Left rules as Tharanga and Gayle make merry

Published: Thursday, October 12, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Jaipur:Sri Lankan Upul Tharanga and West Indian Chris Gayle have one thing in common - both are left-handed openers giving nightmares to bowlers in the ongoing Champions Trophy.

The Sri Lankan has been batting in what in tennis parlance is known as 'the zone' where a player can do nothing wrong. He has already hit four hundreds and two half-centuries in his last nine one-day internationals since June.

Tharanga upstaged his more illustrious team-mates, scoring 105 against Bangladesh at Mohali and following it up with 110 against Zimbabwe at Ahmedabad in qualifying rounds to help his team move into the main draw.

"When I get 30 or 40, I'd like to convert it into a big one. At present, things are going my way and I'd like to build on this," said the 21-year-old Sri Lankan, named man-of-the-match in successive games.

Gayle also is on song, putting in an impressive all-round show against Zimbabwe (41 and three wickets) before an explosive hundred against Bangladesh under lights here to help his side storm into the next round.

Tharanga and Gayle are not the only southpaws making waves in early rounds, as Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara and West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul also warmed up for the main tournament with a half-century apiece.

Tharanga made his international debut eight months after his home in Sri Lanka's west coast fishing town of Ambalangoda was swept away by the deadly tsunami which killed thousands across Asia on December 26, 2004.

He then shifted base to Colombo where Sangakkara sheltered the talented youngster and gave him his entire cricket kit.

"I don't worry about it (the tsunami) anymore," he said.

"I was not the only one affected. Fortunately, my family survived and I decided to concentrate on my cricket."

Tharanga is not an all-rounder, like Gayle. Nor is he as free-stroking a batsman as his West Indian counterpart, but is second to none when it comes to building an innings.

"He worked hard and showed character to come back. He is learning fast and working hard," said Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene.

Tharanga said batting with veteran Sanath Jayasuriya had always eased the pressure on him.

"I learn a lot from Sanath. I can play my natural game when he is at the other end. The way he bats, I am under no pressure at all," he said.

Gayle is more aggressive than Tharanga, having already established himself as a destroyer of bowlers' line and length with his breathtaking shots on any surface. He has already scored 5,247 runs with 13 centuries.

"Chris is a tremendous player. We know that and he knows the players have great respect for him. He is a very important player of our team," said West Indies captain Brian Lara.

Gayle hopes he maintains his form in the next round.

"Hopefully, I can carry on (in the same vein) in the tournament. I always try to assess a one-day game and be consistent. It is something I am working on consistently," said the Jamaican.

Gayle is also a tidy off-spinner, having bagged 122 wickets.

"There are batting wickets in India, but good spinners can also create a lot of chances," he said.

"I don't concentrate on my bowling, to be honest. My main objective is to bat. I won't really do a lot of work on my bowling, but I am capable enough with the ball whenever my captain asks me to do the job."


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