Perera endured a frustrating spell after clubbing the match-winning six to clinch Sri Lanka’s maiden Twenty20 World Cup title in 2014. But he has turned a corner over the last 18 months to become one of its most dependable players.
The 30-year-old is SL’s top-scorer since the start of 2018, with 695 runs in 26 matches. He has also taken 32 wickets in the same period. It all began for Perera at Colombo’s elite St Joseph’s College, but his journey has been far from straightforward.
In 2008, only the intervention of Chaminda Vaas allowed Perera to compete in the season-ending ‘Battle of the Saints’ against bitter college rival St Peter’s, after the teenager failed to show up for day two of an earlier game.
Perera duly turned in a man-ofthe-match display as St Joseph’s won for the first time in more than three decades. A year later, he was fast-tracked into the national team.
Inconsistency with bat and ball left Perera on the fringes of the ODI set-up in 2014, forcing him to consider migrating to New Zealand for regular playing time.
Selectors convinced him to stay by picking him for the 2015 WC, where he managed just 62 runs and six wickets in a campaign that ended in the quarter-finals. Perera’s batting and bowling averages of 20 and 31, respectively, are hardly likely to strike fear into the opposition, but there are signs of a resurgence under head coach Chandika Hathurusingha.
“His batting has certainly improved. But he needs to be a little smarter as he can be too predictable for the bowlers who can set him up,” former Sri Lanka batsman Russel Arnold had said earlier this month.
“I would like (SL) to trust him more with the ball too... that’s where the difference would be.” SL’s 35-run victory over Scotland on Tuesday was its first ODI win of the year.
Though it heads to the WC on the back of series defeats by South Africa and New Zealand, Perera’s form offers a glimmer of hope. His counter-attacking knock of 140 off 74 balls in a loss to NZ in January proved his value. But he will need more support from his teammates if the Lankans are to claim their first 50-over WC since 1996.