'Seeing the new ball off is very important': Silva reminds selectors of his value

By Daniel Alexander | April 22, 2018

With a first-class average above 45 after nearly 200 matches and already three Test centuries under his belt, 31-year-old Kaushal Silva is one of the most-accomplished openers in Sri Lankan domestic cricket. He spoke with Island Cricket's Daniel Alexander on his cricket career, his recent performances and the change to his batting style, as he works on his comeback to Test cricket.

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When did you develop an interest in cricket and how supportive was your family?

From my younger days, cricket has played a big role in our family. My father is a cricket coach and he was my first coach. He would take me to his private coaching school. That's how I started my cricket career. I then represented S.Thomas' College at all age groups and captained in all.

What is your most-memorable performance in school cricket?

I scored 160 not out against D.S. Senanayake College when I was 17. That innings proved to me my capabilities.

What was it like when you got the chance to play for Sri Lanka and what is it like to be a professional cricketer in Sri Lanka? What are the challenges players face?

It was my childhood dream to represent my country. Since I grew up in a cricketing family, my father was behind me all the way, and even now he corrects me whenever he sees anything I'm doing wrong — I feel very privileged and honored to represent my country at the international level.

Being a professional sportsman is tough and you have to sacrifice a lot. Hours of hard work have to be put in. You have to train day in and day out. You have to change your lifestyle. You have to maintain a good diet. Players are often away from family for prolonged periods too, but when your hard work pays off for you, that's where you get the reward.

Have you always been an opening batsman?

Not really. I was batting at number-three at SSC and that helped me negotiate the new ball. When Tillakaratne Dilshan announced his retirement from Test cricket, his slot was vacant. I was scoring lot of runs at the domestic and A-team level, so I got the opportunity to open. I had no choice but to say 'yes' because that was the only place which was vacant for a top-order batsman. I believe I'm more of a batsman than a wicket-keeper. But, unfortunately for me, I was thought of as a keeper-batsman in the initial stages of my career.

What are your strengths as a Test opening batsman?

I think my biggest strength is my temperament and ability to score big hundreds. I think my main role is to see the new ball off and lay a good foundation for the innings. That is very important at Test level. Once you lay the foundation, it gets easier for the rest of the batters.

You have kept wickets for Sri Lanka in Tests and you've also been brilliant in close-catching positions, which do you prefer?

When I started to open the batting, it was bit tough for me to keep wickets. In Test matches, when you keep for longer periods it's tough to refresh yourself even if your very fit. I'm still available as a reserve keeper when the team needs me. Because I have kept wickets, I have the flexibility and my hand-to-eye coordination is good, so I thought it's good to field close in so that I can create more opportunities for our spinners. I like both.

You played in Sri Lanka's first-ever pick ball Test match, what is the difference playing against the pink ball in Tests?

It was a great experience and that was for me a big challenge. I hardly play ODIs and in our domestic games we don't play under lights. To get used to play under lights was bit tough but we had few sessions under lights and it was ok. When you play with the pink ball, especially under lights, it does swing a lot. I had to work hard on my technique. That experience was unforgettable, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You scored a brilliant 115 against Australia in 2016 when Sri Lanka whitewashed Australia, can you talk us through that performance?

Before that series started, I was batting really well. The tour to UK was very successful for me. I was the highest run-getter in that series and became the man of the series as well. But, unfortunately, in the first two games against Australia I couldn't do well and so I was under pressure. I knew if I got a start I could capitalise. In the third Test against Australia, I didn't score in the first innings, and then, while I was feilding I split my webbing attempting a catch. I had to bat with six stitches in my top hand. That innings I think is my best so far. Mainly because I was under immense pressure plus I went to bat with an injury. I was facing one of fastest bowlers of all time too. I like to take on these challenges. I wanted to show my character. I think everyone saw from my celebration after reaching my century how tough and how hard it was me and how much it meant to me.

Seeing off the new ball, is that part of a team plan and is it your main role in the XI?

Yeah, it is. That is one of the main reasons for my success and the team's success too. When we tour countries like England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, seeing the new ball off is very important. You're up against the best fast bowlers in conditions that suit them and the opposition is playing at home; for an opening batsmen to tackle, that is very tough. You need to have special skills and the ability for it. That is part of my role and the team needs me to do it. Once I get set, it's my duty to capitalise on it and make it count.

You have been in and out of the national side, does that break the rhythm of a player?

Being in and out of the side does break a player's rhythm. When you are continuously playing, then you get more confidence and automatically your performances also go up.

You have scored three Test centuries but you have also wasted good starts after doing all the hard work, do you feel you should work on that?

I believe I have to work on that. Being an opener, when you get a start, you should go for a big one. I think that is one area that I have worked on this season; how to change gears once I get set. That helps you and your team as well. Yeah, I have missed out on three centuries. I have got out twice in the 90s and once in the 80s. I really regret that now.

Have you been working on improving your strike-rate?

I changed my approach this year but not with the new ball. Once I get set, I've tried to be bit more aggressive. I developed some shots during my training sessions and it paid off in the domestic games I played this year. I got a double-hundred and two centuries at a strike-rate of 80. I think the strike-rate is important nowadays. If you can put pressure on the bowler, you can get more loose balls out of them. It will create opportunities for your batting partner too.

How hard are you working on earning a national recall?

I am giving my best effort to get a recall. I have set myself goals that I want to achieve.There are things that I control. I will focus on those things and work hard on it to get a recall.

One criticism we hear often is that the quality of Sri Lanka's domestic cricket is poor and players are struggling to bridge the gap between our first-class level and international cricket. What are your thoughts on this?

It is true. The standard of club cricket has gone down. Players have gone to different clubs and opportunities have been created for players to go and play anywhere they want. Some players have chosen to go overseas as well, so the standard has certainly gone down. You can't judge a player by one season though. They have to perform well continuously for three to four years to get them the A-team or national call-up. By the time a player gets a national call-up, they should have experienced at least three to four first-class seasons. The provincial structure however is very good. It helps the players improve, as the quality is better and more competitive. The batters don't get to score easily and bowlers have to work hard for their wickets.

What is your most memorable performance in domestic and international cricket?

In domestic cricket, I single-handedly won a championship final by scoring a 171 against Moors Sports Club. For Sri Lanka, the century I got against Australia in Test cricket is the most- memorable for me.

Who has been the toughest bowler to bat against?

James Anderson

Who is your all-time favorite batsman and bowler?

Batsman: Aravinda De Silva. Bowler: Muttiah Muralitharan

Your thoughts on Sri Lanka's new head coach Chandika Hathurusingha?

I have worked with him, when he initially came in as the A-team coach. I learnt a lot from him when I was with him. He always backs the players and give the confidence they need. He treats each player differently. That's his skill and management style. I believe he can change things for Sri Lanka. He has that ability and he has proven that over the past few years. It won't happen in a day or two, but it will definitely happen. I'm confident that he will contribute his knowledge to take our team forward.

© Island Cricket

Comments

Big Sam's picture
Member since:
7 June 2017
Last activity:
22 hours 28 min

Kaushal Silva is probably the weakest opener ever to play for Sri Lanka in tests (considering batsman who played more than 20 matches as an opener). He scores loads of runs against weak club bowlers but struggles against genuinely quick fast bowlers in international cricket. The vast gap between his test and first class averages is evident for his failure at the highest level.

(Last edited by Big Sam on April 24, 2018 - 03:43)

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