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Today, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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The new ‘Master Blaster’ in the cricket arena

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Kusal Janith Perera  Kusal Janith Perera Pic by Madusanka Siriwardene

 ‘The Nation’ spoke with new ‘find’ Kusal Janith Perera the hard hitting left-hand opening bat and wicket-keeper who proved he is worthy of a permanent position in the Sri Lanka side during the recent Australian tour. “Kusal shall we begin with how you were able to keep on improving with the bat in the recent T20s played down under and what was behind it all?”

Well, I started my schooling at Dharmapala Vidyalaya Kottawa, where my cricket began with under thirteen cricket. I got selected to tour Malaysia with the under fourteen national side I made that trip twice. Then I got into Royal College Colombo at grade nine level there too I was able to display my abilities upto the under 19 level and was selected to represent the country at the under 19 ‘World Cup.’ Last year I was able to become the ‘Best Bat’ in ‘Premier 1league.’

To be the opening bat in the national side did you open batting in your school days?
I played as a middle-order batsman but opened batting whenever called upon to do so.

Did you imagine then that you would one day be playing in the national side?
Yes, I had great belief. Even from the younger days it was my wish to be a cricketer. So to achieve my target I always played the game hard. When I was playing under 19 cricket I met Dinesh Chandimal. Due to our performances both of us received scholarships to go abroad but could not do it. A few days later Chandimal got into the ‘National Pool.’ I waited for my turn in hope and got it only during the recent Australian tour.

Were you under pressure facing upto the strong Australian attack as an opener?
Since I had already played in one-day games, in T20s I did not encounter any pressure. Those wickets were good for pace bowlers. I went to the wicket with one idea I will make use of the fast wickets and hit hard at the pace bowlers. That way they would not be able to get the better off us since we would not be showing them we were down mentally so I played accordingly disguising that kind of show.

Were you given advice by the senior members of the team?
As a rookie in the side everyone put my mind at ease. Both ‘Aiyas’ Mahela and Dilshan encouraged me saying don’t worry just play your normal game, they never pressurized me. The team was all happy at my aggressive play in some of the games. I was happy with my performance as a rookie.

What did your parents tell you the way you scored runs from the very first time you played?
My mother PV Swarnalatha is a housewife and my father Kithsiri Perera a businessman. My elder brother is Sanjeewa my younger sister is Udara they are not into sports. They were both taken up with my abilities as a cricketer from my young days. They were overjoyed when I entered the national team and delighted when I performed well in my first game. I had their blessings all the way and at all times.

Recently many youngsters were called up for the national squad, but, only a few survived. Is surviving there a challenge to you too?
I agree with you. One gets into the national squad by showing off talent a very difficult exercise. To survive one has to be ever more dedicated and willing to work even harder. I am doing my best to keep up with my training well and keeping my body fitness. You will survive only until you’re performing at top level I believe I can reach that.

Is all-round ability a must for survival in the team?
The inclusion of more all-rounders in the side definitely helps in winning games. But I am better at batting. To fill in the gap I have taken up the role of a hard hitter at batting and being a good wicket keeper.

You will now have to eat better and carefully chose what you eat don’t you?
Yes now those favourite food and drinks have to be limited to keep a well balanced figure. If that is not so it will be difficult to get into the squad: Before a tour there is a fitness test and you have to get through. Therefore I think of these more seriously than before.

To achieve your goals are there cricketers you copy or follow in your life?
Sanath Jayasuriya is my hero I loved the way he played his shots hard. That is why I too like to play my shots hard.

Any future plans?
To improve and showcase my abilities in the cricketing arena by being in the national team and do well and play in it for a long period.

Who are the people who helped you get there with cricket?
My first cricket coach at Dharmapala Kottawa was Duminda Gunasekara sir and especially coach Chulaka Amarasinghe sir at Royal College for helping me to get started. And those who helped me get there I thank them all.

Did you not go under the hammer in the recent IPL auction?
Yes. My name was included and I am happy for that I will get the chance to play with international stars and see it as a good experience. 

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