Daily Dhaka Times: Nuwan Kulasekara might not be a tearaway, but the right-arm medium-pacer is regarded as one of the best swing bowlers currently playing cricket. Although he made his international debut back in 2003, with Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga ruling the roost, it took the natural swing bowler quite some time to establish his presence in the Sri Lanka team.
Kulasekara is a late bloomer, but has rapidly risen to the top. For someone who loved playing with a tennis ball and hadn’t bowled with a leather ball until the age of 17, it has been quite a journey for the 33-year-old Kulasekara who now has 182 ODI, 48 Test and 46 T20I wickets under his belt.
Despite his early debut, Kulasekara was made to wait for a regular spot in the side with Vaas, Dilhara Fernando and Malinga leading the Lankan attack. However, after Vaas’ retirement and Malinga’s inconsistent displays, Kulasekara seized the opportunity with both hands and emerged as a top bowler.
Although he tasted World T20 success in 2014, he was also an unfortunate member of the Sri Lanka squad that lost the finals of World Cup 2007, World T20 Championship 2009, World Cup 2011, and World T20 Championship 2012.
In 2008, Kulasekara bagged 47 wickets which propelled him to the top spot in the ICC ODI rankings for bowlers and since then, has been an integral part of Sri Lanka cricket. Kulasekara is currently playing for Comilla Victorians in the Bangladesh Premier League 2015.
He arrived after the first two matches but made his presence felt straight-away taking three wickets for eight runs against Barisal Bulls. He followed it up with his best T20 figures of 4/12 and 2/31 in the next game.
His performance in his maiden BPL appearance has proved pivotal behind Comilla’s success so far, a mediocre team on pen and paper that leads the six-team points table despite facing hurdles of injuries.
On the eve of their five-wicket win over Chittagong Vikings at the ZACS on Thursday, which took them to the top of the chart, the humble Kulasekara spoke to Dhaka Tribune and shared his thoughts on the BPL and memories from the game he loves.
Before arriving you didn’t get many wickets in your last few T20 games. Back in rhythm?
I think so, yes. I was struggling earlier, but after picking wickets I think the rhythm is automatically coming back. Very happy for the 4/12, my best first-class figures, it’s special.
Playing alongside Mashrafe bin Mortaza and his leadership, how is the experience?
He’s a very good guy, both on and off the field. Mashrafe has a good captaincy knowledge, motivates the players very much. Off the field, he’s also a funny guy. Great personality.
Mashrafe led the team despite being injured, the squad also have a few injuries, how difficult has it been to cope with the setbacks?
It’s very difficult, especially for the captain of the side. When a bowler gets injured on field, the captain has to make new plans as the bowling quota of four overs also needs to be bowled. It’s a pressure situation, but Mashrafe has been fantastic.
How would you rate your Comilla teammate and bowling partner Abu Haider Rony? Does the left-arm pacer seek bowling advice?
Rony is a very talented bowler. He has pace, swing, variation. He has an excellent future I reckon. Good prospect for the Bangladesh national cricket team. He tries to learn everything. He asks me, other seniors, foreign players. Rony is a good learner.
Tell us something about your Pakistani teammate Ashar Zaidi and his impact on the team.
Well, I haven’t met him before. He played in the UK and has a lot of experience. Zaidi is an asset for our team. A very confident player. The way he played so far, he is almost like a local player here. He is a fighter sort of a player and has good knowledge and cricketing brain.
How did your journey with cricket begin? Any cricket idol or someone you follow?
I played softball (tennis ball) cricket initially when I was young, loved playing with softball. It is a nature in Sri Lanka, many big names were also softball players in their youth. Slowly I was attracted to playing with leather ball, but it was a lot later.
I followed a few cricketers, especially Vaas because he was also a very good swing bowler. But I never tried to be like someone. You see, you can follow, but can’t be that person. I have my own natural talent and I worked on my strengths and planned my own way. I cannot be like Vaas, Brett Lee or Lasith Malinga. I have the same bowling action from childhood and I worked according to my natural abilities.
Test, ODI or T20?
As a cricketer, Test cricket is my favourite. It’s the real cricket according to me. ODI and T20 came a lot later. Who knows, six-a-side is there, there can be even 10-10 over format in future, but Test is the real cricket. Although, I do feel comfortable playing all the formats.
Best memory in international cricket?
It was in Lord’s, the first Test against England in 2006. Me and Vaas, we batted for around three and a half hours after lunch and saved the Test. (Kulasekara scored 64 off 133 balls batting at No 10 while Vaas scored an unbeaten 50. Their 105-run stand saved the match for Sri Lanka by the scant margin of a wicket).
Your opinion on Mustafizur Rahman?
Mustafizur has a good future. He however, needs a lot more strength I think. He will build it up with time. Variation-wise he is learning I think. With time he should get better.
Australia cancelled their tour last month citing security reasons. You have come here earlier for international cricket, playing the BPL now, how do you feel?
Well, I found it pretty safe in my previous visits, at the moment there is no problem I feel. I do know what security reasons they had, but its ok here, I feel. The nation loves cricket, good people, they love the Sri Lankan guys especially. I always have a good time here.