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Sri Lanka's Matheesha Pathirana celebrates after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's Mushfiqur Rahim during the Asia Cup 2023 in Kandy. Image Credit: AFP

Colombo: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is known to have a keen eye for talent and the match-winning display by Sri Lanka pacer Matheesha Pathirana, called Baby Malinga, against Bangladesh at the Asia Cup on Thursday shows the former India captain’s reputation is well earned.

Pathirana has modelled his round-arm action on compatriot Lasith Maling and his release point is even lower, which makes it extremely difficult to follow the trajectory of the ball coming out of his hand.

Great asset

His Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captain Dhoni predicted in May the 20-year-old would prove a “great asset” for Sri Lanka provided he was used sparingly and only in key white-ball tournaments.

Vindicating his Chennai captain, Pathirana claimed a career-best 4-32 to rout Bangladesh and set up Sri Lanka’s five-wicket victory with 11 overs to spare at Pallekele.

“I think this performance has been coming for a while now,” Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood told reporters.

Bouncing out key batters

“He’s had a great experience at the IPL and then he came to the World Cup qualifier with us, and we did a lot of work on how to bowl with the new ball.”

In his fifth One-Day International, Pathirana bounced out two key Bangladesh batters — skipper Shakib Al Hasan and veteran Mushfiqur Rahim — and returned to polish off the tail, dismissing Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman.

“Easy to see why Sri Lanka Cricket, CSK and MS Dhoni are valuing Matheesha Pathirana so highly,” former West Indies bowler Ian Bishop wrote on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter.

“He is still learning his craft. But he is learning quickly and will be a real handful in years to come.”