Perera can emulate his idol Jayasuriya

Not many batsmen tore into bowling attacks like Sanath Jayasuriya -- who possessed great power and hand-eye coordination -- did in the 1996 World Cup. The southpaw’s assaults rattled the confidence of rival teams. Five editions later, a struggling Sri Lanka crave for the kind of brilliance that Jayasuriya exhibited.

Comparisons in sports trigger excitement. It’s a way of staying connected with the original. Kusal Perera is known as the next-generation Jayasuriya. The 28-year-old’s style of batting resembles Jayasuriya’s. Perera has confessed that Jayasuriya is his hero. But it’s one thing to adopt your idol's style and quite another to match his or her feats. Perera, so far in his six-year international stint, has done enough to be Sri Lanka’s key player at the World Cup.

Incidentally, Perera, like Jayasuriya, started off as a middle-order batsman before being promoted to open the innings in ODIs. With his 17-ball half-century against Pakistan in 2015 in Pallekele, Perera equalled Jayasuriya’s record of the joint fastest half-century by a Sri Lankan. Even as Perera cemented his place in the limited overs side with quickfire knocks, his fast-rising career hit a road block when he was provisionally banned by ICC for failing a dope test in 2015.

Ever since he returned to action after a year, Perera has further established his worth in the Lankan side in all formats. And the biggest knock of his career, in a Test match, reinstates the destructive quality he possesses. His stunning 153 not out against South Africa in the first Test in Durban earned him the title of ‘Superman.’ It was a knock of sheer audacity that handed Lanka, who were chasing 304, a thrilling one-wicket win.

“It was unreal,” Sangakkara described the special innings by Perera. Batsmen like Perera can produce game-changing knocks. They can unsettle the rhythm of the opponents. Perera has it in him to inspire the Lankans with his brutal knocks. He will have to step up if Sri Lanka are to go deep in the World Cup.

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