LPL 2022 – Thisara Perera: Jaffna Kings’ goal is to produce new players for Sri Lanka

With four wins out of five in this year’s Lanka Premier League, reigning champions Jaffna Kings are once again shaping up as the team to beat. For Thisara Perera his time with the Jaffna outfit has been among the most successful periods of his career, with the side winning back-to-back LPL titles under his leadership.

Thisara the player too seems to be enjoying his cricket at the moment, despite moving on from Sri Lanka duty in May last year. Even with a workload that saw him take part in several franchise tournaments since retirement, the 33-year-old allrounder feels at the top of his game.

“You won’t get picked if you don’t keep yourself fit and play well,” Thisara said during an online media briefing on Tuesday. “Even in the year since retirement I’ve played in seven or eight franchise tournaments, I think. If you don’t perform you won’t get invited.”

His time with Jaffna has seen him flourish as a leader, his first time in a captaincy role since his unsuccessful stint heading up Sri Lanka between 2017-18. In terms of the keys to his success, Thisara highlights the fact that he likes to get to know what makes his team-mates tick.

“I work well with all the players. I like to think that I know each of their talents from 0-10, and how to get the best out of each of them. You have to talk to each of them different.

“As a group we also learn every day. Even if you take me, I played 13 years for the national side but I’m still learning every day – you don’t stop learning until the day you stop playing. If we can improve even incrementally then we should aim to do that, but our biggest strength is definitely our unity. We all work for each other. We’re all one family.”

Thisara also had words of praise for Jaffna head coach, the former Sri Lanka batter Thilina Kandamby.

“I think it’s an advantage that he played for the national sidebecause he thinks like a player,” Thisara said of a man just seven years his senior. “He’s constantly working with the players, he also has a cricket sense, and it’s easy to work with someone like that.

“Sometimes we’ll come back tired and some coaches will insist on doing a particular task or activity – these are coaches who haven’t played cricket at the highest level. So when we have someone that’s played at a high level, we know he understands the players.”

This season’s success so far has been even more impressive in that it has come without Wanindu Hasaranga, Jaffna’s leading wicket-taker in each of the past two seasons who at the start of the season switched to Kandy Falcons, the only side to have beaten Jaffna in 2022.

Thisara, however, is confident that the younger players will use the LPL as a platform to showcase their skills, and grab the opportunities they’re being presented. Maheesh Theekshana, a mainstay in the Sri Lankan limited overs set-up, was a breakout star in the first edition of the tournament, and this time around Thisara has backed young legspinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth – a player who was barely utilized in the previous editions – to make the step up.

“As a franchise and as a captain, that’s the goal, to produce new faces for the Sri Lanka national team – this time I feel Viyaskanth… he is really talented. I really hope to see him play in the national team in the coming years.”

In terms of his own career, Thisara maintains that his retirement from international cricket came at the right time.

“I don’t think I retired too soon. The reason is I saw that there were several talented players in line behind me, if I hung around I don’t think some of them would have come to prominence. But I know that I can still hold my own against my peers in the national side.

“As for me, I’m just happy to get on with playing my franchise cricket and doing things the Thisara Perera way.”

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