“We have so many match-winners, anyone can win a game for us”: Coach Gunawardene

Thursday, 28 October 2021 04:37 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Trevin Matthew (MoM 1st ODI) 


By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Mahfiul Islam (MoM 2nd ODI)

Raveen de Silva (MoM 4th ODI)

Not many expected Sri Lanka to beat Bangladesh in the Under-19 ODI series simply because the home team were coming out of a long lay-off from international cricket; precisely 18 months, and the players picked from various parts of the country had never played together as one unit. It was during the series that they actually played as a team under the leadership of former Josephian Captain Dunith Wellalage, although they had played a few practice matches ahead in preparation.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, were the reigning Under-19 World Cup champions, and they came to Sri Lanka on the back of a 3-2 ODI series win against Afghanistan Under-19 and started the Sri Lanka series as clear favourites. Both teams were playing the series in preparation for the next U-19 World Cup in January.

Sri Lanka, however, surprised everyone by not only winning the five-match series but whitewashing Bangladesh 5-0, the first time they have achieved this feat in their history at this level.

Sri Lanka’s success was because of the unity with which the team bonded together and the number of match-winners they produced. Each match had a different performer winning it for his team. Off-spinner Trevin Matthew was the match-winner in the first ODI with figures of 4/29, the second ODI, although won by Sri Lanka, the man of the match (MoM) award went to Bangladesh’s opening bat Mahfiul Islam who top scored with 75, Shevon Daniel with an unbeaten 85* as the match-winner in the third ODI, Raveen de Silva with 88 in the fourth ODI and Chamindu Wickramasinghe with a century in the fifth ODI. Daniel with 222 runs (avg. 55.5) and three wickets won the Player of the Series award. Sri Lanka Under-19 Coach Avishka Gunawardene said that having so many match-winners was a plus point but added that there were also other little contributions that went unnoticed which eventually contributed to the victories.

“Wellalage, who took 11 wickets in the series, has been taking crucial wickets in the middle but it goes without getting noticed. There have been four/five run outs. These are small contributions that go without being noticed but add a lot to the result of the game at the end of the day,” said Gunawardene. 

“We always tend to notice the bigger performances but the little contributions in the middle goes unnoticed. On any day, anyone can win the game for you because you have so many match winners in the side.”

Another aspect that has pleased Gunawardene is the way the boys fought back from hopeless situations to win matches.

“One of the biggest plus points that I saw and was pleased with was the manner in which they fought back from hopeless positions. Even the last game, it was almost out of our hands but in the last two/three overs they never gave it up. I always believed they had the confidence that they could win, which is very important moving forward for a unit that is going to play together. There are a few loose ends that we need to tie up before we move into the next series against England, but overall, I am very pleased with the way these guys played together as one unit and in each other’s company, their understanding of each one’s ability.”

“Overall, I can be happy, but I am not an easy person to please when it comes to coaching, I look for almost perfection. I have told that to the players as well because I kept on pushing them very hard. It’s a talented bunch of boys. I want to push them hard and make them better players to get them to peak at the right time.”

Gunawardene rated Bangladesh as “a very dangerous side on their day” and added “they are not a team that anyone should underestimate because they came from a series beating Afghanistan who are no pushovers. They have very good batsmen, and they had a couple of fast bowlers who were much quicker than ours. From the first couple of games, we put them under so much pressure and they just couldn’t come out of it. Credit to all the boys who executed the plans 90%.”


Shevon Daniel (MoM 3rd ODI & MoS)


Chamindu Wickramasinghe (MoM 5th ODI)