Hyderabad: He was talked up as one of Sri Lanka's future stars even before his debut. He made two centuries in his first six ODIs, including one at Lord's. Life could not have got better for Dinesh Chandimal at 21. It didn't, and came crashing down suddenly. He was dropped after only three indifferent outings in the home ODI series against Australia and is now looking at the Champions League Twenty20 qualifier as a potential launching pad for a national comeback.
"This tournament is definitely very important for me," Chandimal said in Hyderabad. "It could help me make the Sri Lankan side more regularly."
His shy smile didn't disappear, but there was hurt in his eyes when the word 'dropped' was mentioned. Twenty-one is not an age when a cricketer becomes adept at diplomacy or eloquence, but Chandimal was. "That's the selectors' call," he said. "I can only focus on my game and can't do much otherwise."
It wasn't the low scores but the manner of his dismissals against Australia that was worrying. On all three occasions, he chased and edged deliveries outside the off stump. What went wrong? "You see, my normal position is No. 3 but I came in at No. 5 [twice] against Australia. But I know that I have the potential. I am ready to play for my country at any position whenever I am selected."
Chandimal has been a wicketkeeper from the beginning, but his batting is so highly rated that he has played a majority of the games in his short international career as a specialist batsman. It is as a keeper, though, that he wants to leave a mark. "I have kept wicket all through my career, right from school level through age-group cricket. I like playing as a keeper-batsman. Keeping is good for my batting as well, as I get to observe from up close how the pitch is behaving.
"I hope to take over from Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara] one day. At the moment, Prasanna Jayawardene is doing very well in Tests, but I would like to keep wicket in Tests as well in the future."
Despite having a first-class average of 58.52, Chandimal's eagerness to keep wicket could mean that he will have to wait for that Test call-up till a vacancy arises behind the stumps. Lahiru Thirimanne, another promising batsman - one who does not keep wicket - was blooded ahead of Chandimal during the Tests against England. Chandimal is prepared to wait. "I expected to be picked for the Australia Tests, but I have a lot of years ahead of me and my time will come."