Having just had a stellar series against South Africa, Sri Lankan Test opener Dimuth Karunaratne has expressed his intent to cash-in on his magnificent form and score a lot of runs for his country in the coming months.
Playing one of Test Cricket's best knock in the recent times with his 158* in the first innings at Galle, Karunaratne followed it up with scores above 50 in the rest of the series to amass a total of 356 runs. South Africa basically lost this series to spin but even with the bat, Karunaratne ensured there was no respite for the visitors.
He now has 8 Test hundreds, having at least once hit the triple-figure mark against Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and South Africa since the start of 2017. At the end of the second Test in Colombo, he said, "My personal goal that I would be happy with is to get to 20 to 25 Test hundreds, and hopefully one day I will get there, I want to be a match-winning performer and give my best. When I do that ranking will automatically come."
Recently, Karunaratne had to give the series in West Indies a miss due to lack of match practice after having just recovered from a hand injury suffered in May and was instead sent to Bangladesh with the A squad for the two unofficial Tests. He thinks it turned out to be a blessing in disguise before this series against South Africa and said, "Actually, when the West Indies Tests started, I was fit. But I didn't have any match practice behind me. So the selectors told me to be fit for South Africa series and wanted me to play Bangladesh games. That was a good call, because even when I started playing in that series, I wasn't too confident in my body. I was fearful that the hand might break again. But once I spent a couple of hours at the crease, I started to feel like it was okay, and I sort of slipped into my natural game."
Being a Test specialist, Karunaratne doesn't have any cricket for the next three months before England arrives for a 3-Test series in November. He talked about this and said, "That's the biggest challenge for someone who is a Test specialist - you have to go months without a game. This time, since the Bangladesh A matches were there, I could get back to form. Breaks are good, but I need to be at the top of my game. To get back to being that settled at the crease and to keep that intensity is not easy. But I have done that throughout my career. If there are any domestic matches - any kinds of matches - before the next Test, I will definitely play them."
He credits the hardwork done by his coaches for his success, saying, "I had a few chats with my school coach recently, and Hashan Tillakaratne has been a great help, along with batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, With Hashan, I worked on stuff like the sweep and reverse sweep. Those are must-have shots when fielders are close in. When you play the sweep or reverse sweep, the field spreads."
(Inputs from Cricbuzz)