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Let’s be Frank, Dimuth Karunaratne is one of the very best Test openers in the world

by Divy Tripathi 4 minute read

Let’s be frank: Based on his form over the last few years, Dimuth Karunaratne can walk into any Test side as an opener.

One of the best things about Dimuth Karunaratne’s century against the West Indies was the way he actively looking for runs even after he had scored his hundred and faced more than 200 balls in his innings. Many others would’ve looked to slow down themselves after a good day’s work and return the next day to continue the job. But the Sri Lanka captain was busy ensuring that his side got the most of the day, especially when the energy had been sapped out of the West Indies bowling.

So, there were quick runs, reverse sweeps, and stroke-play filled with watchfulness as well as intent. Along with Dhananjaya de Silva he ensured that the ‘final hour’ pressure was transferred back to the bowling side. With this fine work he remained unbeaten at the end of the day, but in many ways it seems like he has been unbeaten through the year. He averages 84 with the bat, his 132* was his fourth century of the year, and his 13th overall.


With age it seems that Karunaratne has improved but truth be told he was always a special player for Sri Lanka.

His batting average is now close to 40, but that doesn’t show how the left-hander has been a lynchpin of an uncertain batting line-up for close to a decade. He has 5,308 Test runs to his name, and is among the top ten run getters for the country. He’s only 33 years old, and only two Sri Lankans have scored more than 7,000 Test runs, so a few more bumper years will see Karunaratne placed in the very highest echelons among his countrymen.

Early on he was impressive as someone who could battle it out in tough situations. His first Test hundred came while following on at Christchurch. Gradually he started providing big starts to ensure that the Sri Lanka got a firm grasp over the game in the first innings itself.

While, it is true that his average of 29.14 (not including UAE) when touring isn’t the best and he has ordinary numbers in Australia, England, and South Africa despite some good performances, it is also a fact that the southpaw has improved substantially after taking over the captaincy. He averages 52.8 when leading the side, about 16 runs more than he averaged when he wasn’t the skipper.

Since July 2019, he has the best batting average among all openers who have played more than three Tests. Karunaratne has managed to stand out irrespective of opposition and conditions. Thus, his average of over 60 while scoring over 1,200 runs (13 Tests) in that period, is better than Rohit Sharma, David Warner, Tom Latham, and Dean Elgar. This is a marked improvement from his own form as an opener from January, 2017 to June, 2019 – when he scored 1954 runs at 39.08 in 26 Tests.

He has scored hundreds in his last three Tests (including the ongoing contest with West Indies), this run began with a career-best 244 against Bangladesh. Earlier this year, he also managed to withstand the pace of Anrich Nortje, and Lungi Ngidi, to score a brave hundred in a losing cause in South Africa.

Back in 2019, he scored a magnificent fourth-innings hundred at Galle to help his team overcome a spirited New Zealand.

These figures show that the 33-year-old is only getting better with age, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if his average improves even further.

In some ways, his career hasn’t been too different from the final hour’s play discussed above. While the Sri Lanka side hasn’t been at its best through the 2010s, Karunaratne has charted his own course and takes the side along with him whenever he does well.

In short, he has been able to transfer the pressure away from Sri Lanka.

A top-notch player, the Sri Lanka skipper plays a more traditional role as compared to say a Warner or a Rohit but his contribution is no less. If anything it becomes even more important for a side like Sri Lanka which is looking to regain its lost touch.

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