By Ronan Alexander
Today sees the third edition of the Lanka Premier League get underway with Jaffna looking to make it a hat-trick of consecutive titles. The tournament consists of five franchises who will each play each other twice in the group stages, with the top four sides progressing to the knockout phase which includes an eliminator (3rd v 4th), qualifier (1st v 2nd and the winner makes the final), then the winner of the eliminator and loser of the qualifier meet in a semi-final. Each team has six overseas players, four of which can play in the Starting XI.
2021 seen Samit Patel and Maheesh Theekshana finish joint top of the wicket taking charts with 16 each and Kusal Mendis of Galle Gladiators ending as top run scorer with 327. The 2021 LPL was the competition which has seen the most spin bowling used, with 55% of overs bowled by spinners, meaning Jaffna’s duo of Theekshana and Wanindu Hasaranga led them to the title although the latter has made the switch to Kandy Falcons. Kandy had the least wickets taken by spinners last season (22), so the addition of Hasaranga should help rectify this issue. With spin being key, overs 12-16 were the hardest to bat, as this phase saw the lowest batting economy rate, boundary percentage and highest balls per dismissal other than the death overs. The best domestic boundary hitters in 2021 were Thisara Perera, Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Charith Asalanka, Chamika Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal. In terms of bowlers who were boundary preventors, Afghan duo Noor Ahmad and Naveen ul-Haq were the best in this department. For a deeper dive into the 2021 campaign, check out this tournament review by @Haarrre: https://harryl14.medium.com/lanka-premier-league-review-ba9d3b351117?source=social.tw
2021 by phase
Young Guns to watch
Chamindu Wickramsinghe (Dambulla Aura)
Was part of the Sri Lanka U19 World Cup squad, able to operate as a left-hand opening batter as well as down at number 7, and bowl some right arm seam, taking the new ball. High potential as an all-rounder with him being able to take on important roles at the start of both innings. Likes to punch and is strong down the ground. Short balls and playing spin are where he will be most challenged.
Shevon Daniel (Damulla Aura)
Another left-handed batting all-rounder for Dambulla. Daniel will more likely operate in the middle order. A good player of spin, he likes to play down the ground and uses the reverse sweep. When he pulls, he goes aerial so it will be interesting to see how teams use the short ball against him. Also bowls some useful matchup off-spin which could be useful on these surfaces.
Dunith Wellalage (Jaffna Kings)
The biggest upcoming star in Sri Lankan cricket. Elegant left-hand batter who will bat between 6-8. Likes to slog sweep and isn’t afraid to use his feet when the ball is turning away from him. His left arm spin will also be crucial, supporting attack leader Theekshana. Already made his mark in ODI cricket and will be hoping this tournament will propel him into the Sri Lankan T20 side.
Matheesha Pathirana (Kandy Falcons)
Best known for his action which replicates Lasith Malinga. Comes off the back of an impressive Abu Dhabi T10, although he did pick up a knock so may miss a period of the tournament. Will likely be a mainstay in franchise competitions in years to come.
Check out our magazine for detailed young player profiles: https://scoutingcricket.com/magazine/
Last season: 3rd group, 4th overall
A good overall XI with strong domestic batters, good overseas middle order players, Naveen leading the seam attack and Seekuge Prassana as the go-to spinner. However, their overseas recruitment doesn’t seem the best. Many play a similar role and Prassana will have a lot on his shoulders as the only stand out spinner.
Last season: 4th group, 3rd overall
A good middle order and seven bowling options in the XI looks good, but the top of the order could be where they falter. There will be a big reliance on Rajapaksa to kick start the innings before their middle order look to capitlise on the toughest periods of the game. They initially had Tim Seifert and D’arcy Short drafted, but with them no longer featuring, they didn’t replace them with like-for-likes, so it’s difficult to see how they fit in Jordan Cox and Tom Abell and leaves them short of opening options. Noor Ahmad and Sikandar Raza are shrewd additions and Paul van Meekren was a standout in the World Cup, but their replacement overseas recruitment leaves a lot to be desired.
Last season: Runners up
A strong Pakistan contingent with all six overseas players hailing from there, as Galle aim to go one better from last year. However, their spin trio of Noor Ahmad, Samit Patel and Mohammad Hafeez who were all so effective last year, grabbing 29 wickets between them with them and all having an economy of 6.66 or less have all departed. This means Imad Wasim and Sachindu Colombage have big shoes to fill. Prolific opener last year Danushka Ganuthilaka is reportedly injured which leaves a hole in their batting unit. Skipper Kusal Mendis was impressive last year, averaging 61 and striking at 162 in the powerplay. Azam Khan is an excellent addition, with Mohammad Hasnain and Nuwan Thusara leading the seam attack.
Last season: Winners
Having won both editions of the competition so far, Jaffna are looking to make it a third despite losing talisman Wanindu Hasaranga. Their batting unit looks excellent. Intent merchant Rahmanullah Gurbaz up top with Avishka Fernando, with them also having in form Tom Kohler-Cadmore in the side. He finished second top run scorer in the recently concluded Abu Dhabi T10 with 289 runs @48.2, striking at 192.7, making him batter of the tournament as his side Deccan Gladiators were crowned champions. Shoaib Malik who has success in this tournament previously will be joined by Dhananjaya da Silva in the middle before Thisara Perera and Jimmy Neesham will look to add the finishing touches at the back end of the innings. Perera had a strike rate of 190 last year. Nobody else who faced at least 50 balls achieved more than 155. In a league of his own on that front.
Maheesh Theekshana will lead the attack with local seamers Jayawickrama and Madushanka who played their part in Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign. Perhaps most excitingly, they have arguably the best local youngster in all-rounder Dunith Wellalage who bowls economical left arm spin and adds value with the bat to balance the side. Look like the team to beat again.
Last season: 5th
Aiming to improve on last years basement finish, they have a much-changed squad this time round. Their batting isn’t as strong as other sides, but they do have good depth and potential to explode at the death. With Pathirana picking up an injury in the T10, their seam attack could also be an issue and Hasaranga will have a big workload ahead of him with bat and ball.