- Avishka Fernando (Sri Lanka)
When the Sri Lankan squad for the World Cup was announced, the evident inexperience in the batting department was immediately identified as its Achilles’ heel. It was a very bold—and even considered by many as stupid—move to overlook names like Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga for a World Cup squad and naturally, nobody gave Sri Lanka much of a chance.
Despite having won just one of their nine ODIs in 2019 prior to the start of the World Cup, the fact that Sri Lanka finished sixth on the points table with eight points from seven games (two of their matches were washouts), owes largely to the contributions of two players in particular—veteran pace-bowler Lasith Malinga and twenty-one-year-old batsman Avishka Fernando.
In all, he got to play just four matches, but his contributions in those four matches were central to Sri Lanka’s turnaround in the tournament, even though they couldn’t eventually make the semis. Coming in at three, his stroke-filled maiden international hundred (104 off 103 balls) against the Windies at Chester-le-Street helped the Lankans post a massive 338-6 on the board which, even for a marauding Windies batting line-up, was going to be a very difficult chase. Eventually, the Windies fell short by 23 runs, enabling Fernando thereby to win his first ODI Man of the Match award.
A naturally aggressive batsman that he is, Fernando finished on top of the list for the highest strike-rates by number three batsmen in the tournament with a strike-rate of 107.1. With the next edition of the World Cup slated to be held in India, where the conditions are much similar to those found in Sri Lanka, Fernando—if he remains consistent—is likely to be a vital member of the Sri Lankan team in the four years that follow.
Tournament stats: 4 matches, 203 runs, Avg. 50.75, S/R 105.72, HS 104