Pathum Nissanka
Sri Lanka’s Pathum Nissanka plays a shot during the DP World Asia Cup game against India at the Dubai International Stadium on September 6, 2022. Image Credit: AP

One of the architects of Sri Lankan wins in the DP World Asia Cup has been Pathum Nissanka. Barring a poor outing in the tournament opener, which Sri Lanka lost to Afghanistan, Nissanka has been in his element.

In the company of Kushal Mendis, the diminutive opener has set the launchpad for Sri Lanka’s chases. In a couple of games, Nissanka anchored the chase so well that Bhanuka Rajapaksa and captain Dasun Shanaka could power away fearlessly.

“He’s an outstanding cricketer. He plays the role that we expect from him. It’s very important for the whole team. His innings allows Bhanuka, myself and other powerhitters can play around it, Shanaka said at the press conference after beating Pakistan in the Super 4.

Sri Lanka’s Pathum Nissanka (right) and Wanindu Hasaranga
Sri Lanka’s Pathum Nissanka (right) and Wanindu Hasaranga leave the field after winning the DP World Asia Cup Super Four match against Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium on September 9, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

As an opener, Nissanka, 24, is more in the classical mould. A textbook Test player. He prefers to play orthodox shots even in T20 Internationals but can raise the tempo with sixes if required. The best of Nissanka was seen in the defeat of India when he and Mendis added 97 in 10 overs; by then, the match was pretty much in Sri Lanka.

Nissanka reprised the role against Pakistan, although he lost Mendis to the second ball of the innings. Even when wickets fell around, Nissanka was calm and collected as he guided Sri Lanka to an upset win.

Born in Galle, Nissanka’s humble beginnings didn’t detract him from pursuing cricket. He played much of his cricket in Kandy, and consistent performances landed Nissanka a place in Sri Lanka A squad in 2019. He graduated to the senior side a couple of years later. Against the West Indies, Nissanka became the fourth Sri Lankan to score a ton on Test debut and the first in an away Test.

He was one of Sri Lanka’s leading scorers in the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE, scoring three half centuries. So cricket watchers in the UAE are not surprised at his success in the Asia Cup, where’s he already struck a brace of half-centuries.

When Sri Lanka goes to bat against Pakistan in the final on Sunday, the islanders will have a lot of hopes riding on Nissanka’s shoulders. One more innings of substance from Nissanka will help Sri Lanka win the Asia Cup for the sixth time.