MELBOURNE: Sri Lankan batting legend Mahela Jayawardene is mighty impressed with the rise of Wanindu Hasaranga as he sees traits of pace bowling great Lasith Malinga in the 25-year-old spin allrounder.
Hasaranga, who plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, hogged the limelight in the 2021 T20 World Cup in UAE when he topped the charts with 16 wickets — the most in a tournament.
He then played an instrumental role both with the bat and ball in their Asia Cup triumph to rise to world number 4 in the allrounder’s rankings.
“The way he has blossomed… he’s also from down south, quite close to where Lasith was (Galle) and they have similar mannerisms,” Jayawardena said in the ICC Review.
“The way they both came out, they started their careers quietly — you know, sat in the corner of the dressing room — and little by little they grew. The hairstyles changed, the tattoos came out and the whole thing.
“It (Hasaranga’s development) is quite similar to how Lasith became who Lasith was, and that’s how I see the way Wanindu has blossomed as a player.”
The biggest similarity between the two is their fierce competitiveness, said Jayawardene, who is now working as Sri Lanka’s consultant coach.
“The most important thing is, once they cross the field, like Lasith, he is a competitor – that’s what I love about him,” he said.
At the Asia Cup, Hasaranga was the second-highest wicket-taker — nine scalps — and also chipped in with 66 runs to be adjudged Player-of-the-Tournament.
He also played an instrumental role — 36 and 3/27 — in their final win over Pakistan.
“In the last 12 months, he has shown how mature he is — not just as a bowler but with the bat as well. In tough situations, he has really come and delivered,” Jayawardena said.
“But as a leader in that group, even if he doesn’t have the title as the vice-captain or the captain or anything like that, underneath all of that he has become a leader who all the young guys look up to.”
Jayawardena has known Hasaranga since he was a 19-year-old, thanks to former team-mate Chaturanga de Silva, Hasaranga’s brother.
“To be honest, his brother was actually playing cricket while we were playing cricket as well,” Jayawardena said.
“So Wanindu was much younger, was playing Under-19 cricket when we were finishing off and then he started playing first-class cricket.
“We always knew that this guy can bowl and bat, but we never knew the quality of bowler he could turn out to be. I mean initially, he didn’t have the accuracy but he always had some X-factor about him, how he went about things.
“That’s where Sri Lanka invested in him when he was quite young, especially in white-ball cricket.”
Sri Lanka won their first warm-up match against Zimbabwe by 33 runs on Tuesday.
They will next take on Ireland in their final warm-up match on Thursday before facing Namibia in their T20 World Cup opener in a Group A fixture.

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By Dipak

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