too. If anything that they are missing, it is the experience. When they come back for the World Cup, they will know what lines and lengths they will have to bowl and they will be richer for the experience.”
Come Sunday, Hasaranga has one more chance to put his learnings into practice and help Sri Lanka register a consolation win.