Monday, July 15, 2024

Jayasuriya comparison inspires me, says Kusal

Someone who scored 772 runs in 30 youth one-day internationals does not often attract any special attention from coaches. But Kusal Janith Perera is an exception. One of the reasons is that he resembles the marauding Sanath Jayasuriya in his batting style. Jayasuriya is a legend not only in Sri Lanka but in world cricket also and the country has long been struggling to find an able replacement for him since his retirement two years ago. With Muttiah Muralitharan already retired and Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan at the twilight of their careers, Sri Lanka are now preparing to enter a transitional period sooner rather than later. The Island nation was, therefore, desperate to unveil some new batting talent and Kusal Perera fits the bill perfectly. Spotted at a young age, he played for every age-group team before being elevated to the senior side in the recent tour of Australia. Kusal, who went to Australia as a replacement of Sangakkara, did not have enough opportunities to show his worth in his first visit, but he did not take too long either. He recently scored a triple century in domestic first-class cricket, which is the first triple ton in Sri Lanka’s 75-year history of local cricket. The 22-year-old prodigious batsman gave an exclusive interview to New Age in Kandy this week. Here are the excerpts:
Q: How did you begin your career as a cricketer?
Kusal Perera: I think it all began when I was 10 or 11 years old. I was attracted to the game in my school academy and soon took the attention of my coaches. They took me in the Under-13 squad and since then it was a smooth journey. I was selected for a tour of Malaysia with the Under-14 squad, did reasonably well and was promoted to the Under-19 team. I played for the Sri Lanka Under-19 team in the 2008 World Cup
Q: You are rated very highly as an attacking batsman. Did you develop this habit from a very young age?
KP: Yes, I am an attacking batsman since my childhood. I like to attack the bowler and can see the ball early. I feel that my hand-eye coordination is also good. I loved it always (to attack) and kept trying it in the practice.
Q: When did people start to call you the new Jayasuriya?
KP: In domestic level, during the first-class matches. Perhaps they saw me similar to Jayasuriya, that’s why may be. I enjoyed this as well. It also encouraged me to do better and better.
Q: When did you first have the opportunity to meet him?
KP: I met him a couple of times before I actually got a chance to play alongside him while I toured with him in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament and batted with him on a couple of occasions. He knew I had quite a few little things similar to him. So he was helpful to me.
Q: What was his first advice?
KP: At first, he did not talk to me personally about it. But when we went to play together he asked me to play my natural game and not change my style. I feel this is the right kind of advice for me.
Q: Jayasuriya is hailed as one of the greats in the game. How does it feel when people compare you with him?
KP: I like the way he plays, but I like to develop my own style. Most of the times when I went out to bat, I think I batted till the end. That’s my goal.
Q: When did you actually start to dream about featuring for the national side?
KP: I was the vice-captain of the (Sri Lanka) ‘A’ team last year. So it is understood that the coaching staff knew my talent. Previously I had a good domestic season as well. I played some consistent cricket, naturally I was expecting a call.
Q: When you got the call-up in the recent tour of Australia as a replacement of Kumar Sangakkara, did it come as a surprise?
KP: It’s a little bit of a surprise, yes. But during that time domestic cricket was going on and I scored some runs, my confidence level was high. So when I went there I did not have any pressure.
Q: You just scored a triple century in domestic cricket. When did you realise it was a record?
KP: I knew no one else scored a triple century in domestic level. So when I came close to it, I was trying to keep my calm. I am happy that I finally made it.
Q: There are a few other attacking batsmen in the world like Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle. Do you follow their game?
KP: Of course I do and I want to see myself in the same league. I know it can’t happen overnight. I have to practice a lot and keep on trying. I am confident I will achieve my goal.

-With New Age input

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