Of the 198 legal deliveries Wanindu Hasaranga has bowled in the LPL, a staggering 97 – almost half – have been dot balls. Even when batsmen have attempted to go after his bowling, they have not been able to sustain any sort of assault, only 17 boundaries having come off Hasaranga’s bowling all tournament. That’s only one more than the number of LPL wickets Hasaranga has.
That Hasaranga is easily the highest wicket-taker in the tournament – he has four more dismissals than the next-best, Qais Ahmad – is perhaps well known. His economy rate, though, is perhaps even more impressive. He has gone at only 5.27. No other bowler with a wicket in this tournament has gone at less than a run-a-ball.
“When I bowl a lot of dot balls, I’m able to put pressure on the batsman, and force him into a bad shot to get his wicket,” Hasaranga told ESPNcricinfo on the eve of the final. “I bowled wicket-to-wicket and really tried to bowl dots, and I think that’s given me success.”
Hasaranga had made his Sri Lanka debut as far back as mid-2017, taking a hat-trick against Zimbabwe in his first ODI. But it was not until late in 2019 that he debuted in T20 internationals, and became a more regular feature in the white-ball team. In the time away from the national side, he said he worked on his control, and honed his googly, which has been devastating in the LPL.
“In the time I was out of the team, I played a lot of domestic cricket and I really focused on my bowling, Hasaranga said. “I knew that if I could improve that a lot, I could get a spot in the team. More than technical stuff, I worked out how to turn the ball a little more, and I wanted to be able to bowl six balls exactly to where I wanted it to go. I also worked on my googly. I wanted to improve the googly to such an extent that I could even bowl it as the first delivery of the match. Anyway, naturally, my googly and my legbreak come out the same, so I think that’s why the batsmen have found it tough to pick.”
Aside from lighting up the LPL with his legspin, Hasaranga has also been a part of one of the tournament’s most heartwarming stories. As part of their wider vision to uplift cricket in Jaffna, Stallions had fielded Jaffna local Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, a 19-year-old legspinner, in three league matches. Hasaranga, the senior legspinner, was seen constantly giving Viyaskanth advice during those games. He had also mentored Viyaskanth during Stallions’ training sessions.
“On the first day we had training, I didn’t know who he was,” Hasaranga said of Viyaskanth. “I just watched him and thought he was bowling really well. So then after that, the little things I was able to tell him, I did. He bowled really well in the matches that he got. From my side, I did as much as I could for him. I think he’s a player with a big future. He’s a talented bowler, and from the first match itself he handled pressure really well.”