Sunday, 11 November 2012

The mystery of Kulasekera

Watching the 4th ODI between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, I was struck by the skill of Nuwan Kulasekera, bowing at Rob Nicol. In his third over, he worked over Nicol, and even with three wides in the over, managed to pick up the wicket with his last ball.

He showcased almost all his skills in just one over, his natural in-swinger swinging big for the first ball, then seaming one slightly away from Nicol, beating the outside edge, and repeating the trick next ball with a lovely out-swinger. He also bowled a couple of good bouncers in-between, which were wided, but would have been fine in a Test match.

He got the wicket with the last ball of the eventual nine ball over, Nicol coming down the track and popping the ball into mid on's hands. The wicket came thanks to the pressure built up through the over, not allowing Nicol a run off the bat, pinning him back with bouncers before beating him with swing and seam.

With such prodigious skill, why has Kulasekera done so averagely throughout his career. His ODI average is high at 33.94 and his Test average is 34.41, having only played 15 matches. It's not as if he is constantly getting better either, his ODI average this year is 41.67 and his Test average is 36.37 He has all the tools to succeed, a big in-swinger, a well disguised straight ball and out-swinger added to his game in recent years, skiddy pace without being all out quick and a decent bouncer.

Maybe he moves the ball too much, sometimes it's the ball that moves a little that takes the wicket. Or maybe it's that the ball swings from the hand, even if he swings it miles, batsmen tend to get bat on it. Perhaps if he used his in-swinger as a shock weapon he'd do better, although as it is his natural ball this seems unlikely for him.

Sri Lanka have the making of a good seam attack, if only they could put it all together, with Lasith Malinga's injuries stopping him playing Tests, Chanaka Welegedera also plagued by injuries, and Kulasekera never quite living up to his promise.

With a good spell of consecutive Test matches, close together – something Sri Lanka won't get for a while – Kulasekera could get into some kind of rhythm. Against Pakistan in 2009 he bowled the most balls in a series by that point in his career, picking up 17 wickets at 15.05. He got that sort of series again against Pakistan, in 2012, and while his performance wasn't great (8 wickets at 36.37) he has the chance in the upcoming Tests against New Zealand to show that he's a good Test bowler.

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