Coach Graham Ford praised Dinesh Chandimal’s attitude and application after the batsman fought tooth and nail to help Sri Lanka take the initiative in the second Test against Bangladesh after losing four wickets cheaply in the first session having elected to bat first.
A stroke-maker, who is keen to keep the scoreboard ticking, Chandimal cut down his natural instincts with the side in trouble as he batted for over five hours and faced 210 deliveries to remain unbeaten on 86 as Sri Lanka reached 238 for seven at stumps on day one.
"It was brilliant to see how Chandi took on the challenge of holding the innings together and he showed how mature a player he’s become. It was a fine example of Test match batting having to recover from a tough situation. It shows the character he’s got," Ford told journalists after day’s play.
Chandimal cemented his place in the side when Ford was doing his first stint as Sri Lanka coach in 2013. The batsman went through a tough series in South Africa recently where he failed to make a half-century in 12 innings before being dropped for the last two games. He was also overlooked for the tour of Australia that followed.
"Chandi is a guy who I always felt pretty close to because he was a young lad when I first came to Sri Lanka in 2013. He had some success early on and he had a wobble after that. He hadn’t known about the talent that he’s got and it was more about reinforcing and reminding the wonderful talent that he’s got. I felt the whole time in South Africa even though he didn’t get a good score. He was hitting the ball extremely well in the nets. The longer you go without a score the more anxious you get."
"He’s the first to admit that quite often than playing himself in, he wanted to play a few ambitious shots wanting to get the scoreboard going or get himself going. He came back and thought a lot about it, worked really hard and in the warm-up game against Bangladesh where he scored 190 not out, he certainly set about taking time to get himself in and that’s the key. He’s a class act," Ford further said.
It looked as if Chandimal had turned a huge corner during the third Test against Australia at SSC last year. Sri Lanka were 26 for five in the first hour of the Test and a 3-0 whitewash looked wishful thinking. But Chandimal turned the game on its head.
He went onto make 132 batting for eight minutes short of eight hours and eventually Sri Lanka recovered to post 355 all out and went onto win the game and the series 3-0. There were big expectations of him in South Africa, but the batsman failed to live up to expectations.
"That innings against Australia at SSC when we were in such big trouble, he had to be very tight early on and the result was a big score. In Durham last summer, in the second innings against England we were in big trouble again and he had to really grind it out and score slowly. Reminding him of playing himself in has been the factor that has changed his batting," Ford further said.
"Unfortunate thing for him was that he had this injury after the Australia series. He was going really well and then he had the injury. He was out of the game for quite a while. I am sure had he made the Zimbabwe trip, he would have got some good momentum going into the South African series with a few good scores under the belt. As it turned out, he arrived in South Africa having played one club game. He hadn’t been able to put in quality practice for a while because of the injury. In a way he was playing catch up to get back to the form that he had against Australia."